Archive for Spirituality

Beautiful

When do I feel beautiful?

I am beautiful when I am dressed to the nines, ready for a night on the town. When my makeup is glamorous, my outfit is scandalous, my heels precarious, and my attitude glorious. When I’m ready to dance and flirt and party.

I am beautiful when I am with my friends, laughing, scheming, catching up, coming up with ways to change the world and live in the ways that matter to us.

I am beautiful when I am covered in spit up from a beautiful baby in my life.

I am beautiful when I am sitting cross legged on the floor telling a story–or better yet, listening with genuine attention to a story being told to me by a little one.

I am beautiful when I am working with youth, laughing, teaching, learning, listening and enjoying their energy.

I am beautiful when I am moved to tears: by beauty, by suffering, by passion.

I am beautiful when I give of myself, when I am able to bless others.

I am beautiful when I stand firm for what I believe in. Regardless of who is standing with me.

I am beautiful when my voice is raised in song, when I share music and make music.

I am beautiful when I stand naked before my lover.

I am beautiful when I am painting, absorbed in the whirlwind of color coming to shape before me. And I am beautiful when one of the children in my life join me in creating.

I am beautiful when I am dreaming. Asleep or awake, unseen or admired.

I am beautiful when I am in nature, when I swim in the ocean, when I hike through the woods, when I play in the snow, when I walk on the shore, when I try to catch a wave and am pummeled by the waves… beautiful.

I am beautiful when I am learning, thinking, pondering, questioning, debating. My mind is a beautiful thing.

I am beautiful when I am lonely and tired and sad.

I am beautiful when I am in the kitchen, creating meals for people I love.

Beautiful first thing in the morning when I embrace a new day with messy hair, beautiful when I am sick, beautiful in my rattiest jammies, or in my most gorgeous gown. Beautiful when I am smelling flowers, beautiful when I am scrubbing floors, when I am folding clothes, beautiful when I least realize it and beautiful when I am fully aware.

I am blessed to know how beautiful I am and blessed in my freedom to enjoy the beauty in everything around me. I am blessed to know my own beauty regardless of who is around to see it, and I am blessed to have those in my life who do see my beauty and celebrate it.

I walk in beauty daily and I am blessed for it.

Advertisements

Rosario

I didn’t grow up in a Catholic household but I did grow up in a very Catholic culture. I participated in Catholic events and culture to an extent as well but, I must confess…

I think I’ve only prayed a whole Rosario (rosary) once at the velorio for a friend’s mom.
There I remember being self-conscious about my lack of finesse when it came to all the Catholic rituals and requirements but nonetheless being swept away on the tide of Padre Nuestros and Avemarias. It was soothing, much like chanting which I came to later in non-Christian ways.

And although I’ve owned several Rosarios I’ve never used one for its proper purpose. I have a strange dark love for religious iconography and, well, kitsch. And a deeply spiritual love for sacred objects, regardless of the worship tradition they originate from. Some things are just sacred regardless of the entity/ies being worshipped.

The other day on the train I watched an older, obviously latina, obviously mestiza, beautiful woman with her Rosario. She looked anxious, and was intent upon her beads. And for a minute or two I envied the simplicity of that ritual. I envied the escape into the words that more than meaning have a rhythm that transports me back to my abuela, to sitting around on borrowed chairs at one velorio or another (not that I’ve attended that many), it’s a rhythm that is in my blood somehow, as much as salsa, as much as the crashing of warm waves on the rocks, as much as the song of coquis.

diostesalvemariallenaeresdegracia

I realized even at a very young age that I couldn’t hang with the rhetoric of the church, I couldn’t pray for the pope, I couldn’t get down with the whole virgin thing (and I mean the mythical kind, my own was easy to upkeep considering I hadn’t discovered queerness yet). But I was fascinated with the images, with the static statues, with their sad eyes, their outstretched hands, I was fascinated with the beautiful virgins, staring at them for hours under the guise of prayer, with the pretense of lighting candles.

