People

There are so many different kinds of people in the world. Some love questions for the sake of philosophical and mental bantering, and the game of devil’s advocate. Some are interested in only seeing their own beliefs reinforced. Some see things in black and white, and others in full spectrum of color. Some people need to have a battle in their lives in order to feel fulfilled. Some truly long for peace and suffer inside themselves in order to create an external sense of peace in the world. Some people want only to be happy, and others can’t remember what happiness feels like, while others ride the waves of feeling from the heights to the depths. Some people want to explore as far as the limits of existence will allow. Some people trust only logic and mind, while others trust only in their own passions. Some people follow the heart, and some people follow power and money. Some people are deeply hurt and traumatized, and some people thrive on the suffering of others. We live in a human world soup filled with all of thhead-3001159_1920ese and more. It is clear as we look around ourselves right now that all of these ways of being are stirring the pot of human evolution in powerful ways that are not pretty. In my own heart and mind, I do believe that there is infinite choice, and that there is no guarantee that love, peace, compassion, and wise freedom will prevail. But I am also 100% committed to living this life in ways that take a strong stand for these things.

Love isn’t the same thing as co-dependence or enabling others (or ourselves) in toxic and harmful behaviors. Peace isn’t the same thing as stifling our authentic feelings in order to make others happy or to keep from rocking the boat. Compassion doesn’t mean that we tolerate harm, ignorance, or abuse from anyone. And wise freedom is a far cry from licentious tolerance, anarchy, and deregulation of standards needed to keep balance and harmony in the name of the greater good. Love can be fierce and furious. Peace can be strong and vocal and persistent. Compassion can also mean seeing the big picture and severing relationships. And wise freedom calls us all to step up beyond our own childish, selfish desires and see the bigger picture from our higher minds and hearts.

Advertisements

Cherokee

When I was about five years old, I received a very special gift from my mother’s father, my grandfather:  a small turquoise and silver ring.  I can’t remember the occasion for the gift, or any specific circumstances around receiving it, only that it was “Indian” ~ Native American.  I wore it for a long time, and eventually the inside of the silver band split, but somehow through all of life’s adventure, this ring remained with me.  It’s a treasure from my childhood.  I "Indian" ring from my grandfatherdidn’t realize as a kid, of course, that this little ring from a town called Cherokee, North Carolina might have some significance for my older self.  I only knew that it’s three small blue circles of stone captivated me, and somehow it stayed in my hands to this day.  And now, having just returned home from a far-too-brief pilgrimage to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee land, the little ring holds a line of continuity in my heart that is difficult to name, but deeply felt.

It’s been more than a year since the passing of my beloved Papa, and undeniably the most challenging year of my life.  The most humbling.  The most shattering.  The most deeply transformative.  And the most rich with learning.  Just two weeks after his death, I found myself in a days-long ancestralization ritual honoring his life and death, as well as that of my great-grandmother, his father’s mother.  The rawness and immediacy of losing my father had barely even registered, and while sitting in an all night vigil in temperatures so low that even my guitar had a layer of frost on it, I listened deeply for the messages meant for me at that time.  Having longed to know more about my Cherokee ancestry for most grandmotherof my adult life, my father had tried to locate a photograph of his father’s mother for me, as she was thought to be full Cherokee.  For years, the photo remained a mystery, and a mere three months before my father’s death, the photo was found by a relative, and sent to him.  I was overjoyed to finally see her, to peer into her eyes.  She didn’t look full Cherokee to me at all… but traces of her Native roots were evident in her brow, her eyes, her presence.  While sitting in vigil, she came to me, sharing that I’d need to go back a few more generations to find the Cherokee grandmother I already connected with as a guide in my healing work.  After all, it was her, my Cherokee grandmother guide, who called to me in the Amazon the night after my father died, giving me the message to sing him home to join the ancestors.  Months later, as my own deepening ancestral work continued, I was honored to meet her great great grandmother, the last full Cherokee woman in her lineage.

I know that I visited Cherokee as a child at some point, and had heard others speak of visiting the famous casino there, but knew relatively little of the “reservation,” called Qualla Boundary, and the current reality of the town or the people there.  Planning a short vacation right after the new year, we decided to head south to Asheville, hoping for a little warmer weather.  Somehow it had escaped me that Asheville was quite close to Cherokee, and on a frigid day, we made our way there.  I carried my medicine bag, a pouch of tobacco, and a small photo album containing images of my family and ancestors, and we headed directly for the museum.  My heart longed to find some sense of direct and meaningful connection to these ancestors, which have become increasingly activated in my bones, my blood, my soul.  Entering town:  KFC, Cherokee Baptist Church.  A park with a river running through it, a demo village shut down for the winter. A tourist town, filled with tourist shops, mostly closed for the season.  A school, playing fields.  Few people on the streets, with the bitter cold single-digit temperatures raging.

The museum was filled with relics, artifacts, replicas, and staged areas.  Beautiful IMG-7035information, offering a wider picture of the evolution of the Cherokee people as a culture over millenia.  Stories and music.  The woman at the ticket counter was clearly Native, and as we asked her about her connection to her traditions and culture, she said that she didn’t know much at all.  Did she participate in the celebrations and rituals?  No, only the old ones do that now.  She said that she always thought she’d leave that place, and yet she has remained:  this is where her family is, and that is important.  As we wandered through town in the cold, talking to the few people we encountered, I felt a deep longing inside of myself… coming here to the homeland of the Cherokee people of the east, I had hoped to find something that I had been longing for all my life:  a sense of understanding about my people, my ancestors, the ways of living and being that have been revealed through my life that guide my way now; a sense of place, in feeling connection to something that could be called “homeland” that is sorely missing in this modern world of frenetic movement.

2018-01-08 15-42-03 -0500With so many things closed in town, we inquired about a shop where we might find traditional crafts and artisan work, and were pointed to the one shop that was open.  We spent a long time in there, taking in the beautiful basket work, leather craft, and pottery.  I combed through shelves of books, hoping to find traditional stories, or text or recordings of traditional songs, to no avail.  Generic Native American flute music was on offer, as were collections of cultural studies and anthropology work about the Cherokee people.  Books of songs in Cherokee were merely translated hymnals.  This shop was a clear demonstration of the reality of cultural loss in the US, as there was little reference to Cherokee lifeways, cultural 2018-01-04 18-03-27 -0500traditions, or identity that hadn’t been filtered through the eyes of outsiders, or the mind of intellectual study.  The longer we remained, the more a sense of desperate sadness came over me.  Finally, I came to a shelf filled with small handmade pottery, which I love so much.  As I asked the shopkeeper about the pottery, which was clearly handmade, she shared with me one particular shelf containing only four pieces.  The work of an old woman, 95 years old, full Cherokee, had been hand building and firing pottery most of her life:  Amanda Swimmer.  The others, smaller, were made by one of her children.  As I held the one bowl-shaped one, I knew that I would buy it.  Sustaining the life and traditions and art of a true Cherokee grandmother, the sister of my own ancestors, was an act of alignment, an act of honoring, an act of continuity.  Now, it sits on our offering table altar, filled with blessed tobacco that will be ready to carry forth for any possible need.

Just before leaving Cherokee, we stopped by the frozen Oconaluftee River to make 2018-01-04 16-52-08 -0500offerings and prayers.  Before stepping off the paved sidewalk onto the frosty cold earth, I paused.  Stepping with care and intention on this ground, this ancestral land, the land of one of my ancestral lineages, I sang a song gifted to me by my other Native American ancestral lineages, three grandmothers of the Pamunkey, and offered tobacco along the sycamore roots growing in magnificent gnarled patterns at the water’s edge.  I prayed for the continuity of the sacred, for the re-emergence of simplicity, for a return to respect for our Mother Earth we walk upon, and for the relations with which we share this land.  And I prayed for the gifts of my people, my ancestors, these lands, that I can understand in better ways, that I can stand in my life in support of honoring and protecting the old ways that are just about to slip over the edge of remembering into eternity.

