Category Archives: Spirituality

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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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:
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“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.

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.

Seeking Answers Beyond the Outrage


On the evening of 9/11/11, I watched the streaming video of theologian/activist Matthew Fox‘s 9/11 commemorative lecture at the First United Methodist Church in Boulder, CO, where he decried the loss of moral outrage – values wrapped in passion to sustain purposeful action over the long haul – in this couch-potato culture, addicted to immediate gratification. Quoting the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas, he said, “Moral virtue is found not in the will, not in the intellect, but in the passions. That is what is missing in our culture.”

These passions weren’t the tantrums of the Tea Party, nor the hysteria that gripped the nation after 9/11, he said, but a balanced form of warriorship focused on protecting the earth and creating a just society, ensuring that the coming generations (of all beings, not just humans) would have a livable planet for their home.

“Warriorship” – that’s a loaded word. I should add that Dr. Fox warned also against militaristic “crackpot religions” of the sort espoused by presidential candidate Rick Perry and his allies, and on the Catholic side of the fence by Opus Dei and its confreres. He described these as aberrations gaining in influence because responsible Christians had lost touch with their moral outrage, allowed the passion of conscience to be made taboo, and so surrendered the inner fire that could drive change.

I sat listening to his words with deeply conflicted feelings. While working through an Independent Study for my Master’s, walking the four paths of Creation Spirituality as laid out in Dr. Fox’s primer, Original Blessing, I struggled with his affirmation of the value of anger as fuel for action against the powers of oppression and injustice.

I still struggle. As healing and transformative as I have found the teachings of Original Blessing,  the prophetic path of action to create change is profoundly challenging for me.

I grew up in a household filled with moral outrage: my mother, Helen Rizzo, was an essayist on conservative politics and spiritual matters. During my childhood, I longed to follow in her footsteps (I decided at age 4 that I would be a writer just like my mom; she warned me that it was not a lucrative career. Undaunted, I pursued it anyway).

We came to an early parting of the political ways, however, when the nuns at my parochial school urged our second-grade class to ask our parents to boycott iceberg lettuce and seedless grapes for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. My mother all but exploded at the thought: Cesar Chavez was a Communist; her daughter was being indoctrinated! While she was having harsh words with the nuns,  I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about: people were suffering and we could help them. What was wrong with that?

So I grew up a closet liberal in a conservative house, coming to see my mother’s political essays as increasingly at odds with the message of Jesus that I heard in the gospels.

My mother’s viewpoint certainly did not lack in moral outrage; however, her religio-political polemics only polarized her readers.  It was spiritual warfare for the soul of the nation, there was no middle ground; one either agreed or one didn’t…and if one didn’t, one was verbally flayed.

The most telling moment came in real-time, the day after I’d given birth to my son, and my mother and liberal Quaker mother-in-law had both come to help with the baby while I recovered. I should have known it was a mistake: both mothers were deeply values-driven, politically impassioned readers and thinkers. I awoke from a nap with my son to hear them in the kitchen – at the other end of our large apartment – in fierce debate, belaboring each other with snippets from their favorite pundits. I doubt either of them was even hearing the other; there was no effort at genuine communication in that Battle of the Quotes. I kept the bedroom door closed (expecting to see steam seeping under it any moment), nursed my baby, breathed deeply, and waited for the conflict to subside. Eventually they stopped, came to check on us rather sheepishly, and were painfully polite to each other for the remainder of their visit.

But as I sit with these memories, I see that there can be differences in the expression of moral outrage. Dr. Fox, in his 9/11 lecture, quoted medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas: “A trustworthy person is angry at the right people for the right reasons, expresses it in the appropriate manner for an appropriate length of time.” This, he has written elsewhere, is healthy anger, which can be used as fuel to drive creatively and productively toward a positive end…the polar opposite of destructive rage or self-consciously righteous venting.

I sit now contemplating the scrapbook of Mom’s political essays and letters to editors, remembering her readers’ responses: warm admiration from those who agreed, flames from those who didn’t. In a country – a world – where hate speech rules much of the political discourse, I emerged from my childhood with the conviction that such venting only adds to the problem; it wins no converts, achieves no unitive blossoming.

But when the ears of one side are closed to the views and values of the other, what does healthy anger – or healthy communication – look like?

Mom and I struggled with our spiritual and political differences as I matured and came out of my ideological closet. We never did come to a political understanding, but toward the end of her life she began to ask sincere questions about my faith and earth-based spiritual practice. To help her understand, I tapped into my memories of seeing her in tears at the sight of forests clear-cut for development.

It was an effective tactic – she did come to understand my passion for the earth – but at a certain point she called a halt. The reason was not a fear of heresy or apostasy, but a fear of her heart breaking – in the words of Melissa Etheridge, a fear “of crumbling.” Beyond the point of intellectual understanding, she could not move into conscious connection with the immanent Divine, clearly though she felt it. Below her doctrinaire conservatism lurked a profound, devastating, and unanswerable grief. And so she remained by choice on the surface, immersing in her Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, William F. Buckley and George Will, rarely leaving her house.

