Blessing – A Poem and Mandala

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Blessing © 2016 Bo Mackison

A Thanksgiving Blessing

Bless the beginning and the end
and all moments in between.

Those in-between moments, long pauses,
interminable wait or – paradoxically –
too much action. A blur, a flash, a crash.

Bless this very moment.
Bless me, sitting at my desk, with filtered November shining through my window,
a light/shadow abstract cast upon these written words. Holy words.

Bless this moment of routine
of ritual.
In the midst of the ordinary and mundane
In between the common and the trivial.

In the midst of unspeakable despair
lingers a relentless awareness of what is.

Yes, here is the sacred.
In this – the present – there is presence.

Bless the quiet night
and the firelight,
the dark shiver and the cold.

Bless the dream unfolding in sleep
and the dreamer;
Bless the seeds germinating in damp earth
and the cracked seed, foreteller of life.

Bless a pale sun that casts blue shadows on crested snow;
Bless the lakes and rivers in icy embrace.

Bless us, in our silence and our singing,
our laughter and our weeping.

Bless absence in the presence
and presence in the absence.

Bless this moment.
Bless us all.

After Votes Are Counted, A Low Simmering Hatred Boils Over – A Cento

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This is a different sort of writing. A different sort of writing practice. I wrote a cento.

Cento, from the Latin word patchwork. A collage poem, a cento is a poetic form that is composed of lines from other poets’ poems. A true cento is formed entirely from other poets’ lines.

After Votes Are Counted, A Low Simmering Hatred Boils Over

a cento

Weep for the country in its present state.
So fallen! So lost! The light withdrawn –
All night I dreamed of roses
Of morning, the languor of another morning.

Today the headlines clot in my blood.
We need to know in America there is still
blood
for forgiveness.

Let’s look at our loneliness in this desert
The deep night, and birds singing, and clouds flying,
And sleep, and freedom, and the autumnal earth.

When the few true defenders of love and justice survive to tell the tale,
Then, perhaps then, God Bless America.

~~~~~~

from the poets George Horton, John Whittier, Sophie Jewett, Cesare Pavese, Naomi Shihab Nye, Shann Ray, Raul Zurita, Rupert Brooke, John Fuller

 

Telling My Story – A Mandala

Tell My Story ©2016 Bo Mackison

Tell My Story ©2016 Bo Mackison

Tell my story.

I’ve been writing a lot. Stories that feel “too hard, too messy” to write anywhere other than my private, password-protected journal. Just yesterday, I reached a tipping point where it now feels important to give my story the dignity of being seen in the light, not kept hidden in the darkness.

More often than not I want to diminish my story. But in diminishing my story, I keep myself in a dark cage, silenced. I reinforce “my story is not allowed.” “I am not allowed to speak.” “I am not seen.”

The above mandala? It was part of my process of allowing, of sharing, of being. For every “x” I marked on the mandala, I spoke aloud the words “my story needs telling.”

And so I… tell my story.

~~~~~~~~~

I woke up this morning unsure of where I was. I grappled with my bed sheets for a minute trying to remember. Oh. Pillow. Mattress. Early morning light shining through the window. Gracie breathing at the foot of my bed. My bed. All safe. All sound.

And though I know this to be true, that I am safe and sound in my bed, I am not convinced.

Moments before I did not feel safe nor sound. Suspended in that half-awake half-asleep threshold, in a gray state of floating semi-consciousness. Where reality and fantasy mix. Where truth is mist and swirl. Where my foot searches for a place to step that does not shift into nothingness.

In my dream, I am trapped in a small stone hut on the outskirts of a metropolis. I could see through a ground level slit in the door. There were people, tall buildings, streets clogged with traffic in the just beyond. I had no voice. I tried to call out to the passers-by, to the taxi drivers, to a crowd of children feeding birds near a rainbow-lit fountain. No one could see me, huddled on a concrete floor. No one could hear me, my voice silenced. I tried to write a message on the floor of the hut, convinced all I needed to do was write my name. Until I realized that I was writing with my blood.

Half awake, I struggling with the twisted bed sheets. Then I was fully awake and on the verge of panic.

There is a lot of noise in the world right now. Nationally, the presidential election, only 19 days away, is in the headlines 24/7. Closer to home, I am adjusting to elder care, responsibilities that do not play into my strengths. In my home, I am working through relational issues. None of these are easy. I might call them triggers, but triggers are getting a lot of pushback in the news. Media headlines imply they are an over-reaction, that we should all just grow up as a society and be strong enough to handle the unpleasantries in life. Triggers be damned.

Recently Donald Trump made clear (to me) his reputation as an abuser. In one of his many verbal diatribes, he called out Senator John McCain as suspect, claiming he was “only a war hero” because “he was captured.” Trump insinuated that the very act of being captured by the enemy was a sign of weakness. Trump is a trigger.

