Friday, October 25, 2013

When the Heart’s Involved, Magic May Blossom

 
When the Heart’s Involved, Magic May Blossom


Every once in a while I am just too smart for my own good. No, really! Usually it starts long before I notice it, which is about the time I realize the futility of life. I am dramatic so it takes me to get to that point!

I can always tell when my intellect is no longer serving me as a tool but as an overlord when I began to wonder, “What’s the point of all of this?” But then I remember that THOSE words are just a foil for fear… and it’s time to reign in my thinking mind and return to my sense of childlike wonder and naivete.

I can practically hear you among my more practical friends tsking and shrieking and sighing and harrumphing. But I say, either way, the rain is gonna fall and the sun is gonna shine. And since I can go through this temporary condition called “life” with fear or wonder (or, a combo of both), I say, why not go through it with as much joy and grace as possible?

            Here is an example of how that works for me.

A few years ago, goodness, almost ten now, back in my hometown of Minneapolis, my best friend Josh and I shared, among many things, a love of the Divine Ms M.

That’s Bette Midler, to the uninitiated.

            Josh and I had a mutual friend, Sean. He was the most gangster gay dude I’d met up until that point and completely blew my mind of any remaining stereotypes. (Wait… um, at least those of which I am aware.) One day, Sean offered to take me and Josh to see Bette at the Target Center in a month.

            Um. YES!

            A few weeks later, Sean called me. “Okay, don’t tell Josh, but I had to sell the tickets on Ebay. But I’ll get replacements.” Um, Okay…

            The night of the show, we arranged to all three meet at a restaurant across the street from the venue. I arrived first, post Ballet of The Dolls dance class. I was red cheeked from the cold December night. Then, Josh walked into the restaurant. We shared that buzz of pre-concert excitement.

We waited for our third party to come to dinner, but he never showed. We decided he was probably stuck in traffic, and sat down to eat. I thought back to that phone call… should I tell Josh? I had promised I wouldn’t. It was getting close to show time and we still had no sign of Sean- or our tickets.

            Josh called Sean. Then he called again. He called again. Finally, an answer. Sean told us he wasn’t coming because he had to babysit, but we could come to Plymouth (a suburb) to get the tickets. Then, unexpectedly, we got cut off and when we tried calling back, the phone died.

            It was time to reveal what I knew.

            Josh looked so blue as I told him of the phone conversation.

            “Oh well,” he said, shrugging his shoulders up and down in an oversized blue cardigan sweater. “We can just go get coffee or something.”
           
            Something struck a chord in me, in my heart.

            “No,” I said, “Let’s just go over there.”
           
            Josh looked at me curiously. He shrugged once more.

            “Okay,” he said.

            We walked to the box office of the venue, crowded with excited concert-goers of surprisingly every age, race, color, and creed. I love the unifying force of music that can bring together very different kinds of people! Of course, it was December in Minnesota, so you had to look closely through the veneer of parkas, scarves, and hats…

            I approached the box office, M-Z. All three of us had last names beginning with “M.” Josh tagged behind, unsure of what I was doing, but watching curiously.

            I told the lady at the office our tale. A jolly gal, she smiled and thought of potential solutions. Did we have the credit card used to purchase the tickets? Could we call him and have him call the credit card number in? Finally, plum out of ideas, she cocked her head to one side and looked at us consolingly.

            “I guess you’ll have to wait ‘til he shows up with your tickets, then,” she said. She smiled.

As a side note of interest: I hadn’t noticed then, but in retrospect, and after having lived in major cities FAR less friendly and sweet than Minneapolis is in general, it’s so lovely that she never once acted like we were a burden, nor did she shoo us away immediately upon the discovery that we couldn’t get our tickets from her. As we say in the Midwestern vernacular, she was real nice.

            Josh and I slowly made our way to the front doors. Josh wanted to speed ahead but I stopped and stood still. I did not know why, but we had to stay put.

            “Come on,” he said, “Let’s go.”

            “No,” I said, “Just wait.”

            Josh sighed.

