My good friend and guest teacher, Lyn Belisle, wrote a lovely blog post about our retreat this past week in Skagit Valley, Washington. And she put together this sweet video to show off the techniques she taught us! Enjoy.
I left for a Northwest Soul Quest retreat on the Gifts of Shadow last Wednesday, my mind and emotions in turmoil over the actions being taken by the new man in the White House. I carried with me the question of how I can stay centered and grounded in the midst of such chaos. Even more: How I can be an effective sacred activist without burning myself out? We held council on this topic at the retreat, and also had conversation about it with the other-than-humans. At the retreat, we went into deep immersion on shadow and polarity, in our personal lives as well as in the collective. We stayed present to the process and offline for almost all of the retreat.
When I returned on Sunday, it felt like I was returning to a world even crazier than it had been before I left.
Here’s what I am certain of: Spiritual practice and self-care are essential to getting through the next four years without living in constant anxiety, fear, and outrage. We must step away from time to time to regenerate ourselves. Stepping away at regular intervals ensures that we will not burn ourselves out, and more than that, it means we will never get used to the new consensus reality being dictated to us by the man in the White House. (I deeply appreciate this article by Mirah Curzer: “How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind.”
During the retreat, I was reminded of the teachings of our beloved elder Joanna Macy, who speaks of the Great Turning. We are in the death throes of the industrial growth society and are shifting into a life-sustaining era (yes, believe it!).
Joanna Macy teaches that there are three dimensions of the Great Turning. As I filter her message through my own experience, I see the three dimensions this way:
- Center yourself and maintain a deep, strong, connection to Spirit, in whatever way works for you. Have a spiritual practice that you do every day. This leads to the vitally important shift in consciousness spoken of by Macy.
- Create structures for the new culture, the new life-affirming paradigm. My entire life is about creating the new culture, and I suspect it is the same for most of my readers. This runs the gamut from practicing permaculture to honoring the Divine Feminine to gathering in small circles to hold hard conversations about race and privilege — and everything in between.
- Take direct action. These actions are the marches, the petitions, the phone calls, the rising up and saying NO! We must pray for the wisdom and discernment to know when, what, and how many direct actions to take.
Remember that hope is something you do, not something you have.
One of the guides at the retreat I just attended, Sheila Belanger, has been my astrologer for nearly twenty years. She gave a astrological overview talk that helps to put the current crisis in perspective by highlighting the link between these tumultuous times and the end of an astrology cycle that started 200 years ago around the birth of the Industrial Revolution. Very briefly, the transpersonal planets Jupiter (principle of expansion) and Saturn (principle of contraction) are conjunct (close together) every 20 years. They will be conjunct in the sign of Aquarius (rapid social progress, new consciousness, significant intellectual development) in the year 2020. Sheila speaks of this in great detail in a 90-minute lecture that you can download for free here. But here’s the gist of it: We are now in the death throes of the old way, the life-denying industrial growth society (as Joanna Macy puts it). It’s a hard death, with the old guard kicking and screaming every inch of the way. As we head toward 2020 and beyond, a new era of egalitarianism and progressive values will come in. The man in the White House is not likely to win a second term.
But while he is there, we must do all we can to:
Center. Create. Activate. Repeat.
Today, and every day: In between your daily tasks and the resistance actions you choose to take, make time to go talk to the trees in your neighborhood, and listen to their voices in return.
Please note: I am someone who does not like to talk on the phone. I much prefer communication by email. But we are being told from many sources that phone calls are much more effective for social change than signing online petitions or sending emails, or even sending mail. I found this article, “How to Call Your Reps When You Have Social Anxiety,” to be extremely helpful. And Five Calls helps me choose who and when to call. I hope those links are helpful for you too.
Blessed Solstice to you & yours.
On this shortest day of the year, we celebrate the ancient rhythm: Dawn is born from the womb of the darkest night. On this day, so the legends tell us, the Great Mother gives birth to the Child of Wonder.
Many of us are experiencing despair, depression, and fear over the current political scene. We may be troubled as well by events in our personal lives. This past week, I’ve been listening to audio books and podcasts as I sit at my drawing table working on new pieces of art. I often return to a talk on the Fourfold Way that cross-cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien gave about fifteen years ago.
“Whenever you’re disheartened or dispirited or depressed in indigenous cultures,” Dr. Arrien says, “they may ask you one of four questions:
When in your life did you stop singing?
When in your life did you stop dancing?
When in your life did you stop being enchanted by stories,
particularly your own life story?
When in your life did you start being uncomfortable
with the sweet territory of silence?”
She goes on to say in her classic book The Fourfold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary that “it has long been recognized that these healing salves [singing, dancing, story, silence] reawaken and sustain the divine child within us and return to us the qualities of wonder, hope, and awe.”
