Tag Archives: spirituality

New Facebook Page

I’ll be posting poems and links to poems (my own and others’), as well as updates on my various books, on my new Facebook page from now on.  If you’d like to follow me (without–pardon me–the B.S. “I’ll follow/like your blog if you follow/like mine–even if we never actually read anything on the blogs” interactions), please go to:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nancy-BevilaquaDreamers-Songs-Poetry-Page/315038911981818

Thank you!

Other People’s Books–#2: A Soul’s Calling

Here’s the next entry in my recommendations of “indie” books that I’ve read and loved and would like to recommend to my readers here.  The book is A Soul’s Calling, by Scott Bishop. If you’re interested in travel, adventure, or spirituality (or–if you’re like me–all three), this is the book for you, particularly if you’ve ever wondered what it would really be like to make the trek to Mt. Everest’s base camp (you will no doubt be surprised in many ways).  Here’s my review:

“‘I couldn’t put it down’ is kind of a cliche among book reviews, but I read A Soul’s Calling in a quick two days. The book is a memoir about a man who does what “conventional wisdom” (something I’ve come to pretty much despise) would advise him strongly against, and challenges himself to fulfill a spiritual imperative (HIS spiritual imperative–he never tries to force his spiritual vision on the reader, or on those with whom he comes into contact) by making what may be considered a kind of pilgrimage to the Everest Base Camp. He is guided by visions and communication with spirit in various manifestations; one of the most beautiful elements of the book for me was his personal, loving, respectful relationship with the natural environment, which for him is also a manifestation of spirit.

The author makes no apologies for his relationship with/belief in the “spirit world”; it is simply part of HIS world, and he wishes to use his ability to interact with it for the benefit of all beings (and, again, he considers things like the mountains he approaches, the sun and moon and stars, rocks, and all the natural gifts of the earth as “beings”). This may make some readers uncomfortable, or skeptical, but those feelings should not be used to judge the quality of A Soul’s Calling. A reader with an open mind and an eye for good writing should find a lot to love in it. Even if one isn’t “into communication with spirits”, the descriptions of the people and landscapes of the Himalayas, and of the tortuous journey to Base Camp, as well as the wonderful knowledge that there are still people out there who are willing to flout conventional wisdom for something that they believe is truly meaningful, make A Soul’s Calling worth reading.” 

Here’s the link to the book’s Amazon.com page:

http://www.amazon.com/Souls-Calling-Scott-Bishop-ebook/dp/B00AWQCRWG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1387495326&sr=1-1&keywords=a+soul%27s+calling

Jung, Psychosis, Spiritual Emergence, and Fear

Since anonymously publishing Love in the Broken-Bird World, I have been deeply conflicted about whether or not I should disclose that it’s mine, for the rather obvious reason that I’m afraid of being branded delusional, psychotic, or just a no-account scammer (I am none of those things).  I’ve also thought that perhaps everything contained in it was meant for me only, and that to send anything like it “out into the world” always seems to lead inevitably to misunderstanding and distortion (as with, say, for example, religion, to a large degree).

On the other hand, I woke up this morning thinking about something that’s occurred to me many times since the whole experience described in the book started–that perhaps it’s that kind of fear of being labelled and/or misunderstood that has kept people from being open to more than what’s right in front of their faces (or, as the Hopi might say it, “closing the doors on top of their heads”).  Aside from a few understandably frightening experiences at the beginning of my own experience about six years ago, the overall outcome of it all for me has been incredible joy, peace, and even bliss (things not normally associated with, say, schizophrenia).  There is more about all of that in the preface of the book, which you can read using the “Preview” feature on the book’s Amazon page (see below) without actually having to buy the book.

A little later this morning, I just happened to come across something about Carl Jung’s “Seven Sermons to the Dead”, which I’d never heard of (I’m embarrassed to say that, although I keep meaning to, I still haven’t read any Jung at all).  In a commentary I read about the work, I found a quote of Jung’s about the experience that began it all for him.  The description was remarkably similar to some of the things that I experienced very early on (there have been many different, and often more subtle, things that have happened since that rather boisterous awakening), and my coming across it seemed to reinforce the thoughts I’d had earlier this morning.  This is what Jung said:

“It began with a restlessness, but I did not know what it meant or what “they” wanted of me. There was an ominous atmosphere all around me. I had the strange feeling that the air was filled with ghostly entities. Then it was as if my house began to be haunted….

Around five o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday the front doorbell began ringing frantically…but there was no one in sight. I was sitting near the doorbell, and not only heard it but saw it moving. We all simply stared at one another. The atmosphere was thick, believe me! Then I knew that something had to happen. The whole house was filled as if there were a crowd present, crammed full of spirits. They were packed deep right up to the door, and the air was so thick it was scarcely possible to breathe. As for myself, I was all a-quiver with the question: “For God’s sake, what in the world is this?” Then they cried out in chorus, “We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not what we sought/’ That is the beginning of the Septem Sermones. (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p190-1)”

(It was in particular his description of the “thickness” of the atmosphere, and the sense of there being a “crowd” present, that resonated with me.)