But the words lost their literal meaning to become a song, a chant, an intimate murmur.

My grandmother taught me to say Avemarias. She bought me images of Maria Milagrosa to bless and heal me.

Diostesalvemariallenaeresdegraciaelsenorescontigo

I prayed. I prayed the words with the same satisfaction as I muttered a random Wordsworth poem I’d memorized, or a Shakespeare sonnet. The words were happy on my tongue, a welcome litany of distraction. But I learned my rosario in Spanish. To this day I default to Spanish when it comes to structured prayer. A few of the questions asked to determine what a person’s first language is are: what language do you pray in? (both) what language do you count in? (both, it confuses the shit out of people when I’m counting out loud) what language do you curse in if you are hurt? (both) I’m the rare creature who is a native speaker of two languages. And yet when it comes to this ritual that isn’t even truly mine, it has to be Spanish.

diostesalvemariallenaeresdegraciaelsenorescontigobenditatueresentretodaslasmujeres

There’s something so blissful about escaping into a prayer that requires no thought, no agreement, no consideration of ones blessings or troubles. It just is. And it was prayed by my greatgrandmother in much the same way…there’s power in that, even if the words don’t mean much to me. And considering my greatgrandmother makes me wish I had a Taino prayer to hold close to my heart. The Yoruba prayers I have handed down to me are synchretized. No less authentic but the roots cover more area and less depth. Avemaria the prayer of the colonizer (the first one) but still stirs me.

diostesalvemariallenaeresdegraciaelsenorescontigobenditatueresentretodaslasmujeresybenditoeselfrutodetuvientrejesussantamariamadredediosruegapornosotrospecadoresahorayenlahoradenuestramuerteamen

Even though the ritual is contradictory and foreign it is still something so close to me. Even though it belongs to a church that oppresses my people, that is homophobic and misogynistic at its core. But still it’s there. And if I picked up a rosario right now I wouldn’t know how to do it. Thank gawd for google! I don’t know what prayers go where and one of the rezos I don’t even know. But I would know to fondle the beads and think of abuela. I would know to fondle the beads and think of MamaTea. I would know that it is a sacred, intimate, and very feminine in my experience act.

I don’t think I could lose myself that way though. I wish I could. I would like to get lost for a while in something that requires no thought and no effort. Not like meditation where the more stressed I am the harder I have to gently and lovingly SHOVE the thoughts away.

A ritual that does it all for me and takes me away to sit on the laps of my foremothers for a while and be.

Perhaps tonight when I light my candle to La Milagrosa I’ll thrown in an Avemaria or two.

Dream come true

The first time I remember articulating this dream was in a purple hard bound journal 11 years ago.  I wanted to teach in the Corrections System.  Writing.  I wanted to bring the process of writing to the jails, to be part of the process of encouraging people to find their voice.  I wanted to be able to share the empowering and healing process of taking pen to paper, to share the sheer joy of self-expression, the critical self-discovery and critical exploration of social conditions that influence our lives.

I came close a few times but had never actually had the chance to do it.  And now, here I am, my name signed with a flair on the contract with Inside Out Writers.  I am going through the process of getting security clearance and doing observations before getting started and I’m so excited and honored.

I know this is going to be a difficult process, I’m not coming in this unrealistically and I’m well aware of the challenges the youth and the system will present, and aware that there are some challenges I’ll face that I can’t even imagine yet.  The biggest difficulty for me coming into this lies in dealing with the Juvenile Corrections System.  I have serious issues with the so-called justice system.

Recently I was given a chance to articulate some of these views in a documentary on the Lawrence King murder in Oxnard, CA.