For whatever reason, I have come into this life to remember what is almost forgotten, and to reawaken what is nearly gone.  My heart is deeply humbled to live during this time, and though I am an imperfect being walking in an ever-more-soulless-world, it is my heart’s prayer and intention to live this life in such a way that my body, mind, and energy are given to the restoration of the wholeness of the human heart and soul, and returning to balance with our beloved Mother Earth, our home.

mountains-863474_1920

 

 

Waking to Feeling

In this country of great wealth and luxury, we tend to prefer an inebriated state of numbness, ignorance, distraction, and apathy to *actually* having to face things that are horrific. Build a wall around the heart, be unwilling to feel empathy and compassion for all but those closest to us ~ make them so “other” that they are truly not human or worthy of care or protection. Build a fortress in the mind, willing to defend only what is most personally beneficial, especially in terms of property, power, and money. Anger becomes pathologized. Care becomes weakness. Just keep reaching for the next thing ~ buy the stuff, buy the ideas. Elevate your sense of self through religious and spiritual belief systems that propose the one and only right way ~ be it Jesus or the power of manifestation.

ENOUGH. I call upon the universal forces of change and transformation to clear this shit out. Enough with the addiction to buying things and owning things and accumulating things without a care in the world as to the global impact of such actions. Enough with the self-interest, only wanting to promote ideas that are self-serving to one’s own tiny fraction of humanity. Enough with the distractions, enough with the unwillingness to see what is in front of us, enough with the refusal to care and get involved, enough with the inner emotional collapse in the face of what has gone so very, very wrong in these times.

Anger is a righteous force. Anger, when not harnessed with intelligence, can also drive foolish and harmful actions. But anger, when it cracks open the heart and mind to a mighty roar of “ENOUGH,” is a force to be reckoned with. It is a force of awakening, burning off the fog of denial and numbness, jolting the heart with concern and the mind with clear seeing, and propelling us forward into acting as warriors for justice and wisdom and truth.

I am personally SO very grateful for the work of visionary activist Joanna Macy and her Work That Reconnects, as it opens a space for truly coming to feel ALL the feelings, especially the ones we tend to dismiss, repress, and deny, in order to become fully awake in the force of standing up for what is right and just. A good place to start:

 

Alchemy & The Divine Masculine

As I walked through the dense forest on this crisp, cold winter afternoon, I came upon his tiny cottage.  Unlike our houses ~ even our remote, rural houses ~ his cottage was not the-little-cottage-2047036_1920built along the edge of a road or even near a path.  In order to find his place, you must know the general direction in which to search, and then wander carefully.  On the outside, it blended well with the forest, and even at close proximity, you might not see it among the trees.

I entered as I had been instructed to do, opening the heavy wooden door, and approaching him in his work space.  And there he was, engrossed in his craft.  Sitting at the sturdy wooden desk, he leaned into the candle light, as the afternoon was dark inside, light coming in through only one tiny window to the right of his desk.  With great patience and focus, he held the glass globe in his left hand, and gripping a very small wooden brush, he continued to paint the delicate surface with tiny red birds.  He did not look away from his work, and made no effort to finish what he was doing on my account.  I could feel that he knew I was there, and that he was expecting me.  I stood patiently near his desk, trusting that he would eventually acknowledge me.

After some time had passed, he told me that he knew why I had come, and that we would begin soon.  In the meantime, he invited me to come closer, observing his work.  His cottage was lined with high shelves, just above head’s height along the walls.  They were stacked with heavy books, bottles of unknown substances, and handmade glass globes ~ art-1478831_1920the daily stuff of the life of an alchemist and artisan.  He was utterly without hurry, with total focus, completely absorbed into the process of creation.  He invited me to sit with him, offering his blessing upon my mission.  I was absorbed into his timeless presence, complete absence of thought.  He invited me to relax into that space, a way of life that was free from the concerns of the modern world.  In his cottage, there was not even a trace of the busyness that plagues our modern culture.  There was no place else to be.  Working for productivity, money, deadlines, and goals were utterly foreign in his world.  “Do what is yours to do.  Do it with love and devotion.  Put all of your attention there.”

After some time passed, he placed the freshly painted glass globe on the shelf, and turned his attention to me.  He understood my mission, and my request for his support ~ as the last fully connected ancestor on the line, he led me in peering down through generations, observing the rift passed from father to son, openly sharing his own story.  As a gentle and intuitive man with gifts of magic and creativity, he was his father’s son, sharing the gifts of his people since time beyond memory.  When his own son came of age, he refused to learn the family trade, and descended into hostility and anger, considering his father a weak, soft man who left his family and his community vulnerable to the hostile and destructive forces of the outside world.  Puzzled by his son’s fight-2134407_1920strange and unfounded fears about invasion and foreign powers, he sought to teach him about the higher wisdom of their line’s alchemist tradition, filled with magic and power and had kept their people safe and well for generations.  His son, filled with rage, fled the community and was never seen again.

The son travelled to a distant land and made a home for himself there.  He provided for his family by learning to use his body’s strength to build, to clear the land, and to fight foreign invaders and enemies.  He died young in an accident, leaving behind a young son.  Without his father’s strong dissuasion, the son found his way into the natural inclinations of his father’s people:  gentleness, creativity, intuition, and mystical knowledge.  And on and on it continued, down the line:  gentle father, rebellious strong-willed son, and rebellious strong-willed father, gentle son.  The lack of understanding between their two distinct ways of being and inhabiting the world continued to drive separation and hostility.  With each gentle father and son, there was a deep yearning for reuniting the family and honoring differences with respect.  And with each rebellious strong-willed father and son, there was a total hostile rejection of anything not rooted in brute physical force.  On and on it went.

men-158690_1280Calling them all forward, the alchemist spun them all into a fine smoke-like wisp, and encased them in one of his unpainted glass globes.  Spinning layers of protection and prayer together, he set in motion a powerful process that would intend to create harmony, balance, and resolution.  When he was complete, he floated the globe to one of his shelves, storing it safely away as his magic amplified.  Once more, he sat at his wooden desk, and picking up his still-wet paintbrush, he returned to painting tiny red birds on the glass globe.  He didn’t even wish me well upon my journey home, once more completely absorbed in the creative flow.  I slipped out the door, walking through the cold winter afternoon’s waning light.

Some days passed.  I waited for him to call me to return.

When the day came, I returned again to his tiny woodland cottage, grateful to know the direction far better than the first time.  I entered without knocking, and again, found him at his desk, still absorbed in painting the same glass globe with tiny red birds.  His attention to detail was immaculate, and simply being in his presence pulled me into a deep meditative state.  I sat with him in pristine silence for a time, now less impatient than before.  After a few minutes, he sat down his work and stood, walking to the shelf where the magic healing globe rested.  He floated it off the shelf into his own left hand, hugging-571076_1920and brought it over to where I was sitting, joining me.  He called his son present, and he came.  Without any explanation or struggle, the two men embraced.  He told his son of his wish that things had been different, and how he had missed him every day of his life.  And his son offered his apology for his abrupt departure and the pain it caused the family, wishing that he had been able to accept his father’s ways without having to conform to them himself.  In their embrace, all past hurt and misunderstanding was cleared.  Then, the son turned to his own son, embracing, sharing their regrets and misunderstandings and sorrows, clearing anger, pain, and grief.  And on and on through the generations, ending with Edisonia, my father’s mother.