Finding that led me to look up again something I’d looked into on a number of occasions in the past; I Googled, “psychosis versus spiritual emergence.”  This time I found a paper written by Dr. Nicki Crowley entitled, “Psychosis or Spiritual Emergence–Consideration of the Transpersonal Perspective Within Psychiatry” (one could also, of course, read the work of Stanislav Grof).  This section also resonated with me:

“Psychotic phenomena such as delusions and hallucinations…follow clinical observations, which in western society are understood as symptoms of illness. This is based on the assumption that we understand the nature of ‘reality’, and that there is a narrow band of ‘normal’ perception, outside of which there is little useful potential. That certain dramatic experiences and unusual states of mind could be more than part of a purely pathological mental state, and hold some potential for personal growth and transformation is the subject of this paper.”

I have, as a result of the things that have happened to me over the past six years, come to firmly believe that we are trapped by just that–the arrogant belief that we are capable of truly understanding “the nature of reality.”  There is great freedom in taking absolutely nothing for granted, in not being limited by what others tell us is the “truth” (if there is such a thing), in “not believing everything you think.”  I don’t know how to explain that any more clearly; it’s probably something one has to come to on one’s own. (I do want to be clear in saying that I’m not a person who doesn’t believe that there is such a thing as mental illness–clearly, there is, and in most cases it must be utterly terrifying and destructive.)

The latter is also the case with Love in the Broken-Bird World.  Although some of the “sayings” it contains are quite straightforward and could possibly be useful to others, much of it seems to be geared solely to me and my understanding of things at the time (within the context of other things that I’ve been hearing or that have been happening).  There are parts of it that even I don’t understand, or that can be understood on many levels (or, as one of the sayings in the book goes, “…hearing, within the same song, fifteen different choruses”).

My point here, I guess, is simply that I know at this point that there is much more to things (a clumsy way to put it, but the best I can do) than what we tend to limit ourselves to.  As I was often told at the beginning of whatever it is that has been happening to me over the past six years, Let it happen.  If the result is consistently love and compassion, trust it (that sounds hokey, but if you experience it you’ll know what I mean).  If it’s anything else, my strong suggestion is that you see it as a problem and seek help with it right away, particularly if there is any suggestion at all that you harm yourself or anyone else.

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Broken-Bird-World-Dreamers-ebook/dp/B00D7V4PCS/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid

A Rough Deliverance Ebook Now Available on Amazon

So I got ambitious and got the manuscript for A Rough Deliverance: Collected Poems 1983-2013 ready for publication much earlier than I thought I would.  The Kindle version is now available on Amazon.com (the print version will be out shortly as well).  This is how I’ve described the book:

A Rough Deliverance begins with poems the author wrote as an ambitious, conflicted, and sometimes naive 22-year-old college student just learning to navigate her life on her own,a young woman who wanted nothing more than to be a “famous poet.” 

It closes with poems written by a woman thirty years older–in some ways very different, in some ways very much the same, perhaps wiser and perhaps not. She is not a famous poet, but she is someone who has loved deeply, witnessed the ravages of an epidemic from the “front lines,” grieved, traveled extensively, made terrible choices and perfect ones, over-indulged and abstained, raised a wonderful son, wrestled with anger and shame about the past and fear of what’s to come, and finally learned to see all of it as absolutely worthwhile. 

This is a collection of poems that documents a ragged, imperfect, and ultimately joyful life lived one deliverance at a time. 

The poems are about love, family, alcoholism, suicide, travel, chance meetings, sex, AIDS, and many other things.  If you read poetry, or if you’ve liked some of the poems I’ve posted here recently, I hope you’ll take a look (as always, reviews on the book’s Amazon.com page, and elsewhere, are greatly appreciated!).

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GREJ626

Jesus, Mary, Devil, Mind

Again, from Love in the Broken-Bird World:

226.

Jesus was light;

Mary was dark.

Light needs darkness to be seen.

229.

Devil ain’t no mind;

mind ain’t no devil.

Arbitrary conceptions.

There ain’t no mind;

There ain’t no mind-speech.

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Broken-Bird-World-Dreamers-Songs/dp/1489594884/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Goodness, Love, Music

Two more from Love In the Broken-Bird World:

114.

Go on goodness until it’s not good enough.

Then find love.

139.

Nothing created.

Great mystery;

immeasurable music.

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Broken-Bird-World-Dreamers-Songs/dp/1489594884/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

“Cloud Reason…”

I was thinking about this today; it’s one of my favorite “sayings” from Love In the Broken-Bird World: Dreamer’s Songs:

32.

Cloud reason.  Dispute the king

of reason, hearing,

within the same song,

fifteen different choruses.

See a window as sky.

There is nothing in this world

that can’t be done.

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Broken-Bird-World-Dreamers-Songs/dp/1489594884/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Something Different: Prose Poetry

I haven’t really written poetry in many years, but lately I’ve come crawling back.  It’s felt strange, like clumsily re-learning as an adult how to do something that came very naturally in childhood. (In the same spirit, I’ve been listening lately to the music that moved me so much when I was younger, and yet that I’d somehow almost forgotten about; this morning it was Hot Tuna’s “The Water Song”, which I used to play first thing on sunny mornings when I was at college.  OK–there weren’t ALL that many sunny mornings in Portland, but there were some. I’ve been wishing lately that I were a musician, so that I could put my words to music.)