            “What for?” he asked.

            “I don’t know,” I said. “We just have to wait.”

            By now the lights were blinking to let us know the show was starting. The people in the lobby were all moving in droves into the stadium itself and soon we were a few of the only people left in the lobby.

            “What. Are we going to try to listen from here?” Josh joked, unfolding his large navy blue winter coat from being draped over his arm.

            “I guess,” I said, but still not moving, “We should go.” And yet I could not budge.

            Just then, a man emerged from seemingly nowhere, although, really, he was standing against the north wall of the lobby.

            “Excuse me,” he said, “Are you waiting for your tickets?”

            “We don’t think they’re coming,” I said. Now it was my time to shrug.

            “Here,” he said, holding his hand out. “Take mine!

            “Really?” I squealed and grabbed those tickets before he changed his mind. He looked a bit surprised, but answered,

            “Yeah. I don’t think my date is coming.”

            “Oh, thank you!” I gushed, hugging him. Then Josh said “Thank you,” and hugged him too, which seemed to really surprise the man. He smiled. “You’ll have more fun than me,” he said. He left then and Josh and ran in to the venue just as Bette’s band was striking up…We shrieked in joy as we discovered that our seats were in the front balcony, dead center.

            And Bette began her final performance of her KISS MY BRASS tour. And she was awesome.

            ...Now, I tell that story as an example of what happens when you listen to, and follow, your heart! No matter how silly and unlikely it may seem… and not to be attached to any outcome whatsoever but merely because you must you must you MUST… You cannot NOT do this thing, whether it is starting a cupcake business or waiting for tickets for a show for no reason or getting married or having kids or not having kids or starting a new career…. If it’s in your heart, there’s a reason.

            So right now, I am recording this album. It’s eclectic and varied, just like my life as a singer. It’s like a greatest hits album even though I’m young in my career! Voice and piano, or voice and guitar. Simple, beautiful, classic songs. Arias, standards, a couple originals. …

            I got a little nervous about it this morning, before I headed to the studio to work with Russ, the producer… what if it doesn’t work out? (But then, aren’t I having a blast in the meantime, raising money, singing, growing, stretching, as an artist, and believing in myself and my gifts?) What if I don’t raise the money on IndieGoGo? (Then I will come up with the money another way. There is always a way! At least 5 or 6, really!) Am I doing the right thing? (Too late to worry about right or wrong, I’m already 1/3 of the way through recording!)

            See, I wrote this blog not just for you all, but for me, to remind myself that it is time for some more faith, particularly of the childlike variety.

I am ready to be surprised again by whatever may come. ‘Cause whatever it is, my heart’s involved. And that’s why it’s scary, and that’s why it’s worth it, and that’s why there may be magic…

                                                                        LOVE,

                                                                                                Erin


http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-songs-support-music-support-your-soul/x/119710

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

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So, who here slows down?

I mean, really. Who here lives in balance?

(Crickets.)

Tonight I was talking to my sister on the phone, ruing one of my personality flaws (workaholism) and complaining that I need to take on fewer projects and really focus in on what I truly want to do and only do one or two projects at a time. She patiently waited for me to finish. Then she said:

“But don’t you say this and go through this every few months?”

Silence.

“Yes,” I responded.

“So can you hold on to this every day for the next seven days?”

Silence.

See, the thing is, I get so excited about things that I MUST do them ALL at once. Then I get overwhelmed and a week like this one happens. Without too many gory details- because I absolutely HATE complaining, and, well, I “say” I hate drama but apparently this week I’m getting plenty of it whether I want it or not- I have bronchitis. I have an eye infection. I lost one car and then the other just died while driving it. I got scathing reviews of one of my projects, albeit mostly rather true and therefore helpful. But it still hurts! I am practicing my tools of gratitude and asking for help and forgiveness (of self) and gumption and cuddling with Henry as best I can!

And this, all in the midst of working my freelance careers one and two, my singing career, acting career, writing career, training for a half marathon, plus a relationship, plus and plus and plus and plus.

