The Dark Side of the Moon

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There is no one

To love me

But myself

Dark side

Of the moon

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2017

*photo by Beth Kirkhart, to see more of her work visit her on Twitter at @GilennLinn

Sometimes we come to a place in our lives and realize that something is dying. We might not always understand it especially when it happens within the deeper parts of ourselves.  I have recently been thankful for such an experience despite the pain that has risen to the surface. I have learned that I can embrace death and be glad for its coming. I have been on an unannounced hiatus from writing on this blog since the beginning of the year and I thank the patience of my readers. But it wasn’t until I stumbled upon the simple beauty of Beth’s photo that I found something in it calling to me…cracking me open to write again.

Beth Kirkhart provided me with some interesting history of her photo that she took in Santa Ana Refuge in Southern Texas. It is home to an abundance of wildlife, in addition; to many birds, it is also provides shelter to ocelots, jaguarundi, jaguar, and mountain lions. The refuge is right on the border between Mexico and the US, where Trump wants to build his wall. However, such a wall would surely disrupt the wildlife there.

While Beth was watching the wind blow the grasses and framing the moon, she heard a woman hush a child: a family group who had just crossed the river were hiding in a thorn bush thicket, waiting for her to finish her photo so they could be on their way by night.

Such is the wind at dusk there.

As a Mexican-American, when Beth shared this story with me I could only imagine how that mother must have been feeling. It reminded me of things I missed out on as a small child when my own mother wasn’t present in my life….like being in the shelter and sanctuary of loving arms. So many times we humans can put up walls…walls that disrupt the flow of life. Walls that may shut life out. So then we are faced with a sort of Life-Death-Life cycle. Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote, “Sometimes the one who is running from the Life/Death/Life nature insists on thinking of love as a boon only. Yet love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. We let go of one phase, one aspect of love, and enter another. Passion dies and is brought back. Pain is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many endings, and many many beginnings- all in the same relationship.” So perhaps we can still find love on the dark side of the moon.

But for the Love

“Unless you know how to love your neighbor, you cannot love God. Before placing an offering on the altar of God, you have to reconcile with your neighbor, because reconciling with your neighbor is to reconcile with God. You can only touch God through his creatures; you will not understand what is true love, the love of God, unless you practice the love of humanity.” ~Thich Nhat Hahn, Zen master, poet and peace activist, Taming the Tiger Within

Recently, I had the honor of becoming friends with Chase Gagnon through a poetry group we’re apart of on Facebook. To say it simply, his words move my soul. Today, I have the privilege to share the power of his poetry, photography and storytelling! Enjoy.

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“I was walking into Zeff’s on the corner of Russell and Winder for lunch when I saw him sitting against the wall. The same tattered old man who’s always roaming around Eastern Market through the snow and freezing rain asking strangers for money, the guy who you can see digging through dumpsters and trash cans looking for scraps of food.

I never have anything to give him, and he knows this by now. But it’s the day after Christmas, and I just hit it big off a dollar scratcher. Won thirty five bucks. He puts his head down as I approach, shielding his face from the wind. “Hey man, you want some lunch?” His eyes lit up “you serious fam? I’m hungry as a motherfucker!

I said “hell yeah!” motioning him with my head to get up off the cold ground. We walked into the filthy dive and sat at the bar, each ordered a couple coney dogs and some chilly fries with a hot cup of coffee.”

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“We sat and talked about basketball, how insane Andre Drummond played last night as highlights from the game flashed across the fuzzy TV screen above the counter. Laughed at how stupid our fellow Americans were for electing Donald Trump, and then talked a little bit about how goddamn cold it’s been this past week.

I saw his eyes ice over when he thought about the weather outside, gazing back out into the filthy streets where he sleeps while he sipped his piping hot coffee, both bare hands gripping the mug for warmth. “You know, I can’t remember the last time someone treated me like a human.”

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how bitter
its silence —
gently falling snow

~Chase Gagnon

*photos, poetry, and storytelling by Chase Gagnon

First Snowfall

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Two tiny snowmen

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In woodland garb

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Enjoy a leafy picnic

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2016

“The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?”

~J. B. Priestley

Putting Fears to Good Use

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PRAYER TO PUT FEARS TO GOOD USE

Going over and over one’s fears
is empty
and emptying.

There’s something Greater that sustains.
We call it esperanza. Hope.
We call it guerre es podar. Desire is power.
Hope and desire are powers.

Fear—ha!
Fear—ha!
Ha, hum—fear.
Pstt, pssh!

Consider that most fear
is not fear of failure:
it’s fear to live wide
and deep, as soul calls,
in full power.

Choose your petty fears carefully,
because they can grow big teeth.