Brandon McInerney, the young man who shot him, is being tried as an adult and faces the possibility of life in prison.  I was asked how I felt about that development.  That question made me pause.  I had come to the interview with a lot to say about education, schools, including my own experiences of homophobia as an adult within high schools.  That question made the already complicated discussion about education and the responsibility of schools even more difficult.  Ultimately my answer is that I don’t believe in the current system of corrections.  I don’t feel like locking McInerney up serves justice, nor does it serve community or the life of a young man who, having committed a heinous crime, is still alive.  Nothing can bring Lawrence King back and while the murder was a hateful horrible act, McInerney’s life is also valuable (he was 14!) and the pain, ignorance, fear, that led to his actions is also real.  I can’t just think in terms of good and bad.  Nothing excuses violence against another human being.  But a lot of circumstances can condone, and even encourage it.  The crime was a reflection of the inaction of the school, community, society.  It’s easy to try a 14 year old and lock him up.  It’s not as easy to confront the root of the problem, which we all participate in.  Which is one of my major problems with the so called justice system.  It’s not about rehabilitation, education, empowerment.  While we should all be held accountable for our actions on an individual level, punishing the individual makes it easy to leave larger social problems unexamined and to forget that a human life has been affected by social conditions that we all share responsibility for.

I’m not just vehemently against capital punishment, I’m also highly critical of a system that simply throws human beings into an institution where systems of oppression and dysfunction are reenacted and fundamental.  The answers can’t exist outside of larger community, which is affected in unacknowledged way by the incarceration and systemic abuse of our children, our mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, friends.

So knowing that in addition to my reactions to cops, guards, military and generally all figures of authority in a system of violence and oppression I also have a problem with the construct of the system.  Yet I enter it eagerly more than willingly. Why?  Because I believe n the youth and in my ability to have a positive impact, to empower and to participate in their growth.  It’s worth it to me as a way to challenge the system, even as I enter into an agreement to abide by its rules.  Whether I agree with them (no gang colors or script) or not (cursing is not allowed in the institution, although it is not censored out of their writing).  The young people can’t even keep the pens that they use in class because they can be used as weapons or as pipes.  The idea of not being able to have a writing implement makes my skin crawl.  More than the consideration of other restrictions on freedom– not being able to decide what or when to eat, when to get up, no privacy even when going to the bathroom– more than all of the restrictions, the idea of not having a pen makes my heart ache.

Incarcerated AND silenced.

I am eager to get in there and start the work.  I know it’s something I’m called to do and part of a larger journey.  This is spiritual work to me.  It’s a blessing and an honor to be able to finally act on this dream.  For a few hours a week I will be of service and be an instrument of change.  And for a few hours a week these young people will be able to unlock their voice and be heard, be seen, I’ll be a witness.

Creo

I believe in education not as an institution but as a living breathing reality.

I believe in children and youth.

I believe in love.

I believe in the power of words. In language as a social tool that can affect lives and effect changes profound and real.

I believe in social justice. In our right to thrive.

I believe in la raza, which does NOT mean the race, it means the collective power, roots, blood, culture, love, passion of my people.

I believe in change.

I believe in dreaming.

I believe in passion: passion for life, passion for learning, passionate dreams, sexual passion, passion for justice, passion for beauty, passionate conversation, passionate love, passion for change.

I believe in hands: hands that hold, hands that create, hands that reach out, hands that are open, hands that touch, embrace, sustain, fuck, create, build, transform.

I believe in light, bright blazing sunlight, dancing bright flicker of flames, inner light radiant and real.

I believe in the healing power of ocean breezes and the kiss of ocean waves.

I believe in everyday heroes.

I believe in music. I believe in bodies moving and dancing feet.

I believe in good food, good friends, laughter and tears shared.

I believe in honoring pain.

I believe in bridges.

I believe in transgression as transformation.

I believe in community.

I believe in gender expressions that are non binary and defy simple categories.

I believe in everyday miracles.

I believe in respect.

I believe in the sacred flame burning in every living creature.

I believe in recuerdos.

I believe in love songs.

I believe in voices.

I believe in strength though diversity.

I believe in soft clean sheets.

I believe in overcoming.

And I believe in life.