Trump also claimed that returning veterans who are “strong” do not get PTSD, but “others can’t handle it.” It is the victim’s fault for getting captured, for not being strong enough. For not rising over impossible hurdles. It is the victim’s fault.

When my youngest daughter was a senior at the University of Wisconsin, a student group had a rally on the quad. A few students erected several bamboo cages on a grassy space in the middle of campus and “lived” in these cages for 24 hours. It was their way of calling attention to still-unaccounted-for POWs from the Viet Nam Era.

The cages were constructed of bamboo sticks, maybe 3 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet, the size of a large dog kennel.

We had made plans to meet for lunch across the street from the quad. We had a thirty-minute wait at our window table for pizza, so we watched some of the POW activities. When our food finally arrived, I was no longer hungry. I was having trouble enough simply breathing.

Putting these pieces together — my panic upon waking, a dream where I am trapped in a small hut, my only way of communication writing my name in blood, the blaming of victims for their weaknesses in response to trauma, the cages of torture and imprisonment — makes me want to deny there is any connection between the horrors of war and the horrors of child abuse.

Isn’t it better to minimize, to accept the blame, to deny triggers?

I hear voices from my childhood. “Don’t make a big deal out of nothing?” “Don’t tell. No one will believe you.” “It’s your fault.”

And a half century later, I am ready to say, “No. That was a big deal. I get to tell my story. It was never my fault. I believe me… and maybe others will, too.”

Sound Byte – A Poem

 

Morning Flight © 2014 Bo Mackison

Morning Flight © 2014 Bo Mackison

Sound Byte

The sound was so even, so precise,
I looked around the room, half-expecting
to see the old rocker swaying,
inhabited by grandmother’s ghost.

