Tag Archives: deep ecology

Calling Upon Our Mother – An Urgent Letter (reblogging)


If the plight of the Earth speaks to you – if the action of Idle No More speaks to you – if you walk the Red Road or care for those who do – please take the time to read this and add your prayers on January 19. This is an action that anyone can take, of any race, creed, or persuasion.

A letter from Terrance Nelson to
Chief Wallace Fox of the Onion Lake Cree Nation

Chief Fox,

Many people have no understanding of how strong a spiritual person you are. When the UN Special Rapporteur came to your community, he had tears rolling down his cheeks as he listened to the children of Onion Lake singing in Cree. At another time, I also witnessed the Onion Lake students singing and for me even though I have Sundanced and am Midewiwin it was still one of the most powerful spiritual ceremonies I have ever witnessed.  I was told that the Special Rapporteur explained his tears. He said, that at the United Nations many indigenous people come there and cry about the problems they face. He felt overwhelmed by the pain of indigenous people. Hearing the children of Onion Lake singing as loud as their little voices could in their own language lifted his spirit so much, that here finally was a powerful sign that our people will not only survive but they will excel beyond expectations. It made him cry with joy.

For over a year now, Dakota Elder Albert Taylor has been asking me to use our power. He has been telling me that we need to lift the pipe. He kept saying, we need to ask for help. He says, “we still have power”. On Saturday January 19th 2013 at the RCMP Station on Portage Ave in Winnipeg, at noon Winnipeg time, the Elders will ask for spiritual help. Albert Taylor asked that my older brother Charles lift the pipe while Elder Taylor will sing.

more…

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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.

Learning to Let Go


During my husband’s years as a water pourer for sweatlodge, he had a statue on his altar of the “weeping buddha” –
a powerfully built yogi with his face buried in his hands. There were many stories about this traditional Balinese statue, from a meditation on the tragedy of war to a folk remedy for daily heartaches.  The statue went with him to the sweatlodge ceremonies he led, and was often the catalyst for deep healing. Upon his death, it passed into the hands of another water-pourer, and continued its impact.

As much pain as the statue expressed, somehow I also found it deeply comforting,  a reminder that the “dark night of the soul” is one aspect of the spiritual life. Not a pathology to be medicated, not an inescapable, eternal black hole, but one aspect  of life…a natural response to loss, transition, and the sufferings of the people, the beings of the earth, and the planet.

In Original Blessing, theologian Matthew Fox offers tools for navigating these dark times of the “via negativa” – letting go,  allowing silence and solitude, letting the pain be pain, trusting the darkness and the sense of falling as avenues to compassion and deeper wisdom and connection.

As I prepare for the second Spirituality Conversation Circle, on the Via Negativa (see Events), I find myself walking this path again. Or rather, becoming increasingly aware of the via negativa that our culture, and all the cultures of the world, are experiencing as environmental and social systems break down at an ever-increasing pace.

I see the television ads for antidepressants and drugs to boost antidepressants, and I wonder what would happen if we all actually admitted our hidden, socially-unacceptable (You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought) feelings of grief and loss as one species after another falls to extinction, whole regions of the world’s oceans are deadened with oil, radiation fills the air and waters of the planet.

But in this society, in this economy, popular wisdom says, we can’t afford to be incapacitated by such feelings…we are supposed to remain happy, positive, upbeat and perky! Don’t think about such things now…instead, medicate, immerse in virtual reality, shop more!

Does anyone else see the cognitive dissonance here? This is our planet, our home, our inheritance and our bequest to our children. No matter how corporatist we may be, we cannot deny our chemical, organic, and genetic ties to this miraculous spinning ball of fire, earth, water, air, and spirit, and the millions of beings (whether created or evolved) that share it with us. Does this planet mean so little to us that we cannot allow ourselves to admit, and grieve, its slow destruction at our hands?