Circling around together, these men began to discuss the thread of toxic masculinity that ran through their line:  the masculine tendency to dominate, control, and destroy anything that creates the perception of threat, anything that seems to subvert their will, and anything that doesn’t satisfy their desires.  Calling for the masculine energy in their bridge-2892681_1920lineage, and in the world in current day times, to return to balance, they entered into a pact to flood the masculine in every direction, in every associated lineage, and in every way, with a healing current that would bring transformation and healing of all the toxicity of the dominant, patriarchal expression of masculine power.  As they activated the healing current, they began to glow, becoming brighter and brighter, connecting with the best of their personal selves, as well as the best of the Divine Masculine.  Gradually, they faded from my awareness, continuing their process without my observation.

The alchemist returned the glass globe, now empty, to the high shelf, and once more returned to his desk.  Picking up the glass globe with the red birds, he continued his work.  Asking for his blessing once more, he shared a similar message as before.  “Create your work.  Do it for the love of it.  Don’t ever worry about money, and don’t ever create what you create because of money.  Simply be present with your work, give it all of your energy.  Single pointed focus.”  And with that, he was finished.

I stop in to visit the alchemist fairly regularly.  Each time I enter, the process is the same.  Each time I invite his insight, the message is the same.  Though the 21st century world is filled with demands of busyness, multitasking, focus on productivity, and financial needs that seem to expand every single day, he continues to call me into presence with the deepest truth of my work, insisting upon my authenticity and sincere heart, and reminding me that faith and trust are only truly present when we are pushed to the test.  And so, I continue to do what I do because it is within me, waiting to be born, mine alone to carry.

birds-1283802_1920.jpg

 

 

From My Grandmother

Child, look back into your history, into your roots, and you will see a time when life waslady-2925407_1920 simple.  Less comfortable, yes, but as we weren’t attached to being comfortable as you are today, it wasn’t so much of a concern for us.  We lived in direct contact with the land in a way that you can only yearn for in your bones.  We knew how to work the land to grow our food, how to sing to the plants as we planted the seeds, honoring the appropriate phase of the moon so that they would grow in the most beneficial way.  We knew how to work with our hands, creating every single thing we needed. We knew how to make our own clothing, how to raise animals with love and care, and humbly use them to care for our needs of sustenance and warmth.  We knew every single plant, which ones were good for food and medicine, which ones we could use to make clothing and dyes, and for tools and the things of the home.  We also knew how to work together to do these things, as no one person could know how to do every single thing.  We came together to create all of the necessities that helped us to survive.  It’s true that we struggled in many ways.  There were potent sicknesses that came, destroying entire crops that we needed so desperately for our food.  And of course the sicknesses that came, bringing death to the people.  Sometimes to young people, even little children.  And now, there are so many ways your people can heal these diseases, and that is wonderful.

Today, in your world, you have so many unnecessary things, things that are interesting and amusing, and ultimately pointless.  To an old one like myself, these things seem like mere children’s toys.  Shiny toys, fast toys, all merely games.  And while my people also enjoyed games, and likely far more time to rest and enjoy life than your people do, there was far more meaning in our play.  The sicknesses of speed, competition, greed, and war back-1822702_1920have infected your games, and your world, in ways that my people could never have imagined.  And yet, where are the elders?  Where are the teachers?  Where is the initiation into adulthood?  Where are the tests and tasks and learning that cultivates a wise heart and mind, cultivating these childish impulses into full adulthood?   This is sorely missing in your culture.  The distractions of accumulation of things and riches have rotted your human minds, and all my people can see in your culture, as we peer down through time, is sickness and insanity running rampant.

Can you imagine what it is to know who you are?  Not only who you are based on who you are supposed to be according to your systems of education and working.  Not only based on your achievements and accomplishments and certifications.  Not only based on your stories from your lifetime.  Not based on status or material accumulations.  But based on a source of knowing that is deep within your bones, your blood.  Can you imagine what it is to know who your people are?  Not based on their historical and cultural achievements, or based on collective power and intelligence, but based on a old-book-2297946_1920strong connection to land and home and ancestry through time beyond imagining?  Can you imagine what it is to know what it is to belong?  Not because you own property, paid a membership into a society, or achieved some level of respect as a business person or for your work?  But instead, because your very essence is intertwined with the rhythm of seasons, the change of the land through the year and through time, through relationship with the plants and animals and minerals and sunlight and wind?

If you will lean in with me here, I will take you into my world.  Into the old world before the sickness of your culture was born.  If you lean in with me, I will show you the pristine Earth, the homeland of your people, and a time of living in harmony with all of life.  Taking only what is absolutely necessary in order to sustain our own lives.  Before humans were distracted by games of power and war and domination and destruction, girl-529633_1920when the magic was still very much alive and natural.  If you lean in with me, I can help you to remember how to hear the voice of the wind, to walk with the Earth meeting your every step, to communicate with the animal world, to see and know things from the heart.  If you lean in with me I can show you what it feels like to belong to the land through being in deep relationship with Mother Earth, and if you pay close attention, you will be able to see the ways that she leans in with us here too, as she always has.  Can you imagine how beautiful life was, in spite of our lack of comforts and daily hard work, simply living our lives in peace?

I feel the longing within you, and the grief, my child.  Longing to know who you are, and where you belong.  Longing to understand what has gone so unimaginably wrong in your late times.  There came a time for our people when outsiders came and interfered with our ways, forcing their ideas upon us and declaring our culture primitive and uncivilized.  I will spare you the stories of that time, as it was more horrible than your ears need to hear.  Where their ideas were born, we may never know.  But these invaders came and abused us in every possible way because they simply didn’t like the feather-2571777_1920way we did things.  We had known conflict before, of course.  Humans have conflict, that’s true.  But never conflict like this.  We were beaten and raped and killed, thrown out of our homes, forced from our homelands.  All the while, we could see the sickness in the souls of these humans.  They were humans who didn’t know who they were, and who had never been cultivated into wise adult human beings by their elders.  They didn’t learn the ways of respect and humbleness, and somehow came to believe that they could just take whatever they wanted, with little care for the harm they caused in the process.

And so, being gentle people, we had no way to fight them.  It wasn’t in us to fight that way.  And though we knew only the ways of living in harmony with the lands in which we and our people had known since the beginning of time, we had little choice other than to adapt, to move, to go wherever we could to be free of their harm.  We endured great hardship in this, but because we were used to working hard already, we were resilient people.  We learned to adapt, even though we often found ourselves in lands that were utterly foreign to the lifeways we had always known.  We lost many of our people in this time, as the speed at which we needed to adapt was sometimes beyond our eritrea-105081_1920reach.  We did the best we could.  We prayed, we stayed close to each other, and we learned to listen hard for the guidance of Spirit in these lands we didn’t know or understand.

Over time, we were surrounded.  There was no place left to go.  They beat us for using our languages, and so to survive, we surrendered our languages.  They beat us for our holy celebrations and traditions, and so to survive, we kept only those we could do in hiding.  Over time, no longer able to celebrate our traditions together, and not having the chance to come together to share our stories with the younger ones, the great forgetting began.  We began to forget who we were.  They forced their ways of dress upon us, and forced our young ones to go to their schools.  As people deeply connected to the sacredness in everything, we found ourselves in their churches as well, longing to find connection to Spirit in community in some way.  Without that, we would have been utterly lost.  And so, stripped of our lands, of our traditions, our languages, our celebrations, our stories, our customs, and our ways of teaching our young ones what we believed to be true and important, we became lost.  We were assimilated into their ways, not even remembering what was lost.  Not directly, anyway.