But no, it was the creak of Canada geese —
their approach, fly over, diminuendo.
And I was held in stillness — breathless
at the wonder of it all.

~~~~~

Playing with words is a part of the practice on the Contemplative Creatives Journey, of holding an awareness of what catches your attention. What are the connections made without thought? What insight comes when transcribing words from thought to writing, the moment not lost but gently held?

Please consider joining me on the Contemplative Creatives Journey, an online workshop and community. Beginning December 1st, 2016.

 

CONTEMPLATIVE CREATIVES JOURNEY – AN ONLINE WORKSHOP

EXPLORING — AND CELEBRATING — THE UNCOMMON IN THE ORDINARY

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The winter journey is now in progress. I anticipate offering a spring journey which will begin in March, 2017. If interested, please email me at bo at bomackison.com and I will add you to a information list.

I am offering an online workshop, the likes of which I have never heard of nor encountered in my life experience. If the words contemplative and creative and journey have a sweet juiciness for you and you are interested in a different sort of workshop, read on.

  • Instead of schedules, I offer serendipity.
  • Instead of a planned curriculum, I offer surprise.
  • Instead of expectations, I offer possibility.
  • instead of learned objectives, I offer an always-available way to engage and interact with the world

I combine my roles as curator of life experience, writer, artist, and Certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach to offer you a meaningful and fulfilling workshop. Or perhaps I might say playshop!

YOU WILL RECEIVE REGULAR AND RANDOM PROMPTS, QUESTIONS, AND EXPLORATIONS.

Items to inspire and encourage, elicit wonder and awe, uplift your spirit and feed your soul.

This practice does not require that you set aside a certain amount of time each day unless that is your desire. Mostly, it is this:

  • a practice that is gently woven throughout your day
  • an ordinary practice that illuminates the extraordinary
  • ways of interacting with place that highlight how no place is truly common
  • a practice that will draw your attention to just how incredibly extraordinary your ordinary is

I will offer inspiration, new ideas, new ways of seeing and being. Until the crocuses bloom. Yes, you read that correctly. We will begin December 1st, the day I associate with winter’s beginning, and we will go until the day my backyard crocuses bloom and herald in the awakening of spring.

I will journey with you throughout the winter, holding a lantern to illuminate the path we walk together, offering light and connection and dozens of examples of how I explore and see the world – a way of deep connection invoking the wonders and mystery of word, vision, and place.

word * vision * place

Let me explain further.

word.

This practice focuses on how to connect — to the world, community, and self — using words. We will play with words, explore words, include words in art, connect nature and place with words.

I will share my practice of containers, an original practice I’ve developed. I’ve been working with the concept of containers to explore self, relationships, community. Everyone I’ve introduced to these practices finds them instinctive and telling and so easy to understand. There is much to see in this exploration; it truly illuminates the path to discovery.

I will share variations on how to write a poem, even if you are not a poet or a writer. Poetry can be simple to complex, straightforward to multidimensional.

Just as I believe everyone is creative, I also believe everyone has an innate ability to play with words. And yes, one plays with words to create poetry.

Word play is poetry. And it is a writing practice that is deeply meaningful.

vision.

Oh, the things you will see! The simple and the complex, the mystical and the ordinary.

There will be mandala creating. There will be map making and book making. There will be contemplative photography practices (using any camera.) These are ways of seeing and interacting with your world.

place.

A sense of place is important. I deeply connect with the places I live and travel, be that prairie, mountain, desert, or shore. And I incorporate dozens of ideas in my day that offer enhanced ways to see and appreciate my surroundings. We will use writing, art, photography and more to create a sense of place, to embrace the essence of place.

PRACTICES:

There will be practices for all occasions! Oh! I like that! A practice for all occasions. For the common and the uncommon times in life. For the ordinary that is extraordinary. (This is the thread that runs through this practice. Yes?)

  • Practices for exploring nature and travel. And practices for your trip to the grocery store or your daily commute.
  • Practices for calming and grounding. For awakening and celebrating.
  • Practices for being being being. And for seeing seeing seeing.

Your work is a sacred exploration to me. The composition of your photography paired with just the right quote or poem draws me in to a space in my soul and invites me to linger. Your mandalas are an exquisite study of beauty and complexity, yet seem like something I might be able to learn. And then there are your words. When strung together, they become music and find a way deep into my bones.

So when you offered an opportunity to explore and study with you, I jumped on it. I know it will be a soulful, explorative journey filled with wonder and surprise. I can’t wait to get started.

~ Sharon Martinelli, Artist, Activist, Crone

QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU CLARIFY:  

Do you love metaphor? Do you see metaphors everywhere and anywhere? Are you intrigued by metaphor? If your answer is yes, then this workshop is likely something you will love.

Do you thrive with to do lists? Do you do your best, most creative work on a schedule while meeting deadlines? If your answer is yes, then this workshop will likely be a different sort of experience. Are you ready for this kind of change? Then join in the fun.

Are you searching for the positive instead of the negative, for the song instead of the scream? I am not advocating for rose-colored glasses and Pollyanna-ism. I know from much experience that life is not all rainbows and unicorns. And still, I choose to embrace life with appreciation, generosity, kindness and respect. Does this resonate with you? Then this workshop might be affirming and relevant for you.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER IF YOU ARE STILL INTRIGUED BUT UNDECIDED:

What if you to had a creative practice that could be done in free moments? What if instead of checking Facebook whenever a free moment arises, you periodically chose to check in with yourself! Personally? I love Facebook. I love love love the connections I’ve nurtured using social media. And sometimes? I know I seek more. I know there is a connection with self that I so desire and sometimes neglect, that I want to re-establish my connection with the present and the space in which I find myself.

Do you have art supplies that you would enjoy using, but they are off your radar? (This might look like a fully equipped art room or a box of supplies you store under your bed.) What if you had playful and/or meaningful ways to use these things? Surprises or nudges to get your creative juices flowing? Hints on how to see or create in new ways? Imagine the possibilities!

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First Crocus © 2014 Bo Mackison

THE WHEN:

I light the lantern to illuminate the path on which we travel together on December 1st. We will continue our journey until the first crocus pops through my backyard’s earth (or snow cover) sometime in early March.

THE HOWS:

Private community on Facebook. Everything will be delivered to Facebook and may show up anytime. Remember? Surprise and serendipity! You are encouraged to share your discoveries and experiences in the private group however and whenever you choose.

Dive Deeper materials will be offered several times a month on a password-protected blog and are optional. This is bonus material and not at all required to reap the benefits of the full experience.

This guided process allows you to engage in the practice from anywhere in the world and at any time of the day or night.

THE COST:

I offer you my knowledge, my skills, my presence and my enthusiasm. The cost for this inaugural three-month journey and community experience is $99.00. (This works out to about $7.00 a week, or what you might pay for a fancy coffee and a little something on the side. Consider this to be a different sort of coffee break!)

TO RESERVE YOUR SPACE:

Registration is now open. Email me at bo@bomackison.com. I will send you a PayPal invoice and add your name as a participant to the CCJ Facebook page once I receive your payment as confirmation.

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MY MOST FERVENT DESIRES:

To hold the lantern high to broadly illuminate our contemplative and creative journey. To connect with community that embraces life in all of its many manifestations. To offer wisdom and experiences that bring forth an awareness, appreciation, and awe of everyday life. To explore – and celebrate – the uncommon in the ordinary.

And to do this with you, my friend.

Will you join me?

The instant Bo Mackison articulated her vision for this online course I knew I wanted to participate. I have a lot to learn from Bo whose talent delights me. I am excited to benefit from the ways she sees the world.

~ Mary Anne Radmacher, Author