And I don’t even have children!

And these are very lucky problems to have, because my problem is I have too many jobs. I apologize for complaining while some people are in the face of not enough work… or far greater problems than me in general.

And yet, I’m an artist. It is my job to reflect back to the culture and offer up something aspirational and inspirational (at least that is one of my intentions as an artist.) Something to entertain, enlighten, enliven. Something to give back in love and creativity.

And so with all this blah blah blah, I think, this must be a wake up call.

See, I am confronting one of my deepest, darkest secrets, one of my most insidious character defects.

I am a people pleaser.

And so in the midst of loving my projects and running around doing everything I can to support my passion, I also mix in wanting to help everyone everywhere, doing things so as to not let people down rather than because I truly want to do them, (if you think this is you, it is NOT!) (Oh my god there I go again.) (It may or may not be you! It probably isn’t. LOL.)

And so, in fact, as much as I hate to admit it, I seem to have lost sight a little bit of exactly what it is I really do want to do.

I know I love my projects, but I am forging ahead on some of them for the sake of getting them done rather than loving the process.

And that is not how I want to live my life.

When I was in India and saw that my misery was my own making, I promised myself I would learn to love life.




And here I am a few years later, finding myself in some same patterns and habits winding them selves up again for some kind of rut or failure or, in my case (sigh.) Chaos.

So what is to be done?

I am going to experiment again with a new list of things to do. This list does not shirk responsibility. Strangely I LOVE paying my bills on time and love paying off debt. But, see, a few years back some family tragedy hit alongside the release of my 2009 album. I completely slowed down. I took baths. I walked instead of ran. I worked less and maybe made less money but then ended up charging more and it evened out.

So, here I see the pattern I have and that, I bet, most of us, at least in this culture, have: workaholism, frenzy, too much too fast with little receiving of the joy of it.

Alright. So it’s time again for a slow down.

Because when I ask myself, what do I really want, and what do I really love? It’s nice when I have an answer.

How do you make time for yourselves? How do you slow down? Balance passion with rest?

Blessings and all things beautiful and passionate,

Love,

Erin    

Welcome to India II

There is a cave on the river Ganga (India part II)

filtered through time and perception- through stars and shifts of moons-
through the faint whisper of the lotus flower- through the echoes of a guitar, whose sweet strings reverberate into infinity- through the thought of making love- the softness of my fingers against my own cheek-

And the words of Anand- let pain transform you- don't let it become misery- be honest to yourself-don't let the memory become a misery-

(And memory?)

who needs memory when one has love?

who needs equations when one has transformation?

Who needs to feel pain when the rain beats gently against your heart?

And who needs fire?

I did.

The day after the fire ceremony my body began to turn against me. I couldn't eat, and then I was starving. I couldn't sleep for days and then I would be exhausted; but when I wasn't tired at all, I could sleep forever. I began to burn from the inside out. Feverish, aching. My body was transforming. The likeness of a dagger inside an angel formed in blood red directly over my heart, and later over my throat. My Samsonite hair become a noose. My dreams were wild. And most of all?

I lost it.

It burned in the fire.

Everything that "could" go wrong in my life back in the states went wrong, or so I thought. Legal situations turned against me. Checks didn't come and money disappeared. My doctor called with bad news. Very bad. Or so I thought.

And that was the gift. In regard to each and every piece of bad news, which I kept asking for again and again, there was not a thing I could do, except to ask India how I could love god more. Every surrender was the breath of hallelujah. Nothing made sense and I was wondering why I ever gave my life to the Ganga? I wanted to die. But dying was not my choice. My only choice was to learn the fine lines of latitude and longitude in my own heart, and ask again, how can I love god more? 

What it took to discover the gift-

Two and twenty of us, piled into three vans. A windy road with no safety railings, no safety belts, nausea. Winding and winding and winding, twisting and turning and the sun setting over the misty green Ganga, the moon above the high himalayas. 