But the whispers of remembering flow through the ancestral lines woven into your body, called DNA by your modern humans.  Do you feel the longing to belong to a place?  Do you feel the hunger in your bones to come back to something you can’t fully name?  Do fantasy-2964231_1920you find yourself feeling lost, like an orphaned child, though you are decidedly not?  Do you feel the call to wander, but you aren’t even certain what it is you are looking for?  It is the restlessness of your soul, longing to know its place in this ephemeral world of trees and waters and sunlight and stars.  And while you may have the ability to travel to any place you wish with your powerful technologies, and while you may have the ability to move yourself and your loved ones for any reason you choose, that restlessness is calling you deeper, calling you to return home to yourself, to your homeland, to your people ~ none of which exist any longer in your world, at least not in a meaningful way that would satisfy your heart’s holy ache.

Child, all I can do is hold you in my arms in this moment in time.  Life in your world is at an interesting and delicate turning point.  So few of your people have cultivated a sufficient sensitivity to even enter into this conversation, and when you meet others that share that sensitivity, treasure it.  Talk with each other.  As you do, you will enhance each others’ remembering, and awaken what has been dormant for so long.  There is much to be healed, and things in your world are so precarious right now, there is no clear way forward along that path.  At the very least, know that the longing that has carried you this far has brought you to understand more than you ever imagined you could.  You are my grandchild, dear one, and I am here with you all along the way.  Know that from here forward, you cannot fail.  You have remembered this much, and your heart is awake, and to our people, that is enough.hands-2888625_1920(1)

Insanity, Grief, and Change

Imagine with me the headlines in future historical publications, contemplating the errors of humanity in a country called America during the early 21st century:  Insanity at the Brink of Destruction.  Imagine the intellectuals, historians, philosophers, and teachers sifting through topics of this time we’re living in now, illustrating the divide between necessary cultural changes and stubborn, blind resistance.  Just imagine with me how they would see:

  • The political divide between dominant parties (and the people) is stronger than any people-2575608_1920time in the previous century, and there was little hope for unification for the greater good of the country or its people.  As the rift increased, it often appeared that a civil war would be imminent, as the difference in worldview and vision for the country was so vast, no possible compromise could be found.  Anger, hostility, and violence were common enough to be considered normal.
  • Overwhelming scientific evidence regarding the undeniable reality of climate change and the necessary actions to face it, while some powerful leaders hold on to a staunch refusal to accept the scientific data from around the globe.  Even in the face of floods, fires, and destructive weather stronger than ever previously seen, climate-change-2254711_1920the government continued its agenda in promoting destructive extraction methods, including mountaintop removal, coal mining, oil extraction, and fracking.  Though new technologies were available that would have made these sources of fuel unnecessary, large corporations and government leaders blocked it on every possible opportunity, fearing their own loss of profits.  In addition, lands previously preserved for national enjoyment, environmental protection, and the preservation of diverse wildlife habitats were rescinded and sold to promote the economic growth of the corporations already dominating the arena.  Species extinction of both plants and animal life accelerated at an unprecedented rate.
  • Human rights issues abound in the government:  vast economic disparity; systemic racism and discrimination; inaccessible healthcare; crumbling educational systems from early childhood through post-graduate levels; the rise of religious dominance icon-2071972_1280and impositions; sexual discrimination against women; discrimination against the LGBTQ population; stripping away the rights of any group united by perceived difference, aka. non-white, Christian, conservatives; support of terrorist organizations, including the NRA and KKK; government endorsed xenophobia of citizens and immigrants from the chosen scapegoat countries of the day, and in particular, Latin Americans and those from a select list of predominantly Islamic nations; the systematic attempt to force people to pay more and receive less for most things through the breakdown in regulations meant to prohibit such abuses; the systematic attempt to strip freedoms, independence, and any semblance of justice from all people; the breakdown of all systems of law previously agreed upon in order to protect all people from the potential violation, damage, and injustice in the hands of leaders who have only their own interests in mind.
  • The moral and ethical fabric of the nation were questionable in many ways.  While the most religious of the country’s population claimed to want to return things to a sense of “proper” values and order, based in “old-fashioned values,” the reality was retro-1321068_1280that these values included the desire to discriminate against or repress every way of life that didn’t fit with what they believed to be correct.  They promoted pro-life values, and sought to ban birth control, abortion, and healthcare choices for women, and yet passed shocking legislation that sought to make the path forward for struggling mothers and children ever more difficult, blocking efforts to support meeting even the most basic life needs, which were better protected in previous decades of government administration.  In addition, in the face of pro-life agendas, the religious and conservative population also continued to promote a strong gun culture, and even though mass shootings had become the norm, and even children were being slaughtered in massive gun attacks, they were completely unwilling to consider the bigger questions of how to make cultural change and regulate the issue that had become monstrously out of hand.
  • Change to the government came slowly, as there were certain rigged systems that were put in place that made it difficult to transform injustice.  Gerrymandering was one strong piece of the issue, and though somehow legal, served to silence the true donald-trump-2614892_1920vote of the majority.  Perhaps the largest issue, entrenched across party lines, was the deeply embedded problem of money in politics.  It became common to consider corporations equally important as human beings, and elections became little more than a popularity contest where the wealthiest contestant would win through whatever means possible.  Any historical leanings toward citizens voting for the ways that their country would operate were obliterated in this era.  The richest opponent with the richest donors was always the winner, and politicians were almost always controlled by wealthy corporate benefactors who essentially bought them to do their bidding.  While there is never full agreement among the citizens of any nation in how things will unfold in the best way, during this time, the actual needs and interests of the people were dismissed in favor of finding ways to increase the wealth among those who were already powerful and wealthy.

 

Pause now with me.  Imagine who will be pondering these times.  Who will be writing the texts about this dark era.  How far in the future do you imagine them to be?  How far ahead of our time must we go to find a time where the madness at hand has been clearly fantasy-2766567_1920labeled as such and fully exterminated as what it truly is:  greed, foolishness, and childish nonsense?  Or an even bigger question:  will there be anyone left to write about these times, to reflect upon them?  Or will our collective human ignorance bring us right into extinction?  Or perhaps consider that we do survive the effects of our own ignorance and destruction, but things continue in a darker direction, with less justice, less human rights, and less concern for the collective human good?  The reality is this:  in this moment, we don’t know what will happen.  We may have feelings and wishes and desires and visions and insights about it, but we ultimately are poised in a time of great unknown.  A time of great transformation and change, a time of awakening.  But will we wake up fast enough to be able to engage willingly and consciously in the process of change that is unfolding?  As much as we may desire to be hopeful and positive and know that things will be OK, the reality is that we just don’t know.  We cannot.  Not yet.

In that unknowing is a grief perhaps greater than all we can name.  Grief for losses we can name is profound.  Grief for losses we can’t name is somehow more hidden, more unspeakable, more mysterious.  We can grieve for the loss of a loved one, for the loss of a relationship, for the loss of home and family, for the loss of identity as things change.  But how to grieve for the loss of entire ways of life ~ such as the world’s few remaining indigenous communities ~ when we already *know* the depth of that loss, and yet we allow it to continue?  How to grieve the loss of plants and animals and insects ~ our companions on this planet, our brothers and sisters ~ as we know in our hearts that this is a horrific atrocity, and yet we don’t know how to stop the progression, as it is brought on by forces so much larger than we are?  How to grieve in the moment of realization that in the face of so much ignorance and greed and selfishness and denial, we are alone-2666433_1920hearing the beginning of our own death knell ~ and now it is possible that not only may we perish because of it all, and not only may all the ones we love perish too, including our elders and partners and families and friends and neighbors and children and grandchildren, but there may be no one left to even access the depth of memory that is needed to process the grief of loss.

