The Spanish Estella, and thus the English and French Estelle, also derive from Stella which is Latin for star.
I had 36 wonderful years with Nana in my life. She got to see me grow up and go through many changes. I know what a blessing these years have been. Still, selfishly, I want all the days. I have become so accustomed to sharing my life with her, to seeing something that I'd like to share with her later and saving it. I have become really used to saying I'll see you tomorrow or Tuesday, I love you, one more hug, one more kiss and if I could go back I'd stay 20 minutes longer, every time.
A tribute to the star, the brightest light in my life.
Stella Arvizu Leal, 1930-2017
Photo taken at Esalen.
If love was a thing we could swim in, we would bathe together in the dream of our own being.
For a flash of a moment we slip into this skin, to feel passion again.
To touch, to linger, to love...
She spoke so softly to me on the astral, it was easy to see without sight,
there was no question of intention or direction,
just being and going with the flow,
But we wanted to put a finger on it, to have a unique print and the precise grip of a warm touch.
There is magic in being separate, in creating connection with effort,
while we can easily swim through and float in the abyss,
the longing will always persist,
to be one, and then unique
to be formed and formless, again.
This journey is the movement through,
and awareness of, the space between,
the space between dreams (the waking and sleeping)
There is a flash of knowing when the mind stops breathing
Body satiated, neither craving nor controlling
If words were things that had meaning we would say we were love and stop breathing.
The most powerful moments in my life have been immediately following the ending of a particular cycle – more often than not that cycle has been a romantic relationship. I always feel most powerful in these moments because the world and all of its possibilities are new and open to me again. There is a significant sense of empowerment that follows the devastation of a break up, and it is in these times that I have accomplished the most in my life.
When I was 21, following a most passionate and equally tragic relationship ending, I picked up the guitar and taught myself to play. And I wrote, and, in general, I felt that anything was possible. Everything we had dreamed of together, or fought about, was mine to take or leave.
When I look back at this, and the many other similar episodes, I realize I was always searching in an attempt to not feel lost. To not feel so alone. Yoga, and the community I discovered through it, gave me a sense of belonging and direction, at least for a time.
To say that I feel betrayed by any one person is probably not accurate. At the heart of it, I feel betrayed by myself, by my perceptions and the things I couldn’t recognize to be false in others. I also feel as though, maybe, all of it is bullshit. The platitudes, and the teachings they arise from, lose meaning when spoken by people in their need (likely much like mine) to belong to something while they are also, at the same time, ironically disconnected from the actual suffering they both experience and create.
Lately, my whole experience of life seems to be boiled down to these inconsistencies and contradicting beliefs as well as cycles of delusion, awareness and despair. The beginning, the attraction to a person or situation, is so compelling. I am smitten, almost immediately. But when I go back through my journals, I shake my head and wonder, how could I have thought so highly of this?
But then, the teachings say we are all a reflection of each other. What I loathe in you lives in me and when I fall in love, almost immediately, and somewhat incessantly, it is because I am falling in love with myself, again and again. The trap comes in the story, the analyzing and categorizing of people and events. This relates back to my need not to feel so lost. I want it to make sense.
In the past year my entire search, and the ground I thought I had gained, has deteriorated. All of the beliefs and people I had surrounded myself with have fallen away, in one way or another, and my own perception of who I am is unclear, at best.
The initial ending incited those familiar feelings of strength and openness. There I stood, at the precipice of anything can happen, free of the shackles of this former entanglement and identity, able to carve any pathway to a new ending. It was liberating and exhilarating.
So I picked up my carving tools and began creating and redefining and directing, only to realize what had ended was any concrete connection to all that I had come to believe. Everything was open to questioning and scrutiny, and it still is. That is where I am right now – the island of nothing is real. I am coming to realize what impermanence really means, and how the Buddhists say that all life is suffering. It is our struggle against that suffering that creates anguish. Because we make the actions of others, or our own actions, mean something.
Navigating this new territory is not comfortable, to say the least, but I am starting to settle in. It is not that what I have learned through Yoga (and similar teachings) is untrue, but it is also not the truth. The truth, if we can agree that it exists, is not in a saying or a practice, but in a moment.
The truth is that I feel angry with people who misrepresent themselves and disappointed in the people who fall for their falseness. The truth is I feel sad at the state of the world, and helpless and I feel an ever deepening sense of loneliness, and I feel lost (despite my searching) and I don’t have any answers for any of it.
The truth is I am not alone in feeling this way. I, like many others, spend so much time trying not to feel these things that I am incapable of actually connecting with anyone because it is based on a mutual agreement that there is something to be done about fear and apathy and disgust, and that is to not speak of it. To bury it alive, hoping that it will suffocate and cease to exist, but as this experience is no less real or accurate than the feeling of pure joy, that I have also very clearly felt, ultimately, I am killing myself.
Maybe this a good thing. Maybe releasing (as terrifying as it is) all attachments to experience – good and bad – is the liberation I seek. Almost 20 years into this practice I feel more lost, and somehow much closer at the same time, to truth. Maybe being lost is the truth. Accepting the pain and anguish alongside the beauty and splendor of life, and losing the meaning and identity we attach to it, in order to realize the unnameable, eternal energy of life. Maybe what Michael Stipes meant by losing my religion was actually losing my identity. That’s me in the corner, losing my need to define (and attempt to control) a reality that I am a part of but can never fathom with the same mind that separates me from it.
