When I was 3 years old, I stopped a murder. I literally placed my body between two people who were killing each other: my parents. I remember it vividly; someone would have died that night had I cowered in my room. The most common mistake people make when they see me going on about love and themes of compassion and joy is that my ideas come from an idealistic, unchallenged place of fluff and fairies where no actual strife exists. But I grew up in violence with distress spewing from all directions – parents, grandparents, aunts uncles cousins – bipolar, personality disorder, alcoholic madness confounded by cancers that made frequent guest appearances.
In March 1968, at the peak of dark insanity and bright potential in the Civil Rights movement and the war in Vietnam, I chose to be born in Memphis, TN to two people who had no business being married to each other. My mother used to tell me the story of how the nurse working to help her recover from the cesarean ran screaming from the house when she heard Martin Luther King had just been shot a few miles away. She ran screaming into the street, believing the world was coming to an end – it was. We had a freak snowfall that spring, and a few months later Bobby Kennedy was also killed.
I arrived in a world of extremes and violence and leading edge growth on both macro and microcosmic scales.
When my parents divorced, I was 4 and relieved to experience a house without fighting. That peace was short-lived, though because my grandparents were melting down, too. At 5 years old, it was Gran and Grandaddy I had to stand between, blood on his face, weapon in her hand. After that, it was my mother and grandmother – verbal brutalities escalated over decades of low self-esteem and anger. I was an only child and sole grandchild inside a system of rage and mixed messages. Through all of their storms, I was the eye in the middle. When someone’s sobbing echoed through the house at 2am, I was the one who stood and soothed.
I can keep layering details (there’s so much more), but you get the picture. These things are all past, not because I’ve forgotten but because I no longer identify with that story. I moved to the desert, I gazed at the big horizon, I endured the sweat lodge, worked 30 different jobs, lived in 5 countries, practiced Qi Gong, read and studied, became a Reiki master, burned through ink and keyboards, wrote thousands of pages and taught fearlessly all I know and keep learning more. And I let the injuries go. All of them. When I say things like “love is more powerful than hate, more resilient than fear” I know what I’m talking about. It’s not a hallmark card; it’s a gritty truth. Love is stamina. Love is relief. Love is potency. Love is vibrancy. Love is courage, underscored and elevated.
Love is sanity.
Raising a daughter now, I’m most grateful to have the perspective I’ve earned. Our home is a conflict-free haven – not because we lack difficulties or frustrations, and not because we’re freakishly perfect (ha! so very not), but because love is the assumed priority here and 99% of the time we let love make the call. When we slip, we catch ourselves quickly and return without hesitation.
When you look at the world and see things you don’t like or behaviors you disapprove of or fear, you’re really on to something. How you respond is key. You can point a finger in disgust, or you can inspire by example. You can add violence to the storm, or you can become the eye.
“Hate the sin, love the sinner.” ―Mahatma Gandhi
You can shame people into hearing your message OR you can empower them to see things in new light, to see their options with a more soulfully-enriching perspective. One approach reinforces separation; the other encourages community. One perpetuates distress, intolerance and judgment; the other fosters creative action and compassion.
One mindset feels riveting-yet-raunchy as it courses through you; the other feels nourishing and uplifting – you know the difference.
“Becoming the eye” doesn’t mean submitting to a life martyrdom or codependency. It means filling up with light and allowing that light to radiate from and carry you. Light is never passive. It’s the real deal: how you think impacts the world; the light of your perspective is your first ripple in the stream. Love one another. Solutions depend on it.
Cynicism stems from a feeling of disempowerment, yet all people are innately powerful in a way that cannot be diminished by even the most extreme brutality. Love is how you turn the key to access that power and move forward.
In high school, I marched in peace rallies, protested “white trains” with my math teacher, became an autodidactic expert on the conflict in the Middle East, wrote my congressmen and had pen pals in the war zone. It’s only in retrospect that I can see it as a metaphor for what was happening at home.
The world at first appears to be much too big for one person to impact, but the world is in you, not separate and out there. Loving and forgiving and transcending what is immediately active in your daily life is the essential step toward enlightening all the rest.