We drove a good forty-five minutes until we reached a monastery. This monastery was on the banks of the Ganga, next to a cave 18 miles long underneath the himalayas. The cave had been used for thousands of years for meditation- thousands of years by humans, millions by angels. The monk in charge had not left in almost sixty years, since he had arrived, not even to go to the doctor, let alone to walk down the to the corner drug for a pack of cigarettes and some M and M's. 

The peak of fire. I fell to the concrete laid before the entrance to the cave and felt daggers in my heart. The daggers pinned me to the ground and I had to stay. My mind revolted. (You're going to die! Run! Kill yourself! Jump into the current and fly away forever! Too many reasons for being alone! Too many reasons to be alone! You must leave now!) And those daggers stabbed and stabbed and I felt I must stay at this place forever because I was locked through the impossible chains of blood and flesh. Erin sat in the back of my mind as some other being came forth, and more beings, and more beings. I became truly afraid that I was possessed, especially considering the dreams of demonic possession that had been coming and coming since the night of the fire purification ceremony- and for years and years before this trip, before I even came to California- from childhood... the dark wood of the railings of my stairs, running from malign spirits in the forest near my home, falling into the swamps and meeting a horrible mass of ash and anger...

And then Anand announced we would enter the cave.

Eyes wide like moons, my voice gone. I watched my body rise. And we were in the cave.

I felt an eternal presence deeper than anything I had ever yet felt in this life memory. My heart lifted and with an exhalation, the demons left. They were not allowed in this cave, and never again were they allowed in my being. 

I loved the cave. I loved the floor of rock and earth. I loved you, and I loved me, and I loved each and every silk thread between us. I loved the mountain for which this cave was a womb, and I prepared for birth.

Inhale. Exhale. Love. Inhale, fullness. Exhale, emptiness. Love. Seven chakras in alignment, kundalini rising, beauty, love, my heart, ancients, Babylon, whispers, tongues, secrets, the dance of Shiva, my spirit dancing in the silence, children birthing through my birth and rebirth, the christ and the buddha, in the midst of it all and in the mists of it all was this being- I thought her name was Erin- but she may have lost that name, and let herself be without identity and without idea. Beauty on fire, vulnerability leading to destruction, the phoenix? my life. In, and out, and...

Suddenly it had been hours. Everyone and everything was gone except for a flame threatening to extinguish, and the gentle cough of a monk behind me. Was I being rude? I wanted to cry for joy and shout to the Lord! To dance and jump and beat my drum and play my lute! To sing and sing and sing! I had found my home! I was never leaving! Tell my mother to come for a visit, I wouldn't be making it home for Christmas.

And the monk coughed again. Somewhere, I heard laughter. I knew then, this cave was the blessing of my birth, not my home.

A smile in my heart, and I, the daughter of gods, and the silent wife of dreams, left the cave, to bathe in a new hallelujah and be nourished by the sweet milk of the mother Ganga.


--


Erin Muir




I, the fiery life of divine essence, am aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters, and I burn in the sun, moon, and stars. With every breeze, as with invisible life that contains everything, I awaken everything to life.
-Hildegard von Bingen

Welcome To India I

Hi there! These are a few blog entries from 2007. I seem to have lost or unpublished them, so I am re-publishing them here, because I think they are beautiful.


    
Welcome to India: India, Sept 2007, the first days.

The first day of our arrival was built upon the frenzy and excitement of getting ready, the endless flight through space and time to Delhi, and then a car ride from Delhi north to Rishikesh. Crammed six to a jeep, we had the luxury ride! The highways were amazing: villages alongside the road that look more like the sets of a puppet show in pastels and white... people sleeping in cots and cows causing traffic jams, men playing cards and drinking tea and smoking under low hanging lights next to the highway. We got caught in two traffic jams at 3 in the morning. Beautiful. Welcome to India. 

After settling into my home for the next two (three!) weeks, I met my teacher Candace, her teacher Anand, and our group at the banks of the Ganges River- the healing waters the locals call their Great Mother, the Mother Ganga. We did a meditation, and then were invited to dip our toes. The water was cool and delicious, a milky green rushing alongside the foothills of the Himalayas. I looked back at my group, wading in further and further. My heart was open, and ready... in that spirit, I dove under, completely submersing myself in the Great Mother. 