Desierto

One of the blessings that comes with my current borderland is the opportunity to dream new dreams, big dreams.  My life is changing in unexpected ways, unforeseeable ways and it’s time for me to create and move forward.

This process is painful as much as it is empowering.  It requires a lot of work and a lot of work that must be done alone, spent in my own company, spent toeing the line between solitude and soledad.  This new crossing in my life is demanding in ways I hadn’t experienced in my life to this intense extent.

It’s not just my work situation that is requiring courageous reexamination, it is my Life.  The ways in which I walk through the world, the people I surround myself with, the relationships I enter into, the ways in which I communicate, the ways in which I relate to the sacred, the ways in which I relate to my body and sexuality.  My whole Life is moving further along this path, and I can’t quite see what’s around the next bend in the road.

My new crossing requires a new difficult balancing act.  Surrendering my control, my need to know how, exactly how, things will work out.  Admitting to myself and the universe that I don’t know, and that I’m okay with that, or at least I’m learning how to be okay with that.

It’s hard sharing dreams, big dreams, soul dreams, with people.  It’s especially hard sharing these dreams with new people, with people who don’t have a vested interested in my heart and soul.  It’s hard to do this work without giving in to isolation, without allowing loneliness to consume me.  This is a hard journey and I’m traveling light.  I’m shedding baggage as I go, leaving behind old hurts, leaving behind old disappointments, leaving behind battles lost, leaving behind fears, and leaving behind me the tools that numbed me, that provided escapist ways of coping.

When I close my eyes me veo sola, dressed in white, pelo suelto, naked of masks, of makeup, of jewelry, of facade, of contrivance, of defenses, sola en el desierto, rodeada por sol y arena, expanse of land with nowhere to turn but inward.  The vision I want is of me in community, I want friends, I want a partner, I want children, I want family.  And yet I’ve come to understand that in order to get there in order to reach that I need this time alone to grow and heal.  I need this time alone to not look to others to define me, validate me, I have to SEE myself.  I have to be my own witness now.  I have to come through for myself and step up. I have to walk my talk and sit with my beauty, sit with my fear, sit with my failures, sit with my dreams.  I have to take this time to invest in the most important, precious and beautiful relationship I will ever have: my relationship with myself.  I don’t know how long this will take.  No se si pasen semanas or meses o anos inclusive.  And I have to commit with this in mind, that I don’t know how long it will take.  I have to make the commitment y aceptar that I don’t know how far I’ll walk alone but I’m in it.  And what I do know is that I am going to emerge a more fully me than ever, I know that I will emerge powerful beyond belief, and that I will emerge beautiful and amazing.
I’ve been moving in this direction for some time now, and the time has come to commit.  The time has come to invest in myself in new ways.  The time has come to sit with fear and know I’ll come through this.

And yet do this without isolating.  A balancing act I’ve never been good at.  I isolate in unhealthy ways sometimes, hiding from people, hiding from hurt, hiding from disappointment, taking refuge in loneliness, in anger, in hurt.  The safety of familiar feelings ironic yet comfortable.  This time I have to do this differently.  And through this whole year in my life I’ve been doing it differently.  I’ve been reaching out in ways I didn’t think I’d be able to, I’ve been building friendships that sustain me, that give me room to grow, that give me room to love.  I have to learn now how to balance this intense need to go through my time in the desert and yet not cut off the people who are part of my networks, people who are good for my heart.  And trusting myself to decide when and how and who.  And allowing myself to allow new people into my life and my heart as I move on this journey.  And allowing myself to let old people back in.

When I was young I would fantasize about joining a monastery or a nunnery.  I wish now that I had the means and the time and the luxury to take a long spiritual retreat.  But that too is somewhat escapist.  I need to learn to create that for myself right here in my daily life.  I need to learn to do this in my space, whether I be walking down Magnolia, steps unconsciously keeping the beat of passing reggaeton, or in my room which is my place and where my reality is around me inevitably and inescapably real, whether it be clothes needing to be folded, checkbook needing to be balanced, or a painting begging to be completed.  I need to learn to walk this way, centered and strong.

