Category Archives: Oneness

Joining to Help Mend the Hoop


538461_10151177571980592_223848733_nI was reading Starhawk’s Truth or Dare this morning, feeling vast blocks of “Aha” falling into place, when I came upon this paragraph, and stopped short…

The ethics of immanence are based on the recognition that all is interconnected. When the earth lives in us, as we in her, our sense of self expands until we can no longer believe in our isolation. When we practice magic – the art of seeing the connections that run deeper than the visible surface – we know that no act is out of context. If we participate in a native American sweat lodge, we are obligated to aid their struggles for land and treaty rights and their battles against forced relocation. We have sunk a spirit root into the living soil of their community. They have fed us. But to be fed without feeding, to take without contributing, is not a road to power-from-within. We cannot grow in strength through being parasites. If we adopt ritual trappings without concern for the daily realities of those we learn from, we become spiritual fungi. But power-from-within derives from integrity, from our recognition of the context of every act, from a consistency between what we say, believe, and do.

It was not a new idea – my husband had been a Pipe-carrier and Sundancer, and supporting his Lakota spiritual family had been an accepted part of our life. But since his death, as I have been seeking my own path as a non-Native woman living in modern-day suburbia, incorporating the teachings that he and I had practiced, the implications have rippled outward…

At the last Sundance we attended, there was a strong presence of the American Indian Movement, reclaiming the ritual for the Lakota people and winnowing out the non-Native Dancers….as they reached the completion of their four-year commitment, it was understood that they would participate in other, mixed Dances. As a clearly non-Native supporter, I was in a minority. I remember one AIM Dancer asking me, not as a challenge but very seriously, “Who are your grandmothers and grandfathers? Where are your sacred sites?”

I could only respond hesitantly – while my known genealogy was Italian and Lithuanian Catholic, digging back into our cultural history revealed Baltic paganism and the ritual healing Graeco-Roman trance-dance tradition of tarantelle. While both traditions had gone underground, pressured first by Catholicism and then (in Lithuania) by Communism, I knew that my ancestors most certainly knew how to relate to the Earth as a sentient being, knew how to connect with the conscious energy in each living being. I could still feel that knowledge in my bones…but how could I honor that knowledge and both sides of my cultural heritage?

This bone-level instinct was what drew me to the Native traditions of this land…the cellular awareness of a time when all the peoples of the world danced in relationship with the living Earth. And today I continue to teeter at the lip of the divide between Then and Now as a family dissident, an outlier seeking a place of balance between the Earth-centered practices of my husband’s spiritual family, my ancestors and the current-day Teachers who inspire me, and the modern, materialist, commercialized, mainstream practices of this culture.

As I watch friends on similar paths, I am realizing that this chasm is one that each of us face at some point if we embark on any sort of journey toward consciousness…there is the attraction to cosmic oneness, to a sacred physical world, to “magic” perhaps, or to altered consciousness and mystical or shamanic practices.

But in this culture of smorgasbord spirituality, there’s no moral imperative to connect with the actual present-day cultures at the source of those mind-altering practices….at least, not until one connects with a teacher of integrity.

Then the awareness comes – that the knowledge in which we’ve been dabbling givewiselyarose through centuries of arduous tradition…and that the people who still practice those traditions have been decimated by massacre, poverty and disease, bereft of their land and natural wealth, and very nearly bereft of their culture and spiritual traditions. And that to honor those traditions requires that, in some way, we give back.

The divide between the cultures in which all was (is) sacred, and those in which nothing is sacred, has never been described so heart-wrenchingly as in the words of Oglala Lakota holy man Black Elk following the massacre at Wounded Knee, 122 years ago yesterday:

My people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream… the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.

In a global sense, not only the hoop of the Lakota nation has been scattered, but the sacred hoop joining all nations in conscious Earth connection. The human and cultural genocide we have seen in North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia through recent centuries is a modern replay of the genocide that wiped out European indigenous traditions.

And the oppression continues……and with it the resistance.

Most immediate, of course, is the struggle of Idle No More, led by Chief Theresa Spence and supported by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people around the world as she hunger-strikes for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to honor Canadian treaties with its Indigenous nations against the expropriation of the land and waterways for resource extraction. Now in the 20th day of her fast, she has received no response from Harper.

Ultimately this is more than a Canadian struggle. It is a global struggle to protect the Earth against the cannibalizing “extraction” of oil, gas and minerals by mega-corporations. The Elder peoples, the Indigenous nations of the world who have held the sacredness of the Earth at the heart of their culture for millennia, are leading the way, but ultimately the survival of life on this planet depends on all peoples of all nations and races following their lead.