Ah, but once we admit the grief and loss, the full (literally) earth-shattering tragedy of what is happening, how can we see daylight again? How can we not be incapacitated,  sucked into the black hole of despair, leading at best to paralysis, at worst, to the temptation to self-destruct?

In a dark time a few months ago, I wrote:

if the news were a movie
and i a child watching
i’d be asking mommy
can we go home now? i don’t want
to watch any more
…but it’s not…

The news is filled with people leaving the movie of their lives. Just the other day a woman told me on Facebook that suicide was an understandable option, given the state of the world. When I shared with her the words of a wise teacher — that we can give up, we can choose a way that avoids the issues, or we can take action — the woman reacted as if I were judging any way other than taking action.

I am in no position to judge. As I write, I have a dearly loved cat sleeping her way either to death or to recovery on my lap, and can only respect her process and support her as I can…the fourth of my cats to have faced this passage in two years. This is following the death of my husband in 2006 and the death of my mother in 2007.  All of these losses are compounded by the ongoing news of global environmental destruction and disaster.

These losses are not  unique to me – they are simply my particular experiences of the pain each person undergoes, my portion of the suffering of the cosmos described in Buddhism.

I have not considered “walking out of the theater” for many years, but in times of sheer emotional exhaustion, I have wanted simply to stop. I have spent nights crying, praying for help…and somehow, whether from an inner nudge, or a guide’s advice to go out and stand barefoot on the earth, or the call of a friend, or a book falling in front of me to be picked up…sometimes a simple distraction that takes all my attention and relieves the pain through work…the strength comes to pick up and go on. Every time, somehow or other, the strength does come.

Those are the easy shifts…the quick fixes, so to speak…but there’s a deeper level that they don’t touch. I have seen it happen again and again in myself and among my friends and animal companions;  I believe it is happening today in our culture and on this planet: that at some point in our lives, whether in regard to our physical, mental, or spiritual health, we find ourselves in a place of deciding whether we choose to live, what our life means to us, how deep the resources are that we must tap if we are to continue living. And – perhaps – choosing life at its most profound level – not “the good life” of endless distractions, but an essential life with purpose, vision and mission.  Life that serves an integral, creative, positive purpose in the greater scheme of things.

At a time like that, I am coming to believe there is no option other than to give up – that is, to let go what is not essential.  In Original Blessing, letting go is described as a key element of the via negativa:  Letting go of the illusion of control…the constant need to be busy-busy-busy, whether with work or entertainment…the need to source our identity based on money, things, status, or even relationships. To let go of stuff of all sorts that’s cluttering up our lives, our minds, our bodies, our souls, hiding the deepest, most essential core. To allow ourselves to be emptied, give up pretending to be anyone but who we are at the place of pure awareness and connection to all that is.

Such a time is happening now as I sit vigil, watching my cat negotiating her passage in dreamtime. She is not in pain, she needs nothing from me, she is simply in process, and inner guidance tells me that all is as it needs to be. I do not know what her final choice will be; I have no control here, there is nothing I need to do to fix things. I am alternately grieving over her,  giving thanks for her beautiful life, and listening to inner guidance, learning to let go and trust.

I don’t have answers… What I do have, what I cling to at this moment of loss and unknowing, is the example of teachers who have survived the dark nights and still maintained their hope and vision – if anything, deepening their vision by passing through the dark. These teachers aren’t superhuman beings who dwell on heights the rest of us will never reach, heights where they are untouched, unweakened by the soul-stopping weight of grief and pain. If anything, they are unequivocal about the grief they have experienced, the depth of their own falls into despair. And they are unequivocal about those times of grief being a crucible of growth, compassion, and deepened connection to Spirit and to other beings.

Dr. Fox again: ” The divine image [is] present in every being, indeed, every atom in the universe.  It is the “light in all things.”  It is also, with its incarnation in Jesus, the wounds in all things.  Divinity is both the light and the wounds in all things. ”