Siento que todo cambia, y que si sigo este camino, no habra vuelta atras.  I can never go back to being the person I was before, participating in some of the fucked up ways I’ve participated.  I can never go back to hiding my light.

Not only can you not shake hands with a closed fist but you can’t embrace the universe and the adventure of life with arms crossed over your chest to guard corazon.  You can’t embrace love with a closed heart.  You can’t celebrate life with fearful steps.  I am becoming.  I am evolving.  I am going to soar.  Esta nueva frontera que voy a cruzar es completamente desconocida.  I trust myself to know the way.

Church

One of the things I am looking forward to when I move is going to the MCC in LA to hear Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson.  I haven’t been to church in a long time and thinking about all that inspired me to get my ass out of bed this Sunday morning and trek through the snow (uphill both ways) to go to church.

I went to the Unitarian Universalist church in town and had cause to reflect on my relationship to the institution. 

It used to be walking into a new church always made me feel hesitant, I always had the moment of trepidation, the pause at the threshold waiting to see if the roof was going to cave in over my heathen head.  Entering a new house of worship usually meant I felt shy and awkward.  Today, I walked into the UU’s beautiful building and didn’t hesitate for a second.  I helped myself to the order of worship, found my hymnal, chatted with the friendly ladies with pink name tags that identified them as welcomers, looked around at the stained glass and felt like I was entitled.  I haven’t felt that way in a very long time, I felt like I had a right to be there.  I had a purpose being there.  I had a place there.  I cozied up in my pew and closed my eyes as I listened to the beautiful organ and was at peace. 

And I sat there in musical prayer, feeling uplifted and cradled by the notes I thought about my friend and pastor Robert Cross who passed away a few years ago.  He was probably one of the first people to make me feel and not just believe on an intellectual level, that I was welcome in the house of god, wherever that house might be, under a tree or in a rlds church that we were allowed to use in the evenings.  I miss him and think of him often.  And he sat with me for a while today as he does sometimes bringing me silent comfort and peace. 

The service was very nice.  It was probably one of the better sermons I’ve attended as of late.  The Rev. Stephen Cook spoke about the nativity story and what value it holds for christians or for unitarians.  He spoke to the lack of literal credibility and the universal wisdom of the story.  The story of the birth of christ speaks to our humanity and to the sacredness of the human experience.  The star that shone to announce his birth not unlike the star that shines to shed light on every infant who comes into this world filled with possibilities and blessings.  The story speaks to the value of this embodied life, in celebrating the birth of a baby we are celebrating our own humanity and the fact that this life is precious, fragile and filled with surprises, with pain, with suffering, with unspeakable beauty, joy and blessings.  The baby was born and was cared for and we celebrate him as a baby not just a man because we all start out weak, dependent on the care of others, and the love of others.  And what a wonderful thing to remember.  And his final message was a reflection on the ways we walk in the world, and how wonderful it would be if we could continue to walk through the world that way, in love and support.  And, that is really the ultimate gift we can give our friends and family, not commercial crap or mall santa claus.

I realized I miss going to church more than I thought. 

Sharing my spirituality is often difficult for me.  I guess somehow I have picked up the United Statesian attitude about religion, spirituality and worship as private.  I also have to deal with the conflict over institutionalized religion and the oppressive system it has traditionally been part of.  I deal with the politics and power of organized religion.  But, I keep coming back because it’s my place too.  My very queer, very political, angry brown latina place.  And there is meaning there for me and comfort. 

It will be nice to have a number of different queer/queer friendly churches to visit in my new home.  I’m looking forward to fellowship and singing and being in those spaces, especially now that I know that I belong there, always have, just now I really believe it. 

And tomorrow I’ll be going to a candlelight church service somewhere else. 

Next Sunday I’ll be in a new place and a new church and I’m looking forward to it.  I’m looking forward to all the places where I hope to find community and comfort.