All of us, waking up out of our separation from creation and cosmos and rejoining the family of consciously connected beings.

All of us, helping to mend the Hoop of all Nations.

I have been posting news of Idle No More on this blog and on Facebook…and I would like to offer an open invitation here:

Do you feel called to participate in an energy circle supporting the work of Idle No More – the protection of the land, the water, the People and all beings, and the preservation of sacred sites – not only in Canada but also around the world?

If this speaks to you, whatever your spiritual tradition, and you would like to join your  intention with others through prayer, meditation, energy work, drumming, or ceremony at a set time every week, please add your voice in the Comments below:

  • your name
  • the day of the week that would work best for you
  • the way in which you would like to participate, and if you’re willing to connect with others locally to do so
  • your general location (if you’re willing to connect with others locally)

There are many prophecies that address this time in human history…but the one that speaks to me most just now is this, from the Anishnabe tradition:

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Powerful, powerful essay on the ongoing oppression of Native peoples by North American governments, as shown most recently by the Harper administration’s non-response to Chief Theresa Spence’s ongoing hunger strike for her people.

sovereignvoices1

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Over the past few decades, I have witnessed several kinds of activist’ movements that inspired me to become the advocate I am today.  As a child I watched in awe Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights movement in the US and then as a youth, the American Indian Movement.  When I came to understand what these meant, I took an interest in educating myself of the many efforts of our Onkwehón:we ancestors whose strength and perseverance, inspires our resistance today.

Why do we have to continue to resist?  Why do we have to continue to endure the institutionalized racism that plagued our ancestors?  The issue is complex but at the heart of the issues are the archaic Papal Bulls and Doctrine of Discovery that gave European explorers the “rights” to claim lands that were not occupied by Christians: it meant that no one lived there because non-Christians were not human…

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Thanks to the Givers


A heartfelt bow to you, our kin
of fur and feathers,
you bearers of witness
to Spirit
in four-legged
winged
scaled
and creepy-crawling forms,
a bow to you,
unrecognized siblings
blindly harvested
as resources
exterminated
|as pests
shared sentience
denied….

A profound bow also
to you, our ancestors,
your great green
whispering nation
that gives away unheard,
unrecognized –
toppled in forests
or in swathes in the fields…

But if nascent ecosystems
rooted in dead green-brown
of death and excrement
dancing with microbes,
fungi,
worms,
bugs,
trap rushing rainwater,
summon soil-amending weeds
and fertilizing furred and winged ones
to turn once-arid wastes
lush and alive –
Earth herself self-repairing
self-perpetuating
self-organizing
self-sustaining –

if trees speak to their huggers
and scream silently,
deafeningly
when dismembered –
if herbs whisper
healing secrets
and leaves of grass
inspire poets –

if bodhisattva beings
still
turn purposefully
full-front to greet
the faithful
shaman-hunter’s
arrow
(the hunter’s body
later feeding
tribes
of shining claws and teeth,
perhaps,
or creeping things
and rootlets
burrowing deep
among the bones) –

Then is the mystery-miracle
not Life
given up and given –
an encompassing dance
of giveaway –
not dominance or superiority
not toolmaking or speech
not mobility or stasis –
but morphic wisdom
ecosystem consciousness
and carbon-based compassion?

On this feast of thanks giving
better to acknowledge
all
the lives, the bodies that sustain
– and are sustained by  –
our own
(oxygen- or carbon-breathing)
better to see them
name them
honor them
better to hold sacred
both
the givers
and the Gift

November 2012

The Divinity of the Speck


A few months ago, in a storm of grief over the way the world is going, I wrote to author/teacher/medicine woman Deena Metzger, “Knowing what you know, being sensitive to all you perceive, how do you not despair?” I have written previously in this blog of that question, and her answer – “Because I know that Spirit exists and that some of us are being guided and so we are doing what we are called to do and that has to be sufficient.  And because — I don’t want God to despair too.” – and the download of insights that resulted.

Reading that blog post, she responded to me with a quote from her book, Ruin and Beauty:
_________________________________________

“This is what I know: God is not steel or any of the indestructible alloys we have created. God is sandstone stretching up from deep in the earth to the roof of the sky. God is the same stone etched by two white rivulets we call current and waterfall, flowing endlessly, sweet and salt, carving the right and left hands whose names are also beauty and sorrow, so that every drop rives the four chambers of the great heart. This is eternal. The rising and the falling. The bitter and sugary. The burn and the poultice. Division and communion. It never ceases: dismay and hope, agony and forgiveness. These are the four directions that sun and moon mark for us and that day and night illuminate. This is what we call east, north, south, west, thinking we can walk one way or another and not succumb to windstorm, earthquake, volcano and drowning.
We want to be God in all the ways that are not the ways of God, in what we hope is indestructible or unmoving. But God is the most fragile, a bare smear of pollen, that scatter of yellow dust from the tree that tumbled over in the storm of my grief and planted itself again. God is the death agony of the frog that cannot find water in the time of the drought we created. God is the scream of the rabbit caught in the fires we set. God is the One whose eyes never close and who hears everything.”