Instead, draw your attention here.
I have several fears
I would like you to have.

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Fear these:
Fear not loving
while you have the chance.

Fear becoming bitter.
Fear cynicism.
Fear turning to stone.
Fear living underwhelmed
by everything.

When the culture drags you
back and forth
between being fearful
and being a person
who gives blessings.
Give blessings.

When the culture drags you
back and forth
between being fearful
and being merciful.
Be merciful.

When the culture drags you
back and forth
between being fearful
and being forgiving.
Be forgiving.

When the culture drags you
back and forth
between fearing
and loving.
When the great “they”
say it must be decided,
one or the other,
you can either be fearful,
or do the other, be loving…
refuse to do only one.
Choose all of them.

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Be fearful, and bless others.
Be fearful, and be merciful.
Be fearful, and forgive.
Be fearful, and do.
Be fearful, and love.

It is by doing,
by doing the blessing,
the mercy, the forgiveness,
the doing, and the loving,
that fear is dissipated.

Be not afraid to ride
right up to the enemy
and touch with your
most sharpened flint
made of Love.

So may it be for you.
So may it be for me.
And so may it be for all of us.

*prayer by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, posted on her fb page Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

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*this post is dedicated to all the water protectors at Standing Rock

For the Sake of True Love

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But for the sake

Of true love

I let go…

Of pride

Of fear

Of illusion

Misunderstandings

Like a wind

Blowing through 

The forest

In a sacred dance

Of leaves

I let go…

For the sake

Of true love

I let go…

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2016*

“Everyday we say or do things that might leave behind ‘internal formations’ in the person we love. Following that, then the suffering and pain grow, and the person we love turns into something like a bomb that might explode at any moment. A few words are all it takes to trigger anger in this person, who you are afraid to approach and who you are afraid to talk to because he or she has become a bomb loaded with too much suffering. When you try to get away from him or her, this person thinks you do so out of contempt and their suffering increases. You also have become a bomb, because you have lost the ability to speak the language of peace, of understanding. You have lost the ability to listen, and so all communication has become impossible.”  ~Thich Nhat Hahn, True Love

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Cultivating the energy of loving speech and deep listening is a daily practice that begins with ourselves. When we reach that point where we are no longer able to speak and listen with compassion either to ourselves or to another being then its time to pause and look deeply and to trust our heart to guide us. The practice of mindfulness can help us. Mindful breathing and walking. It can help us to come back to ourselves. Bringing our mind and body together in alignment. That happens because we take the time to be present with ourselves by connecting with our breath. Or if we are walking our concentration is on the step connecting with the Earth. This brings a sense of grounding to our being. A space of calm can open our hearts so that we can see ourselves again. Mindful breathing helps us to take care of our body, our painful emotions, and to become aware of our mind.  Sometimes we lose perspective and see ourselves as something apart…something separate. We become overloaded because we aren’t taking care of ourself. But, we don’t have to get caught up in the stories we tell ourselves. Instead, we can retrain ourselves to focus our attention. When looking at our views and perceptions we can find a way to let go of our conditioning, illusions and misunderstandings. We don’t have to do anything…we don’t have to try hard. Breathing happens naturally because we are alive. We just need to notice our breath. Coming back to our breath and reconnecting with our bodies and mind opens up a space for our heart to guide us back to safety…the island of mindfulness. Where we can reconnect to Life. To True Love.

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*this poem is dedicated to the monks and nuns, Wake Up staff from Plum Village and laypersons who guided us through the retreat “Happy Teachers Change the World” at EIAB during October 14th-23rd

Deeper into the Forest

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Pulling 

My sweater closer

I walk deeper 

Into the forest

Of ancestors.

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2016

“In gratitude, I bow to this land and all of the ancestors who made it available. I see that I am whole, protected, and nourished by this land and all of the living beings that have been here and made life easy and possible for me through all their efforts. I see all those known and unknown. I see all those who have made this country a refuge for people of so many origins and colors, by their talent, perseverence, and love–those who have worked hard to build schools, hospitals, bridges, and roads, to protect human rights, to develop science and technology, and to fight for freedom and social justice. I see myself touching my ancestors who have lived on this land for such a long time and known the ways to live in peace and harmony with nature, protecting the mountains, forests, animals, vegetation, and minerals of this land. I feel the energy of this land penetrating my body and soul, supporting and accepting me. I vow to cultivate and maintain this energy and transmit it to future generations. I vow to contribute my part in transforming the violence, hatred, and delusion that still lie deep in the collective consciousness of this society so that future generations will have more safety, joy, and peace. I ask this land for its protection and support.”  ~III Touching of the Earth, Thich Nhat Hanh, Plum Village

Reality Dreaming

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“Give your soul the silence it needs to make itself heard. Because the voice of your soul is silent. It’s power can flourish only in the silences. Then your soul will fill you with life. You will be like you really are.”      

