when my step is gracious

and easy, wanting nothing

but the ground,

the earth’s womb

gives birth to me

into every life,

into yours, mine, or one in taiwan,

that of the nun, the farmer, of the wild woman,

hundreds, thousands, ten thousands of years ago.

i walk in their kitchen, bathroom,

by their hearth and well,

swallow the taste in their mouth

and feel their clothes on my skin.

lights, immersed into

the darkness of the times,

of the future or the past.

the earth infused

by a shining net.

my gaze dissolves

into twilight, a bright tremor

shakes my heart.

maybe this is

a fantasy,

but that doesn’t matter:

we all are.

walk on, and let

the fragrance

of the moist soil flood you:

“under-standing”, that

is being earth.

While I picked blueberries in the forest near my home, I felt reconnected with life, reunited with my ancestors. My ancestors had picked these berries in order to survive, which I am grateful for. I pick berries in the desire and in the fulfillment to be one with life. You can read the poem that came to me while collecting the berries below, in English and in German.

blueberriesthe mosquitos spread
my blood in the forest.
with every berry that I pick and
every bite, the tissue of the forest
is stitched to my body.
fingers delicate
when ell and spoke
dance around each other
like two butterflies, and
the thumb abandons domination,
sinks back into the heart.
tenderness: the infinite
bends almost unnoticed and
you are in its hand.
earth takes me in
in broad daylight,
the berries, tiny night
blue spheres, sift through
the summer day,
reversed starry sky.
they are collecting me,
squatting, forever
birthing timelessness.
bird’s song so fresh,
as if the bird
had just flown
out of a dewdrop.

heidelbeeren

die mücken verteilen
mein blut im wald.
mit jeder beere, die ich
pflücke, jedem stich,
wird das gewebe
des waldes an dem
meines körpers festgenäht.
delikat die finger, wenn
elle und speiche, zwei
schmetterlinge, einander
umtanzen, und der daumen
die herrschaft aufgibt,
zurücksinkt ins herz.
zärtlichkeit: das
unendliche beugt sich
fast unmerkbar und
du bist in seiner hand.
die erde holt mich hinein
am hellichten tag:
die beeren, kleine nacht
blaue kugeln, durch
sieben den sommertag
wie ein umgekehrter sternenhimmel.
sie sammeln mich ein,
kauernd, immer gebärend
die zeitlosigkeit. der
vogelgesang so frisch, als käme
der vogel daselbst aus einem tau
tropfen geflogen.

I am happy to let you know that a new German translation of Lalla’s poems (from the French version by Daniel Odier) has appeared. It was joyful and deeply moving to translate them into German together with my friend Veronika Sellier.

Lalla is an Indian mystic and poet of the 14th century. Already as a child, she longed to receive the deep teachings of oneness. When Lalla was a teenager, she beseeched her guru to accept her as his disciple. After finally acknowledging her, her teacher locked her up in a room where she would stay for two years. There, she realized her true nature.

Lalla’s years in this room –  which I imagine darkened and empty –  have been very present to me in the time of quarantine. Her poetry lead me through days and nights and continues to do. The months spent at home with Lalla’s words drew me into the sacredness of life in any moment of the day, into the depth of being. It let me dwell in simplicity and wondering. In the shining nature of life.

Now that life seems to go on as it was before quarantine, I am grieving for those luminous spring days. While the summer world is bursting with activity and airplanes are crossing the sky again, I long for the dark, quiet room in myself that lets the colors and the light truly abound. It hurts when I resume “normal life” and add too many activities to my days, so many that the controlling mind takes over what is beyond the rhythm of my breath.

Yet, the Corona months taught me that it is not activity itself that is painful. It’s my beliefs that let me do too much and move too fast. When hasting, the light is becoming flat, a neon tube, and the world loses its splendor. Lalla tells me:

Let go of needless ideas,
Give space back to longing until it dissolves.
Return home to the intimacy of the Self!
Don’t search it outside.
Then emptiness inhabits space.

