Stay Right, Write Left

Writing has been a form of therapy for me, for as long as I can remember. Literally. My first strong, clear memory is from about age 6 & my first poem is from about age 7. From memory, it goes something like this:

Inner & outer space

is a wondrous place

to be at peace with yourself.


Love is the peace of mind

that binds us together 

in outer & inner space

as One.

Until last year my writing was only occasionally extended out into the world through articles for The Yoga Lunchbox, or in my educational past for papers, or editorials for the school newspaper. It’s a selfish practice–a coping mechanism. Yet writing a journal allows me to vent without spilling it all over others so I have an opportunity to gain perspective–the distance to see more clearly what I’m feeling & experiencing. Which means this so-called selfish practice benefits those around me. It’s like a mental yoga practice–clearing the crap from the channels & making the muscles more limber & strong benefits the whole.

For the past two years, while recovering the use of my heart after a painful relationship drama, & at the suggestion of my friend Kara-Leah, I started with 750words.com. It’s the online equivalent of the Artist’s Way Morning Pages–750 words amounts to about 3 hand-written pages. According to my stats I’ve written 359,279 words since May 2013. Aside from that I have a large box of journals. Where will all these words get me?

To the left of my own centre. Just slightly off to the side of myself so I can begin to see myself clearly instead of operating from within the maelstrom of thoughts, emotions, reactions & unconscious patterning. Or it could be to the right–take your pick of directions.
Lately I’ve been considering what I’ve decided to call

a certain ambidextrousness of the soul.

I was born & raised in the Northern Hemisphere, but then spent the past 16 years living in either equatorial regions or in the Southern Hemisphere. So when someone references seasons or days or months I honestly & truly have to think about where I am. All the time. Because it will feel like summer to me, but from childhood summer is June, July & August. In New Zealand it’s December, January, February. In Mumbai it always feels like summer, just with variations on the theme. I’m often asking, “what month are we in?” Which makes me realize it’s all some human construct anyway.

Or like yesterday when a friend on the phone said it was raining in DC & I said it was hot & sunny here in Ithaca. He said something about the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit & I said, “Yeah, I guess so.” It just feels like too much work to operate in numbers & months & human measurement systems. This is how I gauge temperature: For me, hot yesterday meant that I was sweating & I don’t perspire easily, so the temperature was likely high, but then the humidity level was also likely high. And there was little to no wind, so it felt good to walk barefoot in a stream in the woods.

It’s a story that’s relative to the moment, not a statistic that can be universally applied.

Take today, for instance. I was weeping uncontrollable sobs of sorrow. Had someone died? Had there been tragedy? Not yet. The full-grown & green-leaved tree in my mother’s front yard has been determined unfit for life & will be cut down today.

You were crying over a tree? Yes.

And I hear there is a lion that has died.

Don’t tell me how–I am sure I couldn’t manage to hear the details. It would likely destroy me, if only for a time.

My soul-sistah worked in animal rights for some years & as far as I can tell she has PTSD from it. I love animals & trees & rivers & earth so much that I feel helpless in the face of a greedy taking & killing animal such as capitalistic man. I am destroyed daily by the mindlessness of man. Perhaps some day I will find a way to be galvanized to take greater action than just contributing to Greenpeace & other animal rights organizations, something I’ve been doing since I first started making money babysitting in my teens. I will walk the 80 miles around Lake Seneca on the next full moon, with others, & we will pray with each step for, & to, the water. I can do that, but please don’t torture me with stories of how cruel someone has been to an amazing animal.

This is how I have all-ways been. Writing has helped. Having a sacred space has helped. Powa Centre (the website is gone now so that’s just the FB page), my studio in Wellington, was like a secret enclave in the city. Tink (that soul-sistah with a shared heart for animals) & I also shared a vision on a grander version of Powa Centre, that you can listen to here. It’s best taken in like a meditation–when you won’t be disturbed & can be still & relaxed. It hasn’t yet come into being, but I know there is a need for such a place. My experience of living in a bubble was that there were some people who also craved what that space provided–groundedness, lightness, kindness, clarity, strength, stillness, creativity, community. They were the ones who returned & who arrived early to class simply to drink in the energy of the space.