Let’s not reduce these wise words to a pretty graphic meme to post on social media.
Let’s live these words.
On this day, let us sing, dance, tell our stories, and sit comfortably in sweet silence.
On this day, let us turn the Wheel once again toward hope.
While on retreat two weeks ago, I went for a contemplative beach walk. I found 9 upturned clam shells filled with sand and water; part of a moon snail shell with the spiral intact; and the skull of a seal, tangled up in kelp at the high tide line. With the Gaian Tarot 9 of Water / Cups in mind, and Dr. E’s telling of the story of “Sealskin, Soulskin,”* it seemed an answer to my question of “what’s next?” As I follow the spiral of inner and outer unfolding, following the phases of the moon, there is a time for activism and a time for withdrawal, each nourishing the other.
Season of Darkness and Light’s Return
These are the darkest weeks of the year, literally, as the days grow shorter in the northern hemisphere until the tide turns at Winter Solstice. I had set my intention months ago to “go dark” for the winter, withdrawing from most of my online teaching and social media participation and all events, so that I can focus on my ongoing art and writing projects instead. I still plan to do that, to tend my own soul’s fire as well as guiding others. But I’m now adding a layer of activism onto those plans of going dark.
I am financially supporting organizations I believe in, signing petitions, and making phone calls, as many of you are. I am not going to go to Standing Rock in person, but it my honor and privilege to support several friends who have been or will be traveling there. (If you would like to financially support the water protectors of Standing Rock, here is a good place to do that.)
Two Kinds of Silence
One of the hallmarks of the winter season is silence. In light of some recent comments on social media, I think it’s important to understand that there are two kinds of silence. There is the silence that ignores injustice, when we turn our heads to look away so that we can’t be held responsible. That is the kind of silence that is no longer an option.
But there is also the deep, nurturing silence that arises when we turn off our phones, turn off the TV and the radio, turn off the external distractions that keep us overstimulated. When we sink into the deep silence of our souls through ceremony, or walks in nature, or listening to music, or dancing, or making art or a thousand other ways to nurture our souls … that kind of silence heals us, nourishes us, and fuels us to get back in the game.
Each of us has to make our own decision of how we want to respond to the results of the US election, of how to add activism of one sort or another to our already busy, overstressed lives. I trust you to look into your own heart, and to hear the voice of guidance and inner wisdom. You will find your own way, as I am finding mine.
May we each find our own sealskins, and follow the call of our souls, each in our own way. Blessed be.
*The seal brings to mind the story of the selkie in “Sealskin, Soulskin,” as told by Clarissa Pinkola Estés in Women Who Run With the Wolves. It’s the story of a woman who has lost her sense of self, her intuition, her purpose, and her creativity (symbolized by the sealskin) — and how she follows the call that leads her back to it. She recovers her soulskin, her own deep instinctual wisdom.
(Parts of this blog post were originally published in an e-letter I sent out last week.)
Yesterday I gathered a few friends together in my living room to practice the Circle Way and hold a wisdom council on the topic of the election. I am convinced that gathering together in person and not just online is critical to the healing of our spirits and the healing of our nation. I offer these questions to you in the hope that you too may want to call a circle of intentional conversation with a few friends or neighbors. The questions are:
In the aftermath of the US election …
1 – What do I fear?
2 – What gives me hope?
3 – How can I communicate peacefully with those who hold a different point of view?
4 – What can I do now, and in the months and years to come, to make a difference?
I appreciate all the ideas and the wisdom that emerged from the circle yesterday. Sometimes just sitting with the questions and knowing you’re not alone in asking, is enough.
A few key things to remember:
- Make a sacred center (a lighted candle works well).
- Use a talking piece.
- Do a check-in before the rounds of questions.
- Speak with intention and listen with attention.
- Hold confidentiality.
- Everyone tends to the well-being of the circle.
I personally resonate with the simple, elegant answer that Elizabeth Warren gave to Rachel Maddow when Rachel asked her what those of us who are despondent over the election results can do. Elizabeth asked us to 1) Volunteer for a cause of our choice and 2) Stay connected to each other.
Calling circles of intentional conversation in our neighborhoods is a great way to stay connected.
And I would add:
Know when it’s time to take action and when it’s time to retreat in order to replenish. Activism is critical now, more than ever, and so is self-care.
As part of my own self-care, I’m practicing the following “lovingkindness” meditation:
May I be well and happy. May I be blessed.
May those I love be well and happy. May they be blessed.
May those I do not know be well and happy. May they be blessed.
May my opponents be well and happy. May they be blessed.
May all beings be well and happy. May they be blessed.