Even so, the right-wing rhetoric never claimed her soul; in her final decline after a fall and head injury, her spirituality radiated love. And on her deathbed, she gave me, her liberal panentheist daughter, her blessing: “I can see you have a vocation, though it’s not the one I would have chosen for you. I want you to follow your vocation.”

Building this conscious connection with Spirit and the Earth – seeking the Transcendent/Immanent Divine in my experience, supporting others in doing so for themselves, I say, is the focus of my Independent Studies toward my Master’s degree. And yet my Spirit/Earth connection, like my mother’s, is limited and manifested mainly through intellectual pursuits.

Oh yes, I do walk the woods, keep an organic garden, reduce/reuse/recycle, use green energy in my home to the greatest degree I can, sign petitions, write letters, and choose my clients for their level of conscience and social entrepreneurism.

But like my mother, at a certain point I become immobile, paralyzed by fear of my heart breaking. Aware that my ability to see, understand, communicate arises from hard-won personal clarity arising out of long inner wrestling. Having been devastated by hearing the scream of a tree being cut while I sat meditating in nearby sacred space, I shrink from opening my consciousness fully to the land. Knowing that I cannot spend half an hour in a bar without  picking up on the energy being shed by the drinkers, I avoid entering a highly charged direct-action protest atmosphere of slogans and counter-slogans, chants and counter-chants.

Remembering my mother’s withering condemnation of liberals, I limit my engagement in political arguments; I know from witnessing her – and from my own impulses  –  the desire to go for metaphorical blood. There’s a stimulation to be found in such debates, sure, but it’s (for me) a toxic energy that leaves me feeling sick at heart. It is not the clear, generative energy of which Dr. Fox writes.

So instead of engaging, I isolate, working to make my home a still haven of safety in a wildly careening world, while I immerse in, and share, the words of spiritual teachers urging a dynamic, engaged, and fiercely compassionate balance. I support the “99%” of Occupy Wall Street in all the ways I can, but have not visited the occupation sites.

I am not proud of this.

The memory arises of a time of similar paralysis as a child, tiptoeing into the ocean surf, fearful of moving beyond the painful  line of sharp shells, stones and sea glass to engage in the duck and dive of the deeper water, unwilling to give up and retreat.

I ask myself:  If I am afraid of fully letting down my shields against the pain of the world, how much more might others be, who have at risk a greater attachment to the things of the world, who have not experienced all things as inescapably alive, aware and sacred? Who are defensively immersing themselves in the voices of fear,  projection, and objectification that rule the airwaves?

And I ask: Is  moral outrage the path I need to follow, or is it healing, open-hearted connection – taking the risk of letting down the shields? And if I am struggling to do so,  fearing the heartbreak of authentic connection with Spirit, the Earth, the People, how can I ask others to take that step?

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)

Guest Post: God’s phone number….?


As I’ve been walking on this journey, I’ve been making magical connections and reconnections with friends on profound spiritual paths. Some are just finding their online voices; others already have established presences in print and online.

To celebrate them, their journeys, and their present work, I am opening SoulPaths to their guest posts.

My first guest is my friend Mare Cromwell, whom I’ve known for more than 20 years, and whom I consider one of my spiritual sisters.  She’s a published author, a blogger, and an absolutely amazing master gardener. Shortly after embarking upon a seven-year interspiritual quest which resulted in her book, If I Gave You God’s Phone Number, she took on an apprenticeship devoted to honoring and serving the Earth Mother. Our conversations now yield rich insights on connecting to Spirit in all creation.  As she celebrates the launch of her book in e-book form, I’m delighted to host her posting here.

So – here’s Mare!

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God’s phone number… Could it really exist?  Has it ever existed?

For seven years between 1995 and 2001, I interviewed close to 50 people about God’s phone number. The actual question was: “If I gave you God’s phone number, what would you do with it?” My book If I gave you God’s phone number….Searching for Spirituality in America came out in 2002.

It has been nine years since the book was published. I’m not certain where that time has gone. But I strongly suspect that for many there may be more of a need for that direct line to the Divine now compared with nine years ago.

These days the news is surreal with the debt crisis, climate change, earthquakes, etc.  I know that many people around me, strangers and friends, are praying and wishing they had a phone number to the Creator to buy food. To pay their rent or mortgage. To deal with a loved one’s health issue, etc.

Sadly, when I post the idea of calling God on the phone on various internet sites such as Reddit or other venues, most people trash the idea more quickly than mosquitoes get smacked. So it goes in our secular society where people can write knee-jerk comments without giving much thought. Sigh…

Truth be told, the concept of a phone number to God was not my original idea. There is an old song about calling God on the phone from the 30’s. I believe some churches still sing it.