Lass die unnötigen Vorstellungen fahren,
Gib den Raum dem Sehnen bis zu seiner Auflösung zurück.
Kehre heim zur Innigkeit des Selbst!
Suche es nicht aussen.
Dann bewohnt die Leere den Raum.

The fast pace of our society is based on ideas like survival of the fittest, permanent growth, performance, competition. When I remain inside instead of acting from these beliefs, emotions of rage and grief come up from behind these ideas which are so destructive to life, to love. The rage and grief lead my energy to what I truly desire. I am taken home to the dark room in myself, where I belong, where I can rest. And between the twitching of my mind I feel peace spread, the peace of nowhere to go, nothing to do: “emptiness inhabits space”.

I, Lalla, searched for Him, waited for Him.
I hunted for Him with endless patience.
I wanted to catch His gaze,
But His door remained closed.
My longing became deeper,
And now I await Him in myself.

Ich, Lalla, habe Ihn gesucht, habe auf Ihn gewartet.
Ich habe Ihn gejagt mit endloser Geduld.
Ich wollte einen Blick von Ihm erhaschen,
Aber seine Türe blieb verschlossen.
Mein Sehnen wurde tiefer,
Und jetzt erwarte ich Ihn in mir selbst.

When my longing relaxes in the dark room, the electric light bulbs and neon tubes are turned out. The electricity in my body stops and a much softer, richer and more powerful light spreads. Now the synthetic light, the mental pull, just stops to bother me. I can walk slowly inside the frenzied civilization when the inner light moves me. And really: I “begin to dance, naked”, as Lalla writes in one of her poems.

I wish you a wonderful summer with Lalla’s poems! You can order the book here: https://www.fairbuch.de/shop/article/42686145/daniel_odier_lalla.html

If you do not read French or German, there is a beautiful English translation by Ranjit Hoskote available: https://www.fairbuch.de/shop/article/21272990/lal_ded_i_lalla.html

Since I was a child, I have loved, read and written poetry. Before 2002, writing poetry has been an essential part of my life. When returning to Switzerland in 1996 after working on a PhD in the United States, I started publishing. Two books of poetry appeared in 1998 (“Nicht gegen uns selbst immun”) and 2000 (“am ohrenäquator”), both by Axel Dielmann Verlag (Frankfurt a.M.). Both books are still available. I also wrote essays for newspapers, have been published in anthologies and magazines and translated poetry from Russian and American into German.

Around 2002, I stopped writing poetry, driven by the strong desire to return home into the poetry of reality beyond words. I felt imprisoned into words, into my mind. I yearned to live in my body, in my emotions, at one with the Earth and Her miraculous life unfolding.

Sharing my Quest with Others

After moving to the Netherlands and giving birth to my two daughters in 2005 and 2008, I started coaching women with “Levensruimte” in the end of 2008. “Levensruimte” gave a frame of research to my quest for returning home into life, reaching out for others with the same desire. Many of you know me from that period. I have been working with women individually and in groups, women who were longing for a slower pace and more depth in their lives, often after the experience of burnout. I have had a wonderful time sharing and growing with many of you, and I think of you with gratefulness and love.

After publishing my Dutch book “Leven in wat je Doet” in 2016 – a book about my personal journey and work with others on slowing down and stopping the “I have to” – I felt that “Levensruimte” was completed. I had developed and shared what I wanted to share, as far as this could possibly be expressed in descriptive words. I had met many wonderful people, made friends in the Netherlands and went through the necessary process myself so to reclaim more freedom and fulfillment in life.

Questioning the System

By owning this freedom, especially after moving to the Brabant countryside three years ago, I realized that the personal emotional work I had been doing was touching just one layer of the veil of separation from life. There is also a collective layer in it, totally enmeshed with the personal, a conditioning that holds power because it forms the very foundations of our collective lifestyle and therefore can easily remain unseen. Even in the time of “Levensruimte”, doing so much research on my own functioning, it never occurred to me to question the authority of the system I lived in, though I felt its violence and control. I thought it was my problem that I couldn’t fit in well, and that, if I only worked enough on myself, I would be able to cope with its hard “reality”.