“I can’t change the world, but I can change the world in me.” -U2 (my campaign slogan in 1985)
Love is an all or nothing deal.
If you don’t love them, you can’t love yourself. If you haven’t learned to love yourself, you can’t handle them. Love YOU first, just as you are. Love every seed of possibility, know who you aim to be, then walk your talk, lovingly. Love the oppressor and the darkness, too, for they are the players who need it most, emerging from the mulch of great awakening.
Rumi said: unfold your own myth. That is exactly what she did.
Get The LOOK
“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” -from The Essential Rumi, by Coleman Barks
At first it was enough that the tree was there
That something generous and wholly undemanding had appeared
An opening for wonderment in a beleaguered space
It was enough by itself — adding more too soon
Would have tipped it in the wrong direction
Trust had to bloom with it first
And then, primed and steady, they started to receive
From the working draft of book two in the Amie series: The POWER of Amie Martine.
Paying writers by the word is equivalent to
Architects by the bolt
Chefs by the ounce of ingredient
Haircutters by the snip
Directors by the frame
Musicians by the note
Night skies by the stars you can see with the naked eye….
When we name a star
It shrivels to a bite-sized, luminous crumb
The swallowing of which, if we allow it,
Turns the universe inside out beneath our rib cage.
Know the star, not by name, but by ingesting it, terrified
Of what it will manifest in your blood: a kiss in public,
Long and lingering, unaware of any other eyes but those
Above the lips you touch with your own. A delay
On the drive to work becomes an omen you can read:
That red-tailed hawk circling, a guide you are
Compelled to follow toward that vision you had
A year ago, a decade ago, that person
You were going to be
When you grew up.
Good poetry depends on “integrity of the line” – a concept that suggests you should be able to pluck any individual line from a poem and it will stand on its own, with its own integrity.
Living “in the moment” is like this.
We craft a lifetime one breath at a time – out of billions of moments leading one into another, we become who we are here to be. The quality of the whole story depends on the integrity with which you imbue each moment.
Naturally, from the perspective of just one line, it’s impossible to experience the art and presence of the whole poem. The same way you can’t SEE a photograph by staring at a single pixel, you cannot read an entire poem in a single line. Which is the liberating beauty of living in the moment: there’s no room for conclusion or judgment here because you can’t see what it’s all adding up to from inside the NOW.
The big picture depends on what you express in this line – this pixel – this heartbeat in time – and the very best you can do is tend to what is right in front of you, trusting in the way your moment-to-moment presence manifests a meaningful body of work, the totality of which you may never actually know.
The clearest gift you can give yourself is to have NO Conclusions about anything, for everything is forever in-progress and Now is blind to the sum of what’s becoming.
- Now is the point of power.
- Now is the gift to enjoy.
- Now is the wellspring of all.
- Now is the time to appreciate.
- Now is the time to choose
- to be free.
PS: There’s another important element in any successful poem: the SPACE between the lines. The space in which nothing at all has been written, but through which all substance materializes. A joyful life story revolves around a calm, central core of possibility – the sweet, eternal emptiness inside the fullness of who you are.
“When I write, there is a feeling of necessity, of something that is stronger than myself, that demands that I must write as I write.” –Jacques Derrida
Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!
I took a minute over coffee this morning to read an article in Fast Company and tripped into this video. When I’m writing, I lose all ego and feel carried by the act of words coming through me. It’s transcendent and compelling. Then, later, as he describes, I have moments of real panic: can I say *that?* It feels precarious and scary and I question everything. And then I pick up the pages from the day and re-read them and there’s no doubting the lift I feel — I love where it’s all going. I love shredding old paradigms with grace and passion and plot twists that lead me down unexpected paths. A new line of dialogue pops into my thinking and I have to race to jot it down and whole paragraphs come crashing through with it… As long as I stay out of the way, the work works me.
Enjoy this moment with Derrida! It’s given me such great fuel to rev up this day. -L
PS: I adore the french verb “blesser” – to wound, hurt, injure.