Imagine for a moment the ache of the loss of a beloved one.  And yet, in spite of that hollowness and pain, holding the memory for a moment brings some comfort.  And imagine now your own passing, and those who will grieve you once you are no longer in this world.  The stories of your life, the memory of love that you shared in your life ~ these things continue beyond you and shape the world by living on in the hearts of your beloved ones.  Now, imagine a reality in which the loss is so great that there is no one left to grieve, no one left to remember, and all the stories are simply gone.  The whole timeline is gone.  All of an entire thread of beingness and livingness and awareness, purged from this reality once and for all.  Sit in that for a moment and imagine.

 

What is most helpful ~ and destructive ~ in the face of this unimaginable scenario is the emancipate-1779119_1920belief in some better elsewhere that we will be swept away into ~ a heaven, a new world, a new realm.  If there is a next place, and (as the conservative Christians are so devoted to believing) that this world doesn’t really matter so long as you believe the right thing, it is far, far easier to shrug off any sense of responsibility in contributing to such immense destruction.  And it is far, far easier to keep on doing the same old thing, knowing that “Jesus saves” and that nothing here matters but believing in him and following whatever moral code is preferred in the moment.  It is this kind of childlike denial that has brought us this far along the path, culturally, and though there have been strong moments of wisdom and positive change, there continue to be dark times of irresponsibility, self-interest, and greed, and brainwashing the ones who can be controlled into promoting that agenda.

What will it take for us to become the ones who create the tipping point, transforming this ignorance and bringing humanity back into balance with all of life?  That remains to be seen, and is the ultimate question in this moment.

balance-2034239_1920

 

10 ideas for adding authentic joy and cheer to the season

Beginning just before Halloween, stores in the US start blasting holiday music, setting up christmas-2971961_1920displays of Christmas tree decorations, menorahs and candles, sweet treats, toys, and special gift-giving displays that are nearly impossible to avoid.  The consumer holiday machine grows stronger as Thanksgiving approachhanukkah-2197684_1920es, and by the time December 1st turns over the calendar, people are either fully afloat in the holiday spirit, or totally over it, dreaming of a nice Caribbean vacation as an escape from the madness.  While for some people, coming together with family in the spirit of generosity and cheerfulness is something to look forward to, for others, it’s a painful time of year.  For those who have lost a loved one or ended a relationship, the holidays can amplify heartache as they learn to navigate life without the presence of the one held dear.  For those who have strained family relationships, the holidays may be a time filled with anxiety about how to handle tense and delicate encounters with as much civility as possible.  And for many people, the pressure of expectations about gift giving may be a source of continual stress ~ trying to make all the right people receive all the right gifts, sending holiday cards to a long list of distant friends and relatives, and concerns about finances top the list.

If you are among those who are stressed and daydreaming of something entirely different, here are 10 things you can do to infuse your days with a little extra joy and cheer, and redefine the holiday season for yourself and your family!

  1.  Go outside and pause.  In North America, as the Winter Solstice approaches, the snow-2952307_1920sky is magnificent, with cool pastel colors that never grace us at any other time of year.  As the sun sets earlier and earlier, the wash of magical colors in the evening sky is truly remarkable, and worth taking the time to witness.  Before you head out into traffic at the end of a long day of work, pause and take it all in.  Feel the temperature of the air, the shifting of the trees, the sounds all around.  Giving yourself a moment to breathe it all in can be an awesome reset.
  2. Let go of expectations.  Personal, family, and cultural holiday traditions are like a raging river, and it can be challenging to stand up in the middle of the current and say, “enough!”  It can be equally challenging, though, to continue to push to uphold traditions that don’t resonate, that require time and energy that you don’t have, and that add little meaning to your life.  As unimaginable as it may feel at first, it is totally possible and acceptable to take stock of the traditions you have been handed, and consider what is really worth keeping, and what you can let go of.  It may be upsetting to those people in your life who have equally strong expectations that things must be a certain way because they’ve always been that way, but at the end of the day, only what adds joy and meaning to the season are really worth it.
  3. Plant flower bulbs for spring.  Until the ground is hard and frozen, it is stillflower-1800825_1920 possible to daydream of the return of springtime, and prepare for new life and beauty to emerge around you.  Even if you have only a tiny bit of land available to you, you can plant daffodils, hyacinths, and crocuses ~ the harbingers of spring!  If you don’t have access to land yourself, inquire about planting bulbs with a friend, at a local community center, or in a community park.  Bulbs hibernate through the winter, and don’t need any care at all once they’re planted ~ and they will return year after year to bring brightness wherever they are.
  4.  Light a candle.  This is, for me, one of the simplest ways to bring brighter energy to my space, and there’s always a candle right by my desk.  If you can’t light a candle at work, it’s possible to light one in the morning as you wake up, or in the evening once you’ve returned home for the day, creating a ritual of beauty and presence to bring you into the present moment.  If you enjoy a particular fragrance, lighting a high quality scented candle can fill your space with a sense of pleasure, and can invite you to slow down a bit and take some time for yourself.
  5.  Explore your roots, and how your ancestors celebrated this time of year.  bonfire-1209269_1920Especially for those who aren’t particularly tied to a religious tradition connected with the holiday season, being surrounded by traditions with inherent religious undertones can be uncomfortable and frustrating.  One way of expanding the energy around the season is to do some research (maybe just Google, maybe more) into your ancestors, and what their traditions were for this time of year.  Where are your ancestors from?  Did they have particular practices for honoring the Solstice, the changing of seasons, the shifting of the natural world?  Or something else?  It can be fascinating, too, to discover just how many holiday traditions have deeper roots than the consumer machine would have you believe.
  6.  Explore a different spiritual tradition together with a friend or family member.  This can be especially fun to do with a young person, who may not be familiar with spiritual traditions beyond their own.  Especially during the holiday season, Christmas and Hanukkah dominate the scene.  But what about other spiritual traditions?  What do Buddhists believe?  And Hindus?  And Pagans?  And Muslims?  And Animists?  And Atheists?  There are so many traditions, it could be super fun to transform the Advent Calendar into a game of exploring a different world spiritual tradition every day!
  7. Get creative.  In a culture already so geared toward working too much, productivity, and the convenience of mass produced things to make our lives easier, creativity often becomes a luxury more than a way of life.  This iwood-ornament-879921_1920s a very, very recent situation in our modern world, and for most of human history, if some object was desired, people would need to create it themselves.  Entering into the creative flow is a gift that truly integrates all parts of the mind, and can be a wonderful way to alleviate the effects of stress.  When was the last time you got out some paints and paintbrushes?  Dusted off that old guitar?  Sang songs around a fire?  Created delicious homemade food from scratch?  Do you remember how to knit?  Whatever calls to your heart, find a tiny bit of time and space to just do it!  The more you enjoy it, the more likely you will be to make space in your life for it again.
  8.  Revamp those old holiday recipes with a new, healthy twist.  My memories of the holiday season involve about half a ton of sugar in the form of candies, fudge, christmas-1912571_1920cookies, cakes, pies, and more.  It’s no wonder the gyms and fitness centers make a mint after the New Year’s Day celebrations come to a close ~ eating heavy, sugary, rich foods can make anyone feel heavy, and possibly add more than a few pounds.  As delicious as those old recipes are, imagine how much better it would feel to change things up a bit!  For me, as I shifted to a gluten, sugar, and dairy free diet, I found a lot of joy in recreating old, treasured recipes to meet my current health needs, and best of all:  very few people even noticed the difference!
  9.  Random acts of kindness.  One of the best ways to feel uplifted is by getting out of ourselves, and opening our hearts in kindness to others.  Make a list of people who you’d like to uplift ~ some may be specific people in your life, and others may be more general groups of people, such as elders in a nearby senior center, or women at a local shelter.  Ask yourself – and maybe ask directly (possibly in a stealthy way, keeping an element of surprise) – “what can I do to help?”  It can be magical to plan something that will be meaningful and lovely for someone you care about, and the memory of your kindness will linger far beyond that single act.
  10.  Give gifts with heart and soul.  If you feel called to give gifts during the holidays, consider the impact of mass consumerism on the planet:  so many gifts given are box-2953722_1920sweatshop made, highly breakable, have no longevity of use, and are highly damaging to the planet.  Choosing gifts that come from people with hands and hearts and smiles may cost a bit more ~ or may not, actually ~ and are more special because they have a story and a soul.  This could mean going to a local cooperative of artisans and choosing gifts that are handmade in your local community, such as pottery, handcrafts, and art.  This could also mean visiting a Fair Trade shop and choosing gifts that come from all over the world, and that have been sustainably purchased from local artisans at a fair rate that supports their livelihood, while also being unique and interesting.  Or this could mean connecting with local members of your community, and giving the gift of experiences ~ a massage, a class or workshop, or a concert ~ that not only surprise the receiver, but support the livelihood of your neighbors that make your community a rich and vibrant place.