I have shied away from those words; their challenge was too devastating. I’ve buried myself in purposeful overwhelm, busybusybusy applying my skills to good causes, and when fatigue forced a halt, burying myself in lesser distractions – conversations with friends, an old movie, a brain-candy novel, surfing the Internet. Checking the stats for this blog, frustrated that no inspirations were coming for new content (surprise!) and bemused that the most popular page, by far, was Quotes on the Dark Night of the Soul. Refusing to admit – despite all indications – that I was (unadmittedly, only borderline-consciously) traversing a similarly shadowed valley.

On a morning that had begun brilliantly, clouds were moving in; as I emptied the dishwasher, thoughts of digging the garden were turning to rainy-day alternatives; my mood was darkening with the sky. My morning reading, From the Redwood Forest: Ancient Trees and the Bottom Line, had already awakened the familiar  inner voice: old-growth forest was being eradicated, whole species and indigenous cultures were being wiped off the face of the earth, and what was I accomplishing here as a copywriter signing petitions and promoting visionary businesses and organizations in my lovely, safe little refuge of a home? Nothing I could do would make a real difference. The inward keening  began again, feeling trees, rivers, wilderness, wildlife, whole swathes of the natural order tearing away as fat hands grasped and wrung them, dying, into cash…

The focus tightened: I thought of the physical signs I’ve studiously ignored in my own body, and the underlying motivation for doing so, half-acknowledged. Spiritual teachers’ warnings arose – despair is the worst of the sins – only to meet the furious retort – so I’m already feeling hopeless, just add another load of guilt, why don’t you?

They say you teach what you most need to learn. The Quote pages on this blog are the words I turn to when my hope, faith, belief are dissolving.

Deena’s statement of belief scrolled up to my view…and I recalled her response to my first question: “…And because — I don’t want God to despair too.”

For God to despair…and I say that I embrace, have viscerally experienced that the Divine is in all things and all things are in the Divine…that all things are alive, aware, and interconnected…

So for the mote-of-Divinity that was I to embrace the furthering of not-life by purposefully ignoring what was demanding attention in the mote-of-creation that was my body, because I saw no large, headline-grabbing heroic accomplishment in my life, would in its own way be dooming God to despair through an abandonment of belief in the divine worth of each speck. An abandonment of belief in the divine spark of small actions, of their potential to ignite into more. An abandonment of willingness to stand for hope, whether against outward social/environmental devastation or deathly inward responses to human ignorance, egotism, folly (mine or others’). An abandonment of faith that inward and outward evolution continue and that (seemingly) impossible odds can be overcome.

A friend’s response to a Facebook post arose to mind: “Jung is right that becoming aware of the darkness is a large part of the spiritual work. But being aware of (as opposed to imagining) the light is important as well.”

Am I going to close with a loud and ringing affirmation of faith renewed and intent to stand strong and change my life from this moment forward? No. Such simple transformations and ringing affirmations are usually (for me) worth no more than the hot air exhaled in voicing them. Better that such epiphanies hover glistening in consciousness like motes in a sunbeam, sink down into the soul like seeds falling into earth, taking root in quiet, small day-to-day choices of incremental change, small anchorings-in, small openings to the “uncreated Light,” small moment-to-moment agreements between oneself and the transcendent/immanent Divine.

Grandmother Tree


These photographs memorialize a grandmother tree, a tulip poplar that stood near the chapel of All Saints Convent in Catonsville, MD. She was taken down in January 2012 due to advanced decay; most of her wood has gone to warm the disadvantaged in Baltimore. The more spectacular pieces – I believe – were taken by a local artist to serve as playground props (yes, they were that big).

Her colors, patterns, and energy – days after the cutting – were still passionate…vibrant…fiercely present. I can envision that spirit bringing warmth and beauty to the places and people who benefit by her bequest.

Not for the Fearful


On my parents’ refrigerator in my childhood home, there is a magnet: “Old Age is Not for the Fearful.” For me it spoke to my mother’s years of survival despite the faltering of her heart,  my father’s stalwart volunteering in the blistering engine room of a WWII Liberty Ship…the unflinching ways in which they remained  vital well into their 80s.

As I pass the half-century mark, witnessing ever more alarming headlines in the news, navigating stormy economic seas as a solopreneur while contemplating the depths of a profound, evolving career change, I am seeing new levels of meaning in that simple magnet.