By being in nature more than in society the last three years, the mechanics of our civilization became more clearly visible to me. I realized that this patriarchic, capitalistic, consumer-based system is not a natural reality but created by mental constructs. By seeing this I have been released more and more from the strangling power of this system. A power that had trapped me for decades with its relentless frame of guilt and disempowerment. Though observing that I am constantly prone to feelings of guilt, I hadn’t realized before that the idea of obligation – having to pay back, to be “of service” to the system in order to be released from guilt – was just an inner reproduction of the control that is ruling our civilization. I understood that even after 100 years of emotional work I wouldn’t be able to let my own conditioning be dissolved when still giving authority to the basic assumptions that keep me imprisoned.

I started to question whether the sort of “security” the system proposes has a real foundation, whether all of the comfort offered by our western lifestyle is what I am truly yearning for, and what the price is we pay and all of life pays when we buy into the system’s beliefs. This kind of questioning allows space for a lifestyle different to what I can imagine now and makes an end to servitude. By letting go of my attachment to the basic assumptions of the system, the underlying emotions of unworthiness, shame and fear become de-pressed, and the dynamics of their potent waves undo the ties to a destructive, violent lifestyle.

Joy of Life and Poetry

In questioning the authority of the system, a fundamental belonging to the Earth itself is reinstalling itself. I understand that what I had been taught was “reality” since I was a child, has no substance of its own, that all these structures are man-made and dissolve by themselves when not given power. Only those structures that really sustain life will remain.

What remains when the artificial concepts dissolve is the reality of Life, of the Earth, of the Cosmos. The joyful explosion of the living reality in me brings me into a vivid inter-being with the natural realms, with animals and with plants, with the moon, the stars, the blue sky, the wind, the sunlight, the seasons. It moves me to grow food and collect herbs, making simple remedies. My health and vitality have improved in ways I could never have dreamed of, having been depleted for decades. Living with goats, chicken, cats and bees, who are sharing their so diverse beings with me, teaches me more about joy of life, about inter-being with different kinds of “families” and about living intelligence than I could have ever imagined.

And in this re-turning to the essence of life, poems have come back to me, inspired by this deep connection with life, with others, with the cosmos. I realize now that my poetic intuition had been crushed by the weight of the collective conditioning that is driven by control und guilt. Poetry can only breathe in a sphere of freedom, of sovereignty. Poetry is not describing life, is not taking it as something fixed, but is co-creating life in a multidimensional reality. As long as enslaved mentally to the system, poetry somehow misses the point. But poetry is not only the result, but a beautiful means of liberation. With all the emotions of fear, grief, rage, tenderness and joy drenching it, it helps the poet and the reader to regain her or his sovereignty. It becomes a poetry of life, changing the very tissue of our days.

I saw this gold mask of a dead warrior in a museum in Thessaloniki 18 years ago. His mysterious smile made me startle, then. A few days ago I stumbled upon him again and was deeply touched.

In these days of crisis, when minds are consuming and producing opinions and counter-opinions in order to escape the frightening and exciting dynamics unfolding in the world, when people jump unto each other to defend beliefs of hope or fear, the dead warrior keeps smiling. What did he go through before this blissful smile of surrender came unto his face? We don’t know. It’s probable that he experienced states as hope, confusion, violence, panic, paralysis in his last hours, minutes, seconds. But now there is this smile, that –  thanks to the golden foil – is still visible for us. His armor hasn’t saved him, his weapons haven’t saved him, his ruler and his companions haven’t saved him, yet I feel so much peace when I look at him.

