Thursday, February 19, 2015

Heart Circle

Two days ago, I made my way home from the Breitenbush Winter Faerie Gathering. I'm grateful that the long trek from the West Coast back to still-frozen Toronto gave me a whole day to decompress. I needed eleven hours and a bus, a tram, two flights, and a cab to transition back into a world where queer men don't sit together for two and a half hours every morning to speak their truth to one another without fear of judgment. 

I'm mostly content with sweet, rich memories of what I experienced in the company of 150 loving, miraculously openhearted fae spirits three hours southeast of Portland: the languorous hot-spring soaks under stars I haven't seen blaze so brightly in years; the river's endless rush below the camp; a steady stream of affectionate touch in passing from men most of whom I'd only just met, in the dining hall, on paths, in crowded hallways; delicious surges of infatuation, half a dozen times a day; the mindbending fabulosity of the Saturday night talent show; dozens of brothers gathered around a bonfire breaking spontaneously into a chant invoking the Goddess. 

But as for the Heart Circle, memory doesn't feel like enough this morning. I find myself longing to sit daily among companions who weave a safe, sacred container for one another, to go on living among those unafraid to access the soft, tender vulnerability that is the working of an enlightened heart, as Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön reminds us. I want this as an ongoing practice in my life. 

When you sit to listen deeply--without cross-talk, without comment--to the grief, the longings, the pain, and the aspirations your companions share, your own heart opens in response. You find yourself awakened from your superficial projections when the man you've spent two days fantasizing about across a crowded room voices the loss he's suffered; you rejoice to witness the passion for justice that animates the next man who speaks. You speak in turn in safety. Your soul begins to mend. In some small but infinitely precious way, the world begins to mend. And you become part of its mending. 

Just a few hours after I landed back in a world where such things don't happen every morning, I went yesterday noon to an Ash Wednesday Eucharist. There was much talk of turning again toward the Source of our being, of reconnecting with the goodness of who we were created to be. But Lent, for me, remains the most toxic and problematic season of the Christian liturgical year. I still hear too much self-loathing in the ancient formulas of penitence, too much individualistic obsession with getting it right and with how we've gotten it wrong. Some years I say, only half as a joke, that I plan to give up church for Lent. What I want instead as a Lenten practice this year is forty days of heart circles.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Seen and Unseen

On the same granola hipster corner in Portland as last night,
the thin bearded boy seated on the sidewalk next to his dog,
diffident, not quite meeting your gaze.

His sign speaks for him:
"Namaste. Remember that you are loved and beautiful."

His surprise at being addressed;
his startled pressing of palm to palm as he bows from the waist.

His longing to reach out.

His fear of reaching out.

The story of his life that you don't know,
because instead of asking if you could sit with him,
you gave him a dollar and walked on.

His vulnerability.

His holiness.