Never mind old age being not for the fearful – living is not for the fearful! Simply maintaining the strength to continue walking on the earth each day, throwing back the covers and getting out of bed, choosing not to numb out with shopping, pharmaceuticals or narcotics, television or computer games………

Simply staying alive.  Finding a reason to choose life each day.

A day came when any conceivable  reason was evading me, and I wrote to Deena Metzger – with whom I’d spent a week-long Healers’ Intensive last summer, and who has remained a profound inspiration in her deep and compassionate understanding of the spiritual and material challenges faced by our species, all beings, and the planet today…and the healing work required in response.

“Knowing what you know, experiencing what you experience with your depth of empathic attunement, how do you not despair?” I asked.

Her answer was a long time coming…a long time in which I continued reaching, stumbling, and hauling myself along, sometimes driven only by the sheer bullheaded conviction that this seemingly pointless struggle was, somehow, a self-birthing process. Maybe I was lodged in breech position and needed a turn of perspective to make the passage;  maybe I was – dared I hope? – stuck at the shoulders,  glimpsing the new life I sought but not yet able to emerge into it, needing one more heartbreaking “aha” to open up,  one more glorious, tearing, bug-eyed, bellowing push, one sudden slippery orgasmic rush to set me free, empowered and taking up my role  in the world.

Meanwhile it seemed there was little I could do beyond breathe, pray, and endure….trying to keep up the various aspects of my life in the best way I could.

Finally, Deena responded:  “Because I know that Spirit exists and that some of us are being guided and so we are doing what we are called to do and that has to be sufficient.  And because — I don’t want God to despair too. “

I have been contemplating her response for a month now: the assurance, the challenge (was I hearing the guidance and/or doing what I was called to do?), and – most mind-bendingly – the compassion for the Divine.

I’d heard them, all right, in my inner ear, the small senses of comfort, insight, the occasional nudges of direction, that came and passed almost too quickly to be caught. Did I seek them? Often. Did I listen? ….well….

And then there came, after a day of soul-searing headlines, the shift, in a wholly-unexpected download of insights….

The sun was just setting on a grey day. I was outside feeding my feral cat in a soft January drizzle, savoring the chilly-warm air while holding awareness of the climate change that caused it, tilting my face up to feel the raindrops while conscious of the Fukushima radiation they contained. Sensuously enjoying the moment while grieving the environmental catastrophe hidden within its  softness, loving and grieving the sleepy robins twittering in the bushes,  the dazed bee bumbling in search of a blossom, the pussywillows budding out of season. Aware that my own species, my own decisions, were hastening the beautiful death going on around me.

And suddenly they came, insights cascading like the rain – yes, we are slowly but surely ending this fragile beauty of life as we know it, and this is unimaginably grievous – and what hubris, to say that our species’ know-it-all arrogance is greater and more powerful than the planet, or the Divine process of ongoing creation!

The insights continued: we are among the family of embodied life forms of this planetary age; we are all mortal. There are elder species,  and there have been short-lived relations;  there have been mass extinctions before this, and there will be inconceivable life forms after this. Energy will take new shapes in matter; in the cosmic timeline, immanent Spirit is unendingly creative.  And that is the larger picture. But never for a minute think that this devalues the irretrievable preciousness of the creatures of this passing age, this  passing moment.

And the message came home: Never believe the mortality of  a physical body devalues our  individual role in the greater picture.  Every least choice we make, every step on our path, is a part of that cosmic awareness, for good or ill.  Each person, each being has a unique role to play as a physical embodiment of the Divine. The question is – how consciously do we choose to accept that connection and responsibility, with and for All That Is?

As the last light faded in the west, I stood there in the drizzle, raindrops streaming like tears down my upturned face, with all creation inviting me to step fearlessly into life.

Passage


Where have the words gone –
culture-encrusted
morphic hammers
nailing
consensual reality
over perception –
assigning meme, not meaning
to pure phenomenon

I sit in woodland
meditation silent
sucked – whoosh –
into a febrile vortex
Tumbled and mashed
in a transmuting maelstrom
of shamanic vision
ancestral mythos
childhood catechism
(cosmic vision/
creational dialogue
sweeping
out false dogma
in true heresy)
Subconsciously squishing
isolate microcosm
through an imaginal wormhole

Words have no place here
slippery acculturated
prisons of meaning
Crush them to Essence
surrender to formlessness
Dance with the nameless
dust of exploded stars
whirling to coalesce
into (inter)Being
(inter)Awareness
enLightenment

August 2011
(with thanks to Theodore Richards’ Cosmosophia for the inspiration)