He lets me think, what if I remain on the inner battlefield these days without giving striking and countering too much attention. What if I remain in the dynamics under the surface of the battle, if I feel and go through the struggle in my own body, encountering panic, numbness, wishful thinking, anger, grief and whatever “enemy” comes along. What if I do not participate in the game of finding the right answer, the right action in this moment but let the game play me.

When I allow this possibility, a deep fear that keeps me from letting it unfold, shows itself: I am obsessed by the idea that there is such a thing as the “right opinion and action”, and if I do not find it, I will be guilty of not helping to prevent a global catastrophe. Aha. I have been wrestling with this enemy for days now. And slowly there is peace and clarity returning under this helmet. What if the drive to find the right opinion and action itself is part of the catastrophe? What if there were times when this strategy perhaps was necessary and helpful, but not now? What if now a more encompassing felt sense is wanting to take me?

A sensitivity that has time to listen to the voices of all beings – the voices of the earth, sky, sun, moon, stars, trees and flowers, bees, birds and cows, and of humanity. Why resist life’s inter-relatedness, life’s creativity that is manifesting itself so strongly at this moment of crisis? This creativity lives underneath the surface of how things seem to be. Why not allow changes in myself and around me that are beyond what I can possibly imagine in this moment? Isn’t that what death is? Even if my body may live some more years, some more decades, the death of what has been is knocking at the door right now. And these times of quarantine are helping to not escape my own house, my own body. The mysterious smile of the dead warrior is calling me.

even when the hardest of all sounds
lacerates the organs of the whales,
the oceans turning red
and the widowed earth
draping itself into grey desert,
even then will love give birth
to life anew through me:
my womb is sung into infinity
in this darkness
by the stars.

In times where so much comes to an end, nothing feels more urgent to me than to forgo frantic action and to let myself fall into the mystery of creation life is. Again and again, softening in the relentless pressure of linear time and feeling the power of just this breath. This breath carries all times in it, including the future we have so many fearful and hopeful images of. I practice not following these images but feeling the mystery of what we call “Earth” under my feet, merging with Her warm heartbeat and with Her moist womb and letting my human womb sink into its home. In this one breath I feel that I’m at one with the energy of creation, that I AM the energy of creation. The question is now not any more, will the human species, will my children and their children, stay on this planet or not, will we survive? This question feels as distraction from BEING the Earth, from loving Her and letting all of my passion flow into how She moves me with this breath.

Mystery or machine?

She shows me how to let my energy move in interconnection with other life forms. How to allow life to take me totally, beyond my resistance. The biggest resistance I can trace is in doing too much, going too fast, with the idea it’s still not enough and I should be doing more. In this resistance, stuck by mental images, I am in the prison of linear time, and there I can never be carried by the power of cyclic life but drag my small life ahead in a lonely and exhausting way. This plays even when I do simple things as hanging up laundry or cooking a meal: do I take part in the mystery or am I in the machine realm of repetition? When I am in the automatic realm, I am tricked out. The energy of my heart does not flow through my arms but spills right next to them, letting every chore be strenuous and without joy and leaving me exhausted and cold, never warmed and fulfilled by my day.

Living through the eyes of Mystery

I feel how any haste takes me out of the depth of oneness with Her, how I am literally spilling the mysterious chance to change my ways beyond imagination, beyond recognition. When I slow down, the possibility emerges to reclaim walking and talking on this Earth through the eyes of mystery. Reclaiming asks for a fierceness in standing for what is truly natural and life-giving. It takes readiness to use the sharp sword of discernment so that the unfathomable softness of being can take me home. Saying “no” to answering my e-mails or having the ironing done before I cook for my family, allowing space and letting Her heartbeat flow into the meal, letting Her stillness resound in the hug I give to my child coming home from school.

