Dancing with the Broken Heart of Gaia:
By Kiva Rose
I watch my four-year-old daughter as she crouches naked up to her shoulders in the San Francisco River. Her head is dipped down as she drinks the cold water in quiet gulps while her hair falls in wet ropes around her face. She is effortlessly comfortable and completely aware, surrounded on all sides by the rich riparian green and raw red cliffs of the Gila Wildlands. A single vivid blue damselfly rests tentatively on one small brown shoulder. Rhiannon stops drinking to motionlessly watch her visitor with intent eyes and a huge grin. She waits until the damselfly takes flight on its own before whirling in wild circles, and howling in wordless delight.
While I am watching her I cannot help but think that this must be the original and intended state of being: perfectly present and aware, a blissful extension of the land itself. That this wild-eyed child is the embodiment of bliss. And I also cannot help but feel my own bliss, constant here as it never has been before. Bliss not defined as a sense of carelessness or temporal happiness, but as a deep-seated knowledge of oneness with land and purpose, as a sense of no longer being lost or lacking for anything.
I have not always been able to claim such a state of being. For most of my life I have wandered, searching and discontented, all too aware of every trouble and misery ever visited upon my life. It was a revelation to me then, when I discovered that life was not inherently ugly or burdensome, it was not even meant to be a mediocre tedium. Instead, I found that life was meant to be beautiful, a celebration and prayer manifest in every action and movement.
Unfortunately, it is this attitude of futility and cynicism that is most common. We are born into a culture that seems to believe there are certain sets of rules that must be followed. That life is a multiple choice test and we must choose one of the preselected answers. What I have discovered is that truth and contentment (much less bliss) never comes as a prefabricated answer. That the only valid option is to invent a new answer and to realize that oftentimes the question itself is a fallacy.
If the question is “How can I get through life as comfortably as I can?” or “How can I succeed just enough to get by?” then the question needs to be thrown out completely. The question should be more along the lines of, “What gives me the greatest joy?”, “What passion/purpose could I dedicate my life to?” and/or “What do I need to be whole?”
If we are honest with ourselves we will find the answers to these questions have very little to do with societal standing, monetary status or even comfort level. The answers to these questions will often frighten us because they will show us just how far we are from our own passions and needs. The questions will creep into our dreams and our internal conversations, regardless of our denial until answered with affirmation and action.
We’ve all heard of “finding your bliss” but in reality, bliss is not something that we can find. Bliss exists within us as an _expression of the beauty and joy of Gaia. We need not search for it, we need only to acknowledge it, to embody it. But what does it mean to embody bliss, to own it completely? To not see it as something outside of and separate from ourselves? How to recognize and realize ourselves as extensions of Gaia, extensions of her beauty and bliss?
The answers are simple, but never easy. What came easily to us as children will require work and focus to reclaim. To embody bliss is to take every step with intention, to be fiercely and fully awake.
And what does it mean to dance with the broken heart of Gaia? It means rejoicing in the beauty of that little girl in the river, even as we recognize and feel the pain of our people, of our planet. It means dancing with the joy and pain. It means being strong enough to experience everything completely. To take the agony and the joy as currents of the same body of water. It means knowing that it is better to suffer than to feel nothing at all. It means waking up every morning welcoming the dawn, knowing that our lives have meaning and purpose, and that our connection to our Mother is well-nourished.
How can we embody bliss? Again, we must understand that bliss is not something outside of us, not something we can earn or seek out. It is something already alive within all of us. It is unfortunate that most of us live lifestyles far removed from the wildness or natural beauty that teaches us bliss through example. We must re-learn what we should have known from the very first breath.
The most essential ingredient in embodying bliss is a highly-refined awareness. Although this heightened awareness is something all of us are born with, the time between then and now has often dulled that awareness into a numb complicity, and skills that should have been honed in childhood have atrophied into near uselessness.
If any proof is needed, observe the habits of both a domesticated house dog and a dog that has either gone feral or was born wild. The difference in alertness, intelligence and instinct are remarkable. A house dog unaccustomed to being outdoors without a leash or to fending for itself will wander into traffic, ignore potential prey and nearly starve before it becomes aware enough to take care of itself.
In the same way, those of us who have been conditioned by a normal American upbringing have been taught to ignore our feelings, stifle any tendency towards childlikeness and to confine physical consciousness to the gym or sex. We have effectively crippled our instinctual wildness. Our awareness will have to be awakened from dormancy and carefully nurtured in order to keep our senses alive.
The easiest and quickest way to engage our bliss is to seek out the little girl (or boy) that is inside us all. Usually, she is fast asleep or lost and wandering somewhere in our interior landscape. We all get occasional glimpses of her when we allow ourselves to eat a messy dessert with our hands, stomp through a mud puddle or lose ourselves completely in a beautiful piece of music.