But suppose there really was a direct connection to the Divine and we all had it? I truly believe that we’re all hardwired to have it from before we were born. But most of us have forgotten it. Even forgotten how to look for it. And thus many chase the nice cars and comfortable homes instead. That’s what our society teaches us to seek out – the income to have these items of comfort. (Please know that I’m not knocking a comfortable home. I love the comfort of my home. I just take issue with the mindset that that is the purpose of life.)

When I started my book in 1995, I did not know that I was working on a book. I was depressed and struggling to stave off the need for anti-depressants. At the time I was living out in the Maryland countryside working at a plant nursery and desperately seeking a path to healing. Just the year before I was helping to run an international environmental network.

On Father’s Day that summer, the elderly woman who was renting me a room reminded me to call my father that morning. And I, raised as a Catholic girl, had learned that God was the Ultimate Father. So on that Father’s Day morning I thought about calling God, the Father, on the phone shortly after my landlady left for church. I truly wanted some answers then.

The idea of calling God on the phone would not leave me that summer of ’95. It struck me that it would be a fascinating question to ask people. What would they do with God’s phone number?

Finally I surrendered to the niggling idea and purchased a tape recorder and it was dangerous to be near me after that. My landlady’s friends were targeted promptly. Then the children of friends. Then I progressed to seeking out a broad spectrum of folks from different belief systems, walks of life, etc.

I think most people had a hard time saying “No” to me.  I’m rather persistent in that way. More importantly, providing a safe, nonjudgmental space for people to share about who the Divine is for them opened up realms of deeply personal and powerful beliefs. I was humbled by the interviews. And it was fun.

I did 49 interviews with a wide set of people. Young, old, Christian, Jewish, agnostic. An Afghani Sufi who veritably glowed and spoke wisdom in every statement. A Death Row inmate. People who had no intention of ever using God’s phone number and those who clearly already had the number and used it every day. The interviews were relatively easy to conduct. Figuring out how to lace all of the stories together into a cohesive book was far more challenging.

Certainly some people had similar questions for God, should they actually get the Great Mystery on the phone. Some individuals had spiritual views that startled me. Most of the people in the book were not listed with their real names since I wanted them to be completely comfortable with what they shared. We live in a society that does not discuss religion or spirituality for fearing of offending someone. I wanted them to speak their truth without any inhibitions. And so they did.

One of the revelations from the interviews was that each of us has our own unique relationship with the Divine. There are many paths and we’re all manifestations of our own individual soul paths that color our Godspace as no other’s. This is a beautiful aspect of our beingness. No one is exactly like us or has the exact same relationship with the Divine as we do.

Where am I now in this process?

That’s a good question. ;~)

I’ve just uploaded the e-book version of the tome up on Amazon (http://tinyurl.com/3htd8a5) and Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/78721). Within weeks, it should be available at practically all e-book sources including Barnes & Noble, etc.

Part of me thinks I’m a little insane for having the e-book out since I still have unsold hard copies of it in my basement. This is a house that is about to go on the market and the books, actual heavy hard bound books printed on 100% recycled paper need to go. I really should be trying to sell the hard-copy version. (Oh yeah, hard cover copy plug here: http://www.tocallgod.net)

Oh, you mean… where am I really now in this process? You mean the process of life and God, and spirituality? That question…

That’s an even better question. ;~p

Stay tuned until the next book.

No, that’s not fair to say that. I need to share something. The short answer is that I’m astounded every week by spirit and Creator and magic and healing. My life is an amazing adventure that takes me down and picks me back up again and carries me even higher to feeling God. Feeling compassion. Learning humility. Carrying forth in kindness. Opening up to the mystery and wisdom of other great teachers.

I still choose a church of gardens and wildness. Earth Mother is as much a part of my life as my cat and the passionflower outside my front door that graces me with stunningness this summer. Hummingbirds sneak me messages of joy in the midst of my confusion.

Spirit is powerful and strong and I’m listening and learning. Everyday.

I still want answers but different ones now. The interesting thing is I’ve learned how to listen better, how to tune in to my inner Godspace to find many of the answers.

That’s the challenging part – listening.

That’s where I am.

So now it’s my turn to ask. Where are you?

And what would you do if someone…anyone…gave you God’s phone number?

The Activist “Uh-Oh”


I’ve been quite bemused by the silence that has fallen since I’ve been putting out the word about the last of my four Spirituality Conversation Circles, scheduled tomorrow. This one  focuses on the Via Transformativa: we’ll discuss how we experience the Divine in the call to act for change. As the description of the circle says –

Is there an issue in your life where you feel your inner wisdom/Spirit connection calls you to speak or work for change? How do you experience that call, and how do you maintain your Spirit connection in acting upon the call?