diwali-2890605_1920

 

 

 

Message from the Elders: Make More Offerings

In October 2016, I had the beautiful opportunity to journey to the high Andean IMG_3820community of the Q’ero people with my dear friend Louisa, our Q’ero elders Don Augustin and Dona Benita, and their son Santos.  Having made many journeys to Peru across more than a decade, I have had quite a bit of direct contact with Andean elders, both Q’ero and others, and the path of my own life has been significantly shaped by the teachings and rituals I have experienced there.  Having dreamed of one day going to the Motherland of such rich traditions, I was truly touched to have such an opportunity.

2016 was the year that the first road to the Q’ero communities was built.  I had heard others share about journeys to the highlands previously, an arduous journey combining an initial travel by car or van on rugged dirt roads, and a second phase of journeying on horse and foot through harsh and stunning landscapes in freezing cold rain and snow.  Though the adventurer in me somewhat envied the challenges of that way of journeying, I was grateful for the relative ease of our journey by van – we carried all our gear, plus a camp stove and fuel, lots of food for us and for sharing, water, a toilet tent, and extra blankets that we would use and then gift to our host community, Qochomoqo.

As a western woman, borIMG_3963n and raised in the US, I have spent most of my life surrounded by a culture that is rooted in self-interest, materialism and a constant, almost uncontrollable sense of want.  We’re conditioned to want the next flashy, cool thing from the time we’re small children ~ and as the holiday season is upon us, this is always a shadow theme that is hard to ignore, as the traditions of gift giving to children, especially, train them to think more of “what I want” and “what I am getting” than “what can I give to others?”  And so, the desire for more things, and better things, is a disease in our culture.  We want what we want, we want it now, we want it for as little money as possible, we don’t care what the conditions were for the ones making the things, and on and on it goes.  The culture of “me first” has entered new lows with our current government leadership in the movement of “America first,” and now, the worst of our selfish, greedy natures is being amplified and encouraged on a national scale in an overt way.

In the Andes, the traditional way of life is rooted in the practice of ayni ~ reciprocity.  The sacred exchange of giving and receiving.  It’s not a concept, it’s the very law of existence.  Rooted in the very real understanding of balance, and a deeply embodied practice of IMG_3288gratitude and trust, ayni tells us that we must both give and receive in order for life to flourish.  We breathe out, and inhale the oxygen the trees have given us.  The trees receive our carbon dioxide, and are grateful for our gift of sustenance for them.  The sun shines, the rain falls, the crops grow, we tend them, we enjoy them, and we give back to the soil so that the balance of life can continue.  The Andeans are inherently gentle people, centered in practices of deep respect for Pachamama (Mother Earth), the Apus (the divine Mountain spirits), and the other Divine forces of the universe, of which we are simply one small part.  Theirs is a culture with a deep sense of respect and dignity that still thrives today, even with the influx of foreign tourists every day, a true testament to who they are as people.

And so, when we arrived in Qochomoqo, clouds swirled all around, feeling like a damp mist.  Though in the Valley there are so many days of direct hot sun, up in the highlands, strong direct sun is rare.  Silence is deep, as these communities are free from the noisy ways oIMG_4007f modern city living ~ with no electricity beyond the solar charged lanterns a few people carried, no running water besides the stream at the edge of the village, and no distractions of technology, internet, television, and the like.  Simple life.  Tending the home, tending the animals, tending the crops, and tending the Spirit.  Though I was only there for three days, those days were so deliciously slow and rich in connection, I felt like those days were more than a week.

The idea for visiting Qochomoqo and the Q’ero communities first came in 2015, during our Heart of the Mother Retreat in the Sacred Valley.  We were blessed to have Don Augustin and Dona Benita join us for a day, sharing about their traditions and doing a beautiful Despacho Ceremony for our group.  At one point in our time together, Don Augustin invited me to come to visit their community, and invited me to continue learning these traditions with them.  Having first experienced the Despacho Ceremony ten years prior, and having been gifted permission to practice and share that tradition when I first experienced it, I took Don Augustin’s words to heart.  I knew that upon my return in 2016, visiting the Q’ero communities would be necessary.  SimplyIMG_3837 standing upon their ancestral land was a gift beyond my heart’s imaginings ~ the land was vibrant and alive, as the land can only be when the direct relationship between humans and Pachamama is well-tended.

On our second day in Qochomoqo, we would visit the high school, create a Despacho, have coca leaf divinations, join a hair cutting ceremony for a baby (and through this I became the child’s Godmother), and engage in rich dialogue in a series of video interviews that, in the future, will be shared freely here.  Together with Don Augustin and Dona Benita, we were joined by Walter, and they created one of the most beautiful Despachos I have ever seen ~ calling forth our prayers for the wellness of my faIMG_4048mily (both my father and mother were hospitalized at the time), and for the wellness of our world.  As the sun went down later that day, Don Augustin and Dona Benita prepared to climb up to Waman Lipa, the holy Apu towering over the community, to offer our bundle into the sacred fire on the mountain.  During the afternoon, I asked permission to ask some questions on behalf of my community, my people, my culture, and was granted permission to video these conversations.  With undying gratitude to my dear brother Santos, it was possible to have a direct translation from Quechua to English, and keep as much integrity of their messages as possible.

fullsizeoutput_2e69Over the course of our conversation, I eventually presented a question that had been alive in my heart for some time.  Given that we had not yet gone through the 2016 election in the US, the question was still quite potent, and now, having lived with the madness of my country’s dark night of the soul, the question seems more relevant than ever:  With all the mental sickness, misunderstanding, suffering, and chaos in our world, what can we do to help? 

The answer?

Make more offerings.  Despacho Ceremony.

As a modern western woman, even though my entire life is now rooted in ritual, IMG_3457ceremony, prayer, creativity, and being of service to the sacred, my logical, rational, skeptical doer mind struggles to believe that something as simple and beautiful as Despacho Ceremony could actually *do* something meaningful to halt the flood of insanity and injustice and pain that is running rampant in our world right now.  But what is sufficient to face these things?  Fighting and arguing don’t seem to be effective, protest is limited in scope, and spending my days calling senators and representatives may help, but is all of this enough either?

In Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects, there are three basic ways to make change in the world.  First, holding actions:  this is the protesting, calling representatives, creating roadblocks ~ all the things that seek to slow down the forces of insanity and destruction in order for new ways to be discovered and enacted.  Second, choosing new ways:  developing solutions to the problems that we face ~ solar energy, community building, permaculture farming, time banks, etc.  These things provide us with new options in theIMG_5865 ways that we live our lives, and expand our understanding of what is possible.  Third, awakening of consciousness:  we begin to change our inner operating system, seeing that our previous ways of living aren’t working, and changing and healing ourselves so that we don’t seek the same old ways.  This is represented in the personal growth and awakening movements, and the expansion of spirituality that is free of religion.  Where does Despacho ceremony fit into this picture?  It is ultimately a part of the awakening of consciousness, understanding that we must connect inside ourselves, embody our values and principles, stand in dignity and respect within ourselves, practice deep listening, engage in gratitude for all the blessings we receive every single day, and cultivate an inner sense of guidance that will help us to navigate the ways we move through the world.

When we know who we are, and are in connection with ourselves and our own inner navigation system, when we heal our wounds and are able to see clearly what is in front of us, when we return to the understanding that we are but one small, interdependent part of the web of life, and that our actions contribute to the quality of the whole, we wake up.  When we remember that we are not entitled to any single thing, and that we are not the most important part of life here, that we are not the star of the Earth stage, when we return to the understanding that we are responsible for being excellent citizens of a world alive in so many beautiful ways, we are able to let go of our childish, selfish, ignorant ways, and return to being stewards of Life, wise and full of care for what happens, and knowing that our needs will be met as we consider the needs of all.

And so, in a deep commitment to these principles, and in bringing others together to co-IMG_5985create this reality in a beautiful, awake way, we create Despachos every single month.  Sometimes it’s just us at home, by ourselves.  Sometimes we are surrounded by beloved brothers and sisters in community, co-creating our vision.  And sometimes we visit other communities, sharing this beautiful tradition as a part of festivals, weddings, celebrations, and community events.  As one dear Peruvian sister shared with our group this year, Despacho is offered before any important event in life:  before the birth of a child, before a marriage, before the start of a new business, before building a home, before starting any new project.  Despacho first is a way of saying “thank you” to Pachamama and to Life, acknowledging all the blessings and gifts that have already been received, and sharing a gift of gratitude for that, while also praying for the forces of Life to continue bringing support in new ways.

We hope that you’ll be with us at some point for a Despacho Ceremony!  You can find our calendar HERE, and we’re also happy to travel on occasion to share this ceremony.  Of course, the most wonderful way to experience Despacho is with the elders in Peru!  We’ll be taking another group in 2019, and if you’re curious to find out more about that, please visit our Heart of the Mother Retreats website!

fullsizeoutput_2b0a

 

 

 

To My Cherokee Great Grandmother ~

Beloved Great Grandmother, I come to you today with an offering, and it’s the only offering I can give you with my fullness and truth:  my broken heart.  I know that you will receive it with tenderness and care, and I pray that you can guide me in finding the american-2029937_1280way forward in a world that would be utterly foreign to you that you wouldn’t recognize it at all.  And because I feel you whispering to me in my heart and in my bones, I come to you with tear-stained cheeks, and with an ache in my belly that is present more and more these days.

In the years that have passed on this Earth between your days and mine, so many things have changed.  Perhaps you already know this, and perhaps in your deep connectedness to All-That-Is, you have already seen what we are now living through.  But as your granddaughter, I feel moved to share with you what I witness with my own eyes on this Earth.

Great grandmother, the humans living on the land that once supported your people have heart-742712_1920forgotten what it means to live in balance and respect ~ with the forest, with the waters, with the sky, with the animals, and with each other.  Stretches of wide open land ~ once understood as the homeland to thousands of species of animals and plants ~ are now seen as a waste of economic opportunity.  In our human greed, we have erroneously come to believe that we are the dominant species on this planet, and all things are available for the taking.  There is little remembering, and even less care, that we are but one part of a whole interdependent living system, and in that forgetting, we have become the bull in the china shop, damaging and destroying all that surrounds us.  We have poisoned the waters, the air, the land.  We have been responsible, through our ignorant and self-absorbed ways, for the death of many species of animals and plants, and even though there is more and more scientific understanding of the interdependence of all life, and the common agreement that we have, in our stupidity and arrogance caused irreparable harm to the very life systems that support us, there is no wisdom driving our culture at this time.  We are a species in deep, deep denial, and though we see the effects of our ignorance more and more, the selfishness and foolishness of the leaders of our culture is so strong, there is no willingness to recognize and correct our erroneous ways.  And the devastation continues.

Great grandmother, I understand that humans have always found conflict and challenges among themselves, and that there has yet to be a culture that was evolved enough to deal with those conflicts in mature and evolved ways 100% of the time.  I also understand that in the history of your people – my people – there have been wise elders, guides, teachers, and healers who have been at the center of community life, and who have helped to call people into wise choice, and have been a strong presence of living that so that the communities have someone to learn from, and emulate until their own lost-places-1549096_1920wise truth guides the way fully.  Now, we have lost community.  Families are spread far and wide, and there are deep divisions and conflict in many families.  We live in houses that you would consider mansions, with every comfort and luxury you could begin to imagine, and many you can’t even begin to imagine too.  But we live without community, and we often don’t know our neighbors.  A deep sense of selfishness and vanity has become a sickness that has overtaken our culture, and while there is still a strong sense of religion – yes, Christianity is the dominant one at this point – there is hardly a deep sense of ethics.  Our culture is split in many directions in understanding what ethics and morals are at this time, as well.  Some speak the word “freedom” and want to ensure that all ways of life are honored and protected ~ and of this you’d be so pleased!  After all, there are so many of us that see how the First Nations people have been treated in these past few hundred years, and are devastated by that and determined to make sure that no others must ever experience that horror.  But some speak the word “freedom” and only want to guarantee their own personal freedoms, angry-1294679_1280ideas, and moral code.  These people, citing religious doctrines and traditional values, seek to strip away any semblance of living that doesn’t match their own preferences, and are carrying forward the very essence of the devastation you faced during your lifetime.  They want to be surrounded by others who are just like them – the same pale skin, the same religious beliefs, the same ideas of what family and community must be, the same belief that they are somehow righteously better-than, and the same desire to destroy all that does not mirror back to them who they are, believing on some level, I think, that they are the chosen ones who are rightfully taking their place in the world.

When you willingly withheld some of the ways of your people as you raised your daughter among settlers, part of me believes you knew that this was coming.  That you saw the destruction of your culture already, and hoped that by marrying her with a white English man you were saving her from greater suffering and abuse.  I see your love for her, and also your surrender into the ever building tide of colonial dominance.  While that surrender brings great sadness into my heart, I also see your courage, and the deep core of strength that you carry.  After all, your whole external world was being rearranged in unimaginable ways.  Your ancestors were treated like animals and slaves, pushed from their ancestral lands, punished and abused for their lifeways, and forced to abandon their way of dress, their language, their practices, all under the demand of the colonial ways, as each settler assured you your ways were heathen, animal, backward, and dirty.  And your ancestors, in their natural way of respect and dignity, still embraced photo-1023416_1920these white invaders, sharing their knowledge and kindness without hesitation.  Did they know that in repayment for their kindness they would be gifted with genocide?