But for the most part we force her to keep her mouth shut and mind her manners. We still hold onto that antiquated Victorian saying, “Children should be seen and not heard”. We’ve been taught to keep her under tight control and careful surveillance to avoid those curious glances and critical words we earn when we’re caught (grown women!) climbing a tree in the city park or singing offkey in the rain on our way to work. Part of bliss is being able to ignore the onlookers and quiet the critics through our total focus and engagement in play and experience.
Joy originates in the heart of the child and all of our wildness waits for us there. We need to find that little girl, let her sit in the flowerbed in the backyard and contemplate the animal shapes of passing clouds. We need to give ourselves license to play again.
We all know how easily innocence is lost, and how simple it is to thoughtlessly embrace cynicism and the humdrum monotony of what we call everyday life. What many of us have forgotten is that we have the ability to reclaim that joyous sense of freedom and intensity.
I grew up in a home where my childhood was virtually nonexistent; I was an adult with all of the weight adulthood carries in our culture, before I even hit puberty. For too long I saw the bitterness and tiredness of my mother and her mother when I looked in the mirror. A woman who had seen too much hardship and not enough joy, play or laughter in her life. I knew there was something terribly wrong when I noticed I woke up every day steeling myself to face the morning instead of celebrating the beauty of each new dawn.
Only as an actual adult, in my early twenties, was I able to properly give voice to that little girl. It was only then I could give myself permission to spin in the dew-wet grass of the predawn morning hours. To allow myself to spend whole afternoons sitting in the tall grass watching a carnival of insects parading around me without feeling guilt at what I wasn’t doing, or self-conscious that someone might see me playing. It was only when I found that little girl that I was able to become the woman I was meant to be.
Another way of embodying our bliss is to be open to our own feelings and experiences. To pay close attention to how our daily lives affect us. The overwhelming joy we feel when our child greets us by throwing her arms around us, or the peace and satisfaction we feel when finishing a project or meeting a goal, or even the horror we experience when we watch the evening news each night.
We need to tend to and honor these feelings. It is the depth (or lack thereof) of our emotions that gives us the capacity to fully experience bliss. If we play down our feelings, even when they are “neg-ative” feelings such as disappointment or pain, then we are numbing ourselves down. The less we feel, the less alive we are.
Many of the most alive and blissfull people I have ever known were terminally ill. They were determined to experience and feel everything, to be hyper-aware even to pain, in order to be aware of the razor-edged preciousness of life. It can be hoped that not all of us need a time-frame placed on the days left to us in order to be that open to our experiences.
Perhaps the best way to open up to our own experiences is to realize that our feelings are not isolated and limited only to ourselves. To acknowledge we are extensions of the Earth and that to deepen our connection to Gaia is to deepen our connection to ourselves. It’s important to be aware that the connection works both ways. The less separation there is between us and the Earth, the more we will feel what the Mother is experiencing as well, including the enormous amount of pain She is suffering at the hand of our own species.
There are countless ways to solidify our connection to the land. It can be as simple as appreciating the amazing taste of locally-grown fresh fruit, or as complex as searching out and dedicating ourselves to that certain place that is home to us. The direct result of a deep connection with the Mother is an immediate and personal knowledge of how we are linked to each other and all other life. This eradication of separation from the Earth is the mainline to bliss. As long as our spirit and life are based in our love for the land we will never have any shortage of joy or awe in our lives.
In order to really own our bliss we must acknowledge it is a state of being we deserve. Too many of us get right up to the edge of everything we’ve ever wanted and turn around and walk away. Often this denial is triggered by guilt or a sense of not being enough to deserve joy or contentment. What we have to tell ourselves over and over again is that bliss is the state into which we are born. It is not found and it is not earned. It is the birthright of every human being and it is only our imagined separation from the land, ourselves and each other that creates the illusion that we should ever exist in any state except bliss.
My daughter dances on the riverbank, arms open wide and spinning. I pick her up and I dance with her. We dance with the broken heart of Gaia in a world wounded and yet unfalteringly beautiful.
To embody bliss is to know our blessedness. It is to know that there is so much beauty in the world we are unable to contain it, that it overflows and floods the world. When we open to the bliss we are carried by it on an undeniable current that delivers us back to the center of our own beings: wild, awake and authentically ourselves.
Kiva Rose is an intuitive and challenging counsel, and the co-director of The Earthen Spirituality Project & Sweet Medicine Women’s Center.... as well as an impassioned poet and author, wife and mother, and lover of the land. Her home is a restored river canyon sanctuary in the enchanted Gila wildlands of New Mexico where she hosts the most focused and intent women for Gaian teachings, wilderness quests, the annual Wild Women’s Gathering, retreats and resident internships. Details on available writings, opportunities and other events can be found on our site: www.earthenspirituality.org or write: PO Box 820, Reserve, NM 87830.
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