I’ll admit it – there are a lot of stories going on in my head right now. Where the conversations of the past three circles, on the Via Positiva (experiencing oneness with the Divine), the Via Negativa (finding the Divine in the dark night of the soul), and the Via Creativa (experiencing co-creation with the Divine) were all relatively inward-looking, this circle is distinctly outward-focused: how do we experience or manifest the Divine in our social/environmental activism?

The question appears to be based on the assumption that we’re all activists. And what if our activism at this moment is limited to petitions, or perhaps letters to the editor or blogs? What if it’s limited to picking up litter when we walk our dog, or using cloth napkins rather than paper, or gardening organically in our backyard?

What, exactly, does it mean to work for change?

Last year I went to Starhawk’s Earth Activist Training permaculture design certification intensive. On the curriculum, in addition to permaculture design, were magical activism and direct action, led by trainers accustomed to organizing and taking part in nonviolent resistance to social or environmental injustice.

I’ll confess, I was intimidated. Here I was, an armchair protestor – lots of petitions, some blogs, lots of sharing resources and choices at home and go-green talks offered to civic groups, but I wasn’t putting myself on the line at demonstrations and marches. In fact, I was quite honestly paralyzed at the thought. So what, exactly, was I doing there? I asked a couple of the trainers for their perspective.

Their answer is one that I’d like to share, as I prepare the house for – who knows how many? Any? – people attending tomorrow’s conversation circle.

Mahatma Gandhi’s quote springs to mind here: “Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it.” This was the gist of the answer I received from the trainers at EAT.

To offer a summary distilled by nearly 12 months intervening:

Perhaps your activism is voicing an alternate viewpoint to that of your company – speaking for change within the ranks. Risky? Certainly! But with strategy and care, you can create a gradual shift that may change the direction of the entire business. Start, for example, by recycling your own paper at work, then find a way to recycle your team’s, then your department’s. You may find unexpected allies and hidden resources along the way, until finally your company has a corporate recycling policy.

That’s just one example of the ways in which you can act on your values in the mainstream world: by first modeling, then fostering and supporting the change in your world. The EAT trainers shared others (including blog posts, letters to the editor, and petitions!): if you know an activist who does engage in demonstrations, you may choose to support by offering to care for his or her pets, write press releases, fundraise for transportation or legal aid if need be, and any number of other thoughtful, supportive, human  actions. All of these “count” as working for change, putting values into action.

“Each person participates to the extent he or she can,” one of the trainers told me. “Some choose always to remain in the background – and they’re just as necessary as the ones who make the news.”

It is so easy to feel paralyzed by the monolithic “Bigs” and their stranglehold on the culture, so easy to feel that our small personal actions make no difference, that they get swallowed up in the land-sea-air assault on the planet and the people (in indigenous terms, I understand,”the People” refers to all beings, human and otherwise). What good can a letter, or a petition, or a blog post, or pet care for a weekend, or a press release, or the voice of a freethinker in a team meeting, do?

(A thought arises: simply being human —  responding mindfully, thoughtfully, from the heart and soul, rather than reacting reflexively or with half your attention focused on something else —  is a vote for change in itself, in a world that attempts to drug us into a mindless stupor with a smorgasbord of addictions: work, entertainment, substances of various kinds. In some ways, I think, this may be the most significant vote for change, with the greatest possibility of evolving into something greater…)

It is precisely such small things – the flap of a butterfly’s wing in new physics terms, a stray spark in wildfire terms – that can grow to cause a deep  shift, both in oneself and in the culture.

“The people who are taking the risks, making the news, didn’t get there all at once,” one trainer told me. “It’s a long process of stretching your limits, gradually  finding the courage to do more.”

One other aspect of this conversation circle’s topic, I realize, may be raising concerns: experiencing the Divine in the call for change.  What does this mean?

Awhile back, I visited a universalist Franciscan nun in her hermitage (described in another blog post). In the guest bedroom where I’d be staying, directly across from the bed, was an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Having grown up Catholic, this image raised all kind of issues! I asked the Sister and she said, “Turn it to the wall if you want, it’s OK.”

I couldn’t quite do that, so before going to bed that night, I told Spirit that I didn’t like the feelings that the image brought up in me…and I asked for a dream that would help me to see Jesus simply as a messenger of the Divine, without the baggage.

I didn’t have a dream, exactly…but as I lay between sleep and waking, I saw a replay of things I’d done in my life, efforts to serve, and received the internal message: “You don’t have to believe in a Messenger to be his hands and feet in the world.”

That’s the message with which I’d like to close: that if we are indeed inseparably one with the Divine and with all creation, we are all capable of manifesting this cosmic oneness in our values and actions, becoming the hands and feet and voices of the Divine to tend and protect the Planet and the People.

So….how does that show up in your life?