And so, I stand with you here, late in the year 2017.  I have found my way into connection with the interdependence of all life, and have made many changes in the way I live my life.  I have felt you calling me since before I could even name it.  I feel your knowing in my bones – the way of balance, harmony, and respect.  The way of community, mutuality, shared responsibility.  The way of wisdom and understanding.  I feel the call to completely revolutionize my culture, and I am surrounded by many people who feel the same call.  While we all are finding our courage and our strength, as well as greater clarity in what we must create in these dark times, the forces of power and darkness are so very strong.  Those with the most money and power treat this whole life as a mere game of chess, and we are their pawns, unimportant and expendable.  Many of us watch as the darkness infects the humans who already suffer so much, and wonder how these people can be so readily coerced into marching into their own destruction willingly.  And we watch as the leaders of our nation are infected in more money-shark-1612269_1920and more poisonous ways ~ and how they are growing in courage to speak it outright, and to stir the people to support things so heinous, they previously only existed in my worst nightmares.  Power has always had a way of falling into the wrong hands, and without the wisdom to use power with great heart and understanding, it is merely a weapon used to build separation, injustice, and suffering.  And this is the state of our world right now, beyond anything I could have imagined happening during my lifetime.

And so, Great Grandmother, I offer you my broken heart.  It has broken for women who have been abused and raped and treated as second-class human beings, and even though we have used the words of women’s rights and liberation for around a hundred years, the deeply entrenched ways of patriarchal dominance and control are still going strong.  My heart has broken for the magnificence of this world, as it has been reduced to a commodity, a place to take what we want and dump what we don’t want ~ and even the announcement of something as tragic as the extinction of species, climate change, and even the dying of the Great Barrier Reef, stirs little concern.  My heart has broken for our collective human obsession with nonsensical things ~ we care more about possessions and status than about the balance of life ~ and we have fallen into meaningless relationship with our electronic devices while no longer caring about getting to know texting-1490691_1920each other.  My heart has broken for the endless non-white people in this land, and around the world, who have been devastated by colonization, war, and natural disasters, and there are masses of people in this nation who truly don’t even care at all ~ the deep roots of white dominance that were born here as the settlers pushed your ancestors off their lands have festered in unbelievable ways, and while we have made strides in trying to keep this from happening, it has been, to a large degree, lip service when compared to the lived experience of those who are not white.  My heart has broken because I wonder how long it will take until true wisdom, justice, and balance return to this land, and it keeps on breaking as I see our culture moving further and further away from that reality.

I stand here before you, Great Grandmother, offering you my broken heart.  I have spent my life working to open my heart more and more.  I have spent my life unravelling the  ways of not-caring that made me numb and detached.  I have spent my life shedding the layers of cultural conditioning that have told me what should be important to me, and have found my own authentic answers there.  I have spent my life longing to be a little wiser every day, waking up from the trance of my culture’s materialistic, destructive ways, and finding my own gifts to bring forth to be of service during this time of immense chaos and darkness.  I have spent my life longing to heal the wounds and pain exercise-2027999_1280of my people through healing myself, and have come to greater understanding than I imagined.  I have spent my life seeking to be the best person I can be, hoping to cause as little harm as possible as I am living in the midst of an awesomely destructive way of life.  I have sought to find my own truth, to know my own soul, and to help others to find that too, for the brighter we shine, the less we can be tricked and bought and enslaved.

Great Grandmother, I honor you.  And I come to you today to ask for your blessings, to ask for your guidance, and to ask for your courage.  There are no clear answers to the questions within my broken heart.  But I know that what you know, and what your Great Grandmother knew, and what her Great Grandmother before her knew too, is also deep within me, within my blood, my bones, my cells.  I pray that you will help me as I navigate this minefield of living in America in the early 21st century.  Sometimes I lose hope, and it seems like humanity is a sinking ship, and there are no life rafts.  And sometimes I feel like we deserve to go down with that sinking ship, as we have been the very ones that caused the damage in the first place.  But my hopeful heart, naive though it may be, believes that good, meaningful, positive change can still happen, if only we come together, look within, and do the work necessary to heal the ancient pain we each carry.  I am here, Great Grandmother, and I am listening.

human-2099066_1280

What is a Woman?

What is a woman? An object of desire, a body that lends presence to a daydream, a fantasy of unspeakable pleasure? A fragrance, a glance, a soft touch, curves and shadows, seductive and alluring, calling the ancient memory of something just out of memory’s reach?
What is a woman? A nurturing and caring mother, drying the tears, caressing the ache, whispering sweet comforts into the ears of those whose tender places are filled with pain and sorrow, saying that all will be well and fine?
What is a woman? Once a princess with a fairy wand and crown, caught in the sparkle and magic of what would be possible if all life’s cares and worries were ushered away in the protective care of the right man, the right family, provided for in every way by unimaginable wealth and luxury?
What is a woman? The child in a clean dress and shiny shoes, bows in her hair, taught to smile and stand just right, speak softly, and not attract too much attention for anything other than being adorable, like a little doll?
What is a woman? The one who listens quietly and nods, agreeing with her husband, encouraging him, lifting him up, and making sure his needs are met, never speaking of her own, always the good wife and caretaker?
What is a woman? The teenager, struggling to stand in a changing body, pretending not to notice the overt and awkward glares of boys staring at her breasts, her ass, discovering the power in capturing that gaze, or hoping to hide herself enough to avoid it altogether?
What is a woman? Someone who must consider her hairstyle, her wardrobe, her makeup, her shoes, and her style in order to attract just enough of the right kind of attention to succeed in her work, but not too sexy, and not too powerful, for we all know that a woman that’s too sexy isn’t taken seriously, and a woman that’s too powerful is a threat?
What is a woman? A voice that speaks loudly and clearly about her passions, desiring to make great change, and who is mocked, chided, harrassed, belittled, judged, threatened, criticized, hated, ridiculed, and sometimes killed for taking her stand alongside similar voices of men, who are celebrated for the same?
What is a woman? One who only succeeds through surrendering her body to birth, and who fails in her existence when babies are not possible or not wanted? While at the same time being judged and tossed aside for choosing the path of creating a family alongside professional endeavors? Who simply cannot win no matter her choice?
What is a woman? A tease, a whore, a hooker, a slut? A prude, a frump, an old maid? One whose body is oversexualized by men who fantasy fuck her in the privacy of their own armchair, and whose actual sexual freedom is condemned as perverse when claimed and fully expressed? One whose body is tossed aside by men who find no sexual pleasure in her image, for her body is too big or too small, her style is too uninteresting, and her presence has no interest in capturing the attention of men?
What is a woman? A bitch, a mad dog, a man-hater, a feminist, whose desire to stand in her own power is a threat to centuries ~ millenia even ~ of men who have known their proper place in the natural order of things? A brilliant mind that has no interest in the approval or acceptance of anyone outside herself, and especially not from men who cannot understand a woman who doesn’t need to be validated or justified by them?
What is a woman? One who knows her own mind and heart in the great order of things, who can still hear the deeper voice of Spirit and the natural world, and whose answers come from within, needing no confirmation from outside her own knowing?
What is a woman? A fierce goddess who takes no shit, who speaks her mind, who fearlessly calls for justice and truth, happy to demolish all that must be destroyed in order for greater good to come?
What is a woman? The gateway of life and death, one foot in each world, dirty feet from walking the fields, and bright eyes from seeing what is beyond, hands in the messy, wildness of the womb of creation and in the chalky ash of the sacred fire?
What is a woman?
What is a woman?