As I was “messing around” with lines (of poetry) lately, I found that I was spending far too much time and effort trying to decide where the line-breaks should come.  I guess I’ve always found them a little annoying and somewhat beside the point, unless I was writing my sonnets or something.  Anyway, a day or two ago I decided to say to hell with them, and see if what I’ve been writing works as something along the lines of prose poetry.  So far, I’m happy with the results.

I just finished this–the third in the series of which the poems I posted a couple of posts ago are also a part:

 

3.

Fires along the walls.  Lost light caught in corners, starved dogs summoned, sweat and smoke in little yards.  Moon begins her wayward fall.

Fingers practice the anatomy of stone. You drink, you dance, you spill your wine on dust that soaks up time.  You like to sing the sparks that flicker in the gorgeous mind, in the heart always dismissive of stolid, arid tunes.

Ruptured stars: down here it’s night.  Sleeping hills are turning now to space where nothing matters, your finger sliding warm and welcome down my arm.

Swallow sweeping twin-tailed to a secret room to dive, my dress a bloom. There is a bead of love between each wave, a peace that rights the murder, the only sense we ever made.

 

(P.S. re: my previous post–apparently marketing isn’t my forte. Fortunately for me, that comes as no surprise. In any case, the Giveaway of the print version of Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, is still open until tomorrow–David’s birthday.  As no one has entered so far, anyone who does has a pretty good chance of winning.  🙂  Here’s the link to the book’s Amazon page, just in case:

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+breath+bevilaqua

Ghosts

There are quite a few references to “ghosts” in Holding Breath.  Shortly after David passed on, several things happened for which I had no perfect explanation; as I said in the book, I’d always been cynical about the notion of “ghosts” or “spirits”, but I really wanted to believe that incidents like plants in pots falling over for no discernible reason on a couple of key occasions, a strange bird that sat on my stoop and stared at me, unafraid, for a long time, and other things were signs that David wasn’t really “gone,” and that he was trying to let me know that.  (My cynicism about such things has now completely dissipated, although I would use the term “spirit” rather than “ghost”; I only wish that I’d been more open to the possibilities back then, when it would have helped me a great deal.)

One day several years ago, as I was sitting in a Japanese restaurant in Hoboken, Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “If You Could  Read My Mind” started to play quietly in the background.  I’d always really liked the song, but when I heard it that time I was in the midst of the re-ignited grief that I write about in the book, and I became so engrossed in the lyrics of the song that I had trouble speaking to my lunch companion.  The song seemed, and still seems, to relate to things I’ve thought about David on so many levels–not just the literal idea of “ghosts”/spirits, but the need I believe David had to be “set free” by an understanding of who he was both before and after his passing (the very last part of the book relates a dream that David’s daughter had and told me about a few years ago, and that seemed like a profoundly accurate illustration of that need).

Naturally, I had to include “If You Could Read My Mind” on the playlist for Holding Breath.  Here it is (it’s a very nice live version):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-ij_iTQt2w

(Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days is available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-AIDS-Wildfire/dp/1480164518/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1350864778&sr=1-3 )

Solitary Souls

I know that I wrote in an earlier post that I wasn’t going to post any more excerpts from the book, but it’s Halloween, and it made me think of a Halloween (I was, in fact, in Mexico at the time, so it was more properly one of Los Dias de los Muertos–Days of the Dead, or the Mayan Hanal Pixan) six years ago, when I was just starting to experience the delayed grief I’d suppressed since 1990.  (The quote I use in the excerpt is from a book called Hanal Pixan Yesterday and Today: The Mayan Ritual of the Dead, trans. David Phillips.)  So–one more excerpt:

“…Around that same time, I was sent to Mexico for a magazine assignment.  By coincidence, I arrived on October 31st, the first of the Days of the Dead.  On my second day there, I posted:

The people here create altars for their dead on these days, setting out candles, images of saints, photographs of those who have died, cigarettes, tequila, sweets, the things the things they loved when they were alive. It’s believed that the souls of the dead return and partake of the essence of the food and drink left out for them, leaving what’s left for the living. Yesterday someone gave me a book about Hanal Pixan, the Mayan ritual of the dead, and I found this passage:

‘…it is also common to set up an altar to the solitary soul, dedicated to all those deceased who have no one to remember them on Earth, or who have no known relatives, or relatives who showed no interest in them. It might also be…the sick who were abandoned by their relatives…’

Well, my solitary soul, I’ll need to set up your altar here, in a room at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun, overlooking the sea. There are bottles of water here, a bowl of fruit, a red flower, and a warm breeze from the sea blowing the curtains around. If you come back, I’ll be waiting here, in a place nothing like the one you left—the kind of place we used to talk about visiting together.

These past few weeks, I’ve been willing to believe in almost anything.”

In the six years since I wrote that, I’ve gone from being “willing to believe” to absolutely certain, and I’m no longer afraid of death.

(Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days is available at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009TV4CE6

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