What has also helped is developing this ambidextrousness of the soul. Sure, I can tell you what the conversions are in money, in distances, in space measurement, in seasons, in public holidays. I can even drive on any side of the road, safely! And, for whatever reason I can’t work out, I find it easier driving on the left. So when I’m back in the US (or any other right-side-driving country) I have to remind myself when I turn on the engine, “Stay Right!” And then again I say it when I cross over an intersection & am turning. That’s when the default settings kick in.

That’s what I’m trying to get at here. Unless we can get some distance on our default settings, we operate within them, we perpetuate them & they perpetuate us.

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I have been so blessed to travel & live in many lands. That blessing has contributed enormously to the development of my soul. I think of travel as the closest we can get to death. You set off into a space you have never seen, where the sounds around you are new & initially indecipherable, & from which you don’t know whether you will ever return–at least in the same form with which you departed. Into a place where you don’t yet know the roads or the people or the customs. Any step can take you into chaos just as easily as comfort.

In polite conversation it has meant that I can’t give folks a definitive answer to their questions, “Where do you live? Where’s home?” These days I gesture to my body–I live here. I am at home here, right here. Right now. You tell me the time, the date, the month, the year, the coordinates, the season, the side of the road I need to drive on, the right energies to use. I will be guided by where I am & follow the flow. Yet no one can keep me from caring. Human laws have no hold over my heart that hungers for a homeland where these details do not rule our lives. Where there is actually little to say & much to do to honor how staggeringly we’ve been blessed–by being born into the beauty of this world at all.

Stay right–you know what that feels like. No point trying to pinpoint a location because it’s a story inherent to each moment, relative to your heart of hearts. I would love to hear a snippet of your story–what climate do your heart coordinates set you in, right now?

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One thought on “Stay Right, Write Left”

  1. Hello Melissa!

    Thank you for another beautiful and thought-provoking blog post!

    Right now I feel that the climate of my heart is connection – to others, to the earth, to the ocean, to all my friends and family around the world (my own “earthwide tribe” 🙂 ). I love the poem you wrote when you were seven! Love, peace and togetherness … inner and outer space … beautiful!

    Also love the “once upon a time in the Powa Centre” audio – thanks for that! Lying in guided meditation on a yoga mat on the wooden floor of Powa Centre studio, one floor up from the ground, I had the strong sensation of the earth right under my body, cradling me and supporting me …

    So sorry to hear that the tree in your mother’s garden had to be cut down. Sending love and blessings to it, and to you and your mom.

    About what you say: “Perhaps some day I will find a way to be galvanized to take greater action than just contributing to Greenpeace & other animal rights organizations” … well, of course you’re the expert on you, but in my opinion, that’s what you’re already doing, that’s what your whole life is about … the walking in the streams in the woods, bringing peace through yoga, just being yourself … and also your tears and your resting and writing and looking after yourself are just as vital … there is a time for everything … inspired action relies upon rest and peace … everything is a part of everything else …

    What you say about moving “Just slightly off to the side of myself so I can begin to see myself clearly instead of operating from within the maelstrom of thoughts, emotions, reactions & unconscious patterning” – this reminded me of Jill Bolte Taylor’s account of a feeling of “stepping to the right” of her thinking brain and experiencing a sense of freedom. She first experienced this through having a stroke but she’s spoken and written about how others can experience this freedom without a stroke or brain injury: eg on her website http://mystrokeofinsight.com/ she writes: “Do you practice yoga or meditate? What different techniques do you use to “Step to the Right” of your left hemisphere brain chatter in order to live a more balanced life? Share your ideas in the Balanced Brain Techniques page.”

    Your walk you will be doing, praying for and to water, around Lake Seneca, at the full moon sounds absolutely wonderful! Look forward to hearing more about that 🙂

    with love,

    Anne xx

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