Ham Sa / So Hum
A spiritual awakening has come
Enlightened my body
Liberated my soul
Mind and emotion ebb & flow
Wise fools we have to be
distracted to focus
everywhere on this planet
people are running, writing, fucking,
crying, hating, loving,
trying to evolve and truly evolving
however slowly or imperceptibly.
And it is all to remember Divine Love…
I had a fine love, one day,
Thought it was all love,
But it was a reflection.
To love another person,
However selfishly or carelessly,
Is to see, for a moment,
The face of god & to remember.
Finding satisfaction in physical pleasure is a limited measure of Divine Love,
But it also helps us remember…
What am I searching for? Why am I here?
It wasn’t for this amazing ice cream savoring flavor
in the moment,
this orgasm explosion sensation elation
in the moment.
Accomplishment, triumph success for a moment..
And it wasn’t for this
devastating heart break, disappointment, anger, sadness…
All of it to remember Divine Love, the Love that resides, that resonates in and through all beings..
Witnessing the story,
and it is a really good story, allows us
to touch it
to taste it
to see it for a moment
to feel and know ..
to remember we are that.
So Hum / Hong Sau
I am the creator of my reality.
Sometimes change happens like this. You’re sitting around, happy to be a caterpillar, not needing anything to change at all. But then, despite yourself, you feel drawn to build a cocoon in which your wings will grow, and you’ll eventually become a butterfly and everything will change. Whether you thought of change or not, all of sudden, here you are. Things are changing. You have no choice. It’s like night time, and you’re the moon, the sun’s going to rise, you don’t really have a choice about it. The night will become the day and the cycle continues.
Other times you’re a restless caterpillar. Itching, knowing that there’s something else out there, but not knowing what it is. The caterpillar really has no knowledge of being a butterfly, no awareness of it, no sense really. It can’t talk to other caterpillars because no other caterpillar has become a butterfly. They’re all in the same boat, and butterflies, of course, don’t talk to caterpillars, and possibly don’t even remember that they ever were caterpillars.
But the restless caterpillar knows that something needs to change, isn’t sure what, and they might set out on a journey in search of that change. They might try to talk to other beings. They might try to build cocoons before its time for them to be built and fail. The yearning for change can be so compelling and when that change happens, I hope that the caterpillar is ready for it.
Because change is always intense. Whether you seek it out, whether you know it’s coming, whether it’s thrust upon you. Everything shifts. Quite often in an instant. You were one thing, you thought certain things, you were part of something, you identified as that caterpillar. You got used to it. You got used to it being night time and then before you know it, it becomes day time. Then as soon as you get used to the light, the sun goes down. This is the cycle we’re all in.
Change occurs also in another way. In this seemingly perfect, god-scripted moment, and in that moment you know all of your life was leading up to it. When you immerge from that cocoon and spread your wings - your glorious, colorful, magnificent wings - you know that all of your life led to this moment so that you could fly among the flowers, so that you could rise above and see the view.
But the thing about becoming a butterfly is that you can never go back to being a caterpillar. You can’t change your mind. No matter how unsuspectingly it comes upon you or how much you search for it as a restless caterpillar, or even, in that divine intervention type of occurrence, you can’t go back. Maybe you’ll meet all of your caterpillar friends again as a butterfly, maybe you’ll be butterflies together. Maybe some of your caterpillar friends don’t make it or they take a different road. Maybe they were actually moths, and, of course, everybody knows that moths and butterflies don’t talk to each other.
So what do we do with change? How do we embrace it, acknowledge it, accept it? And also accept that we really don’t have very much control. That wherever we are today we are in the process of becoming who we will be.
The truth exists in this moment, and only in this moment. Part of that truth is knowing that this moment will never occur ever again. This very special moment with the breeze just so and the light just so and the scent in the room, or in the garden, just so, the conversation that you’re having, the book that you’re reading, it will never happen again, just like this. Change is always upon us.
There can be a moment, after the change has occurred, when you’ve become a butterfly, where somehow you remember what it was like. Your little caterpillar community that maybe felt very safe and secure, and maybe you don’t even connect with it directly, but you remember it viscerally. It’s in your body, it’s in your bones, it’s part of your DNA. Even when the change has occurred, everywhere that you’ve been is part of your chemistry now, it’s how you got to where you are.
Because we have trouble with remembering, truly remembering, often times when you become that butterfly, when you have that point of evolution, it’s very much a lonely moment. Having that level of observation and awareness - the ability to fly above and see all that is happening - it doesn’t change where other people are in their process of change and evolution.
This metaphor of caterpillar and butterfly may not full encapsulate the complexities of our human experience. Still, it’s very simple that, essentially, we’re always changing. The truth of this moment is that it’s always fleeting, moving into the next and that each moment is building and that we are becoming the person that we are meant to be, however the road is that we will take to get there. Whether we take a more challenging route to get there, or not. We’re headed towards our own evolution, very slowly or very quickly.
But for those of us who, in whatever way, embrace change, pursue change, it can be a very lonely experience to look up, to look around, and realize that knowing what you know, growing how you’ve grown, all you can do is hold up the light. Hope that other people will find you, will find their own way, will find their own light, and you have to be your own brightness. You have to grow your own wings.
Just as the tension
Became unbearably hot
The sky burst open
Shattering the silent night
The sky was glowing
Blowing wind announced
Change arriving sacredly
The sky is breathing
Water quenches this desert
The sky drinks freedom.