~Hainz Körmer

It’s About Perspective

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The light, soft and warm

Coos of newness in essence

Continuation 

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2016

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“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. “

~Brené Brown

Humanity Matters!

 

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Its all about connection…a touch, a look, a word, a sense of feeling human in a world that seems confused -a world lost in the process we know as life. Culture has boundaries attached to it as well as identity because of how it links together with our personal beliefs. Nevertheless, they give meaning and purpose to this maze of existence. But I am forced to ask the question, “Is that where the journey ends?” The resounding answer is NO! We just might discover through the people we meet along the way, the places we visit and the experiences we encounter that we are granted a unique privilege. The privilege to come together in a new way. The privilege to rewrite the story.

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No matter what color your skin is, what gender you are, what political views you hold, what your sexual orientation is, what language you speak, what country you come from, what religion you believe or don’t believe, or what culture you have the heritage we all share is feeling and being human in all the tragedy and comedy. Humanity Matters because the bottom line is that no matter how lost this world might be without each other we are nothing. May we all find our humanity. Starting TODAY!

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Maybe its time to shift our borders…our boundaries inside and out. Maybe we might just find a sense of familiarity through the current devastation and darkness. Maybe we might just find the strength and courage to whisper, “I remember you. We come together now with a new identity, but our dignity hasn’t been stripped from us, so I extend my hand to you. Yes, I remember that we are still brothers and sisters. I haven’t forgotten. Let that no longer be our fear for we know each other as we know ourselves… a new identity for the world to see on the outside, but we see each other from the inside. To think of this I shall not water your garden  with tears of sorrows past, but with tears of joy that we can still stand on common ground. Whether our inner demons have been exorcised from within us when we look at ourselves we are seeing each other. Let this be the tie that binds us again with our shifting borders. Let this be the healing for the sickness in our souls.”

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I would like to end with a few thoughts from Deng Ming-Dao, “This world and this society are competitive. Tao uses the metaphor of the warrior to meet that competition. Warriors never yield to their opponents. They may sidestep, but they do not give way. Whether you are a lawyer, police officer, fire fighter, doctor, businessperson, athlete, or any one of numerous professions, you compete against either other people or natural forces. But there is a right way and a wrong way to compete. Avoid anger and greed. Use concentration   and awareness. Coincidentally, concentration and awareness are also necessary for spirituality. That is why the follower of Tao incorporates the way of the warrior into training. The warrior and the sage both seek to transcend emotion and petty thinking, to perfect themselves, and to live lives of the deepest truth. But when outside the arena, do not forget to be kind. Leave behind competitive aggression. You must still have awareness concentration, and reflex, but the expression will be different. Your compassion must not falter. That is why the combination of the way of the warrior with the way of the sage is the ultimate symbol of versatility. Such a follower of Tao commands the extremes of the universe.”

Here is a song that captures the sign of the times:

The Same As It Ever Was

An Offering to Self

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“We have all faced moments in our lives when the pressure mounts beyond what we feel we can handle, and we find ourselves thinking that we do not have the strength to carry on. Sometimes we have just gotten through a major obstacle or illness only to find another one waiting for us the moment we finally catch our breath. Sometimes we endure one loss after another, wondering when we will get a break from life’s travails. It does not seem fair or right that life should demand more of us when we feel we have given all we can, but sometimes this is the way life works.

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When we look back on our lives, we see that we have survived many trials and surmounted many obstacles, often to our own amazement. In each of those instances, we had to break through our ideas about how much we can handle and go deeper into our hidden reserves. The thought that we do not have the strength to handle what is before us can be likened to the hard surface of a frozen lake. It appears to be an impenetrable fact, but when we break through it, we find that a deep well of energy and inspiration was trapped beneath that icy barrier the whole time. Sometimes we break through by cutting a hole into our resistance with our willpower, and sometimes we melt the ice with compassion for our predicament and ourselves. Either way, each time we break through, we reach a new understanding of the strength we store within ourselves.

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When we find ourselves up against that frozen barrier of thinking we cannot handle our situation, we may find that the kindest choice is to love ourselves and our resistance too. We can simply accept that we are overwhelmed, exhausted, and stretched, and we can offer ourselves loving kindness and compassion. If we can extend to ourselves the unconditional warmth of a mother’s love, before we know it, the ice will begin to break.”

By Madisyn Taylor, from Finding Deep Strength

First and last photos by Phillip Schumacher, Surreal Self-Portraits

Middle photo found on The Beauty of Ballet