My mermaid self satisfied, I returned to the beach just in time for an explanation of what to do to prepare for that evening's puja: we would be doing a fire purification cermony on the banks of the river with Anand's family pundit. "Write down anything you wish to hand over to the river to take care of for you: anything you think you want, give it to god. Anything you don't want, give it to god. In short, write down everything you have keeping your ego and mind afloat, and give it up to the Ganga so that you might find peace in your heart. The rest will come in its own time." 

First day... I guess we weren't messing around! Over an amazing lunch, the first of many amazing Indian meals, and some sweet hot chai tea, I came up with a thousand items for a list. Then, I realized that ultimately, what I wanted most of all, the reason for my being in India in the first place, boiled down to just one thing. (What can I say? I was drinking boiled tea.) That was what I would write down on that piece of paper to give up in the fire purification ceremony. I would surrender it- take the risk of losing what I thought I was or am or ever will be- and put that in the heart of the river. It's really personal, or it felt deeply intimate; but after having had proven to me time and time again that the more I lose my ego the more I gain my heart? it's not so scary to say: I wrote down that I would give my life. 

That evening, around 6 pm, we walked as a group to the river. I was dead tired and falling over, hallucinating a little bit. I couldn't think straight or string words into sentences, at least not any sentences that made sense outside of my mind. I had been awake for years, I think, at that point, with no sleep. Candace told me that was a good thing, because it would leave me more open to receiving the ceremony. Honestly, I thought I should go back to the hotel and pass out, but i just couldn't do that to myself after having come so far. 

About twenty of us gathered at a broad flat area beneath the village where Anand's Pundit was preparing the ceremony with rice, orange dye, orange flowers, fire, apples, bananas, flowers, candies, dirt and incense. I tried to hide in back as the ceremony began (so I wouldn't offend anyone but falling asleep) but the Pundit chose me to help him alongside Anand, Candace, and Anand's mother during the ceremony. 

And it began: the pundit began creating a fire pit on the banks of the river and we helped. He would chant the mantra, and then I would throw more ghee, fire, dirt, wood, etc., as necessary into the fire. I couldn't tell you what the chant was, but Pundit would sing it 108 times, and after each chant within those 108 times, he would end with "Swaha" and we would toss more into the fire. As I tossed more and more dirt, flowers, ghee, candies, wood and rice into the fire, I focused on what I was willing to give to open my soul and my heart. I didn't know exactly why or what I was doing, but it didn't matter. Then, the Pundit came around and gave each of us a blessing, purifying each of us. 

We offered the fruit and flowers into the fire and then, one by one, approached the fire to offer our intentions in the form of what we had written down on the paper. I was in another world by this point, between the smell of the fires, and the incense, and the mysticism of the chanting, and the colors; the drumming and Hindi music carrying over the breeze from town, cooling off the heat of the day, the rush of the river; my heart the only energy keeping me afloat. I felt like I was no longer on earth but somehow both in the river and in the breeze, both in my body and outside of. 

I approached the fire and looked at my paper. Then, I pressed it to my heart, asked for help, truth and clarity, and threw it in. It burned into a spiral of smoke reaching up top the stars above.

I stared at the fire for what seemed like days. I have no idea how much time passed, but I felt like my body itself was being pulled into the fire. Suddenly someone shoved something into my hand. I looked at it.It was a piece of cake, white and clean and sweet. Anand's mother smiled at me. "Eat it," she said, a Hindi cadence. I put it in my mouth and nodded, coming back to earth a little, coming back into my body a little. And just like that, the ceremony was finished. 

I stared at the river for some time then, as the fire burned down. Some of our group returned to the hotel, but I stayed until the very end to help clean, and, really, because I just didn't want to leave the river yet... oh, yes, I would have three more weeks, which was a blink and a thousand lifetimes all at once, with this river... but just then, I was home...  welcome to India. Welcome home.