Aligning with the snowdrops

The mystery unfolds in innumerable small, often even invisible movements. Each of these small movements carries immense power, it cannot be underestimated. Just look at the snowdrops coming up in these weeks. They are tiny, delicate and live only a short life, and yet they make an overwhelming change in the winter garden, bringing the fresh energy of spring. Called by the light, sung into growth by the birds, pushing through the hard, cold soil, rising and then letting their bud bow to the earth, deeply listening in the unfolding of the flower. I like to place a few snowdrops in vases in my kitchen and on my desk and let them take me into their tender presence. As soon as my impulses and actions become too big and too fast, I lose touch with the gentle snowdrop energy, like a candle being blown out by the wind. Then I relapse into repetitive patterns, which check in momentarily with mental programs of fear and lack. The spring energy is gone.

Ending the realm of linear time

I feel that the tender force of everyday actions coming from the eyes of mystery, being the poetry of life, carries the soft, yet explosive energy to end Goliath’s realm of linear time, of survival pressure, of loneliness and lack of belonging, of dwelling in the marketplace of life, of keeping white western privileges though we know they are destroying the world. Leaving the system for what it is and moving with the breath, my body in harmony with my action, is walking on a razor’s edge. I am badly injured when I am not in presence of the next step unfolding. I am gobbled up by Goliath. But there is always a following breath to heal me, to bring me back home. And on the razor’s edge I know without doubt: is my movement weaving the tissue of life, letting it heal, or am cutting this tissue with my movements and my words? The long, gray, cold winter has bestowed me with the quality of sharp discernment of what is really life-giving, of the snowdrop energy that brings freshness, that brings rebirth.

Dear friends,

This fall for me has been a time of turning deeply inwards, of seeing and feeling through layers and layers of old trauma and conditioning. I was shown how the composting of the faded in the fall is as precious and rich as the blossoming in the spring. The awe-inspiring relatedness of the seasons, the wholeness of their inter-being has been sinking into my heart, and deeper, into the womb. And here it is, that the source of all being becomes palpable, the Dark Mother who is always and always there, spreading her love. Here it is, where fall can become winter, where the heart becomes gently, so gently stirred by the light of what wants to become. The seeds of the new spring.

I wish you an wonderful Christmas time, resting in Her peaceful dark and receiving the light seeds of 2020. As a gift you find an inspirational poem below.

 

when the flesh

lets go of the bones,

the earth is round again.

when the flesh

lets go of the bones,

the cosmos is ripped open

and the moons shine.

when the flesh

lets go of the bones,

the water flows

and my heart sings

the flowers sprouting out of me.

all seeds germinate

when the sower becomes sun.

Caring for a garden for me has become an amazing “composting” of addiction to patriarchal programming. Giving my attention to the small green beings in front of my feet takes me home into the wholeness of life. Let me share some thoughts and experiences with you.

One of the crafty mechanisms of the patriarchal system is to keep us trapped in “doing something important”. When we’re caught in its programming, there’s a voice whispering into our ear that what we are doing right now is not enough, and this mental disturbance disrupts our felt connection with reality. It drives us out of our bodies, out of our homes, from our families, friends and surroundings, in order to do “important things”. Of course, we also get into our cars and offices because of economic pressure: having to earn money with a job in order to make a living. But I suspect that the drive to do something “big” and “important”, as well, plays a role in keeping us stuck in these jobs and thwarting the harmonious unfolding of a truly prosperous, fulfilling life for ourselves and all beings around us. We are junkies of production, wanting to become very big in order not to feel how small, isolated and miserable we really are. This means that the addictive system can only be perpetuated as long as we are implanted with deep unworthiness. The system needs us to think that something is wrong with us in order to let us work frantically, hoping to improve. When we feel the sting of worthlessness, we try to do something “important” immediately in order to feel just a bit better. I guess this abyss of unworthiness, which goes together with a feeling of homelessness, of being banished from the body and the earth, is what keeps us down and in the system. But this abyss is also where the healing is.

Composting the programming

Any time I realize myself being trapped in unworthiness and then just stopping, not pursuing the frantic conditioned game that separates me from life, an incredible sweetness moves through my body. It feels like the mechanism is “eaten” by my body, composted and incorporated into wholeness. I don’t have to do anything, just breathe and remain present. I see then that the conditioning of being “fast” and doing “big” things is a tight net thrown over life that keeps it from breathing and naturally unfolding. This is the basis of patriarchal programming, and as long as we function this way, we keep the system in power, even if we work on making the planet a better place.

“Private” means “stolen”

While we are busy doing “big things”, the so-called “private” is reserved for the evenings, when we’re mostly tired, and the weekends, always too short. Have you ever realized that “privare”, the root of “private”, actually means “to steal”? Our lives are stolen by the system in order to make us work for it. What remains as “private” is an empty house you may call “mine”, if you are working to pay for it all your life. If you look at it more closely, this “private” house is also stolen, it is robbed from the earth to become a “possession”. So we rob a place from wholeness in order to work hard to keep it, but mostly have little time left to enjoy and to care for this “private place”. Just look at all the gardens that are suffocated with tiles because there is no time, energy and inspiration to give attention to plants. The craziness of what we’re doing is so obvious.

The healing power of a garden

For me, next to “composting” programmed reactions, caring for a garden has become an unprecedented healing force. On our small plot of land, at first just a lawn with a few hortensia’s (yes, it is “private”, and yes, we have to pay for it, and work for that), we brought a few goats, chicken, cats and some bees. It’s only two years we’re sowing, planting and sustaining a diversity of green beings here, and already so many animals came to the garden to live here: wild bees, many sorts of bumble-bees, butterflies, bugs, frogs, toads and a lot of birds. It’s amazing to see how biodiversity increases immensely in a short time on a piece of land that was just a green desert before. This garden infuses me with the interconnectedness of all living beings, with awe for this web of life, and it has become a place of great empowerment. Not only that it provides a lot of foods, herbs and beautiful flowers for family and friends. In its interconnecting dance it also weaves me into the cycles of the moon, the seasons, the weather. I sense I am a cosmic being in the garden. I feel as part of the immensity of life, and any drive to do something “bigger” or “more important” just gets swallowed by this living reality.

Paradise is not “private”

Lately someone said to me, a bit condescending, “so you’re just creating your private paradise?” No need to tell you it was someone busy with “important things”. This woman triggered shame in me, unworthiness greeted me for a moment, doubt popped up whether what I am doing is too petty or perhaps even too “selfish”. And then I realized that it’s really a paradise I’m co-creating, and all of the shame dropped away instantly. Paradise can never be “private”. On this piece of prosperous land with beauty and foods and diverse life, the very notion of “private” versus “public” dissolves. In paradise, there is no “mine”. A paradise knows no separation. I am breathed by it, my heartbeat becomes one with it. What this garden is doing for me is weaving life together again with all beings around me. A separate “self” is really impossible to trace in this celebration of the inter-being of life. Any need to do some other, more important thing than to be present with this, just falls away.

The revolutionary force of caring for small beings

Every time I see a beautiful garden, I greet it with reverence, as one of the Arches of Noah which can bring the earth and all beings through stormy waters into a world filled with beauty, love and prosperity. What a revolution to allow the so-called “private” to be of such importance in life, to love it and care for it so much. There’s an indescribable sweetness in giving love to the small beings directly in front of your feet. You’re being at one with reality, and there is no need to be seen, to be appreciated by others, because there is no other. There is SEEING, there is KNOWING. In this presence there is no separation. It allows the Big Mother, the Earth, to take back her rightful power. And most wonderful: this change is not just a great idea. It happens breath by breath, and with soil under your fingernails.

Green blessings!

 

there is nothing to do in life
than to swing, day after day,
face dissolved into the blue sky,
dancing curls, drunk with the wind,
belly moves forward
and sinks back
in the flowered dress.
short legs in rubber boots
thrown into the air:
no support
but delight.