This video moved me to my core. It felt like a calling so deep and profound that my very cells and bones resonated. Took away breath, made tears flow, heart wide open.
Men: watch with your women.
Recently I had some of my huge, crazy impossible questions.
What if hundreds, thousands, millions of women Just Said No to everything that does not serve life and the welfare of all beings? What if we said No to war, abuse, hunger, violence against and destruction of others and the Earth? What if we said No to the Monsantos, Nestles, and Exxons of the world? What if enough women did this we could shut it all down, turn it around, and work to say Yes to love, compassion, beauty, peace, cooperation, creativity, health and healing? What if we brought back to the forefront heart, soul, and spirit, ceremony, indigenous mind and a deep, experiential relationship with Nature?
Of course there are many women doing just that, but what if we put all our efforts and energies into making Yes our priority over everything else? For some, even over our jobs, even our families, even our comfort zones, our safety, our fears. What if our future depended on it?
And, of course, there are many women doing just that.
When I started asking these questions, things began coming my way: stories about the Wild Woman, the Divine Feminine, the Sacred Mother, powerful female archetypes from all over the world and across time representing a fiercely protective, regenerative energy for all of life. This is an energy we must embody and manifest in any outrageous way possible and what if, as many voices are asserting, it is the unique role of wild women to lead the way?
I want to be one of those women. I want to create relationships with other such women. I want to create relationships with men who resonate, who carry that archetypal energy in their own hearts. I want to share these people, and how they’re embodying this energy to witness to and transform the world, with you. Let’s walk this road together for a while and see what emerges. I would ask that whenever a person or project particularly resonates with you, get involved! Help them out. Contribute to the YES. Then share your experiences with me; it may end up as the next blog post.
So let’s start with Margaret Klein Salamon. If she isn’t a bodacious Wild Woman, I don’t know who is. She wants nothing less than to mobilize the Planet to “confront the climate crisis” and turn it around. An impossibly insane attempt to midwife a new world. Right? Take a look and send me your thoughts.
I am interested in being able to stay
in the midst of this terrible travesty
that degrades the human spirit
or denies we have one
caught on the balance beam of
meaningful work and terrifying times
I want to walk steady in the world
learning what balance feels like…”
I have been on a virtual walkabout for a while now, searching for “a community of people intent on doing good work, trying to keep their hearts open, wanting to make a meaningful contribution, aspiring to stay and be of service even as situations become increasingly more difficult and disheartening.”*
I have found that there are many such people out there; I want to start introducing them and sharing their stories in these pages. Who are these people searching for ways to balance being “fully engaged with the world with an open, breaking heart?”* Who are these living examples of Edgewalkers: hospice workers to what is dying and midwives to what is wanting to be born?
Margaret Wheatley has made a career in pursuing the question “Who do we choose to be in service to this time?” More than a career, I would say, but a spiritual journey, a quest. One that she has clearly put her heart and soul into for many years.
She has written and spoken extensively on how we degrade the human spirit when we devolve into fear and violence and self-interest, on how we have forgotten who we are and our “great human capacities of generosity, caring and creativity.”* She asks over and over: how do we persevere in bringing forth the very best of our human capabilities – despite the formidable tides pushing against us? How do we not succumb to exhaustion and despair?
Her answer to these questions was to name herself a Warrior for the Human Spirit.
She defines “warrior,” in this context, as “simply a decent human being who aspires to be of service in an indecent, inhumane time. We want to be of service without adding to the confusion, aggression and fear now so prevalent (in our world.) In Tibetan, the word for Warrior, Pawo, means one who is brave, brave enough to never resort to aggression or fear to accomplish their purposes.”*
This, she says, is what she wants to spend the rest of her life pursuing. And she wants company. So she created the year-long “Training as Warriors for the Human Spirit.”
“This Training is designed to form our identity as Warriors for the Human Spirit, provide us with the skills required of this role, and create a strong and supportive community of companions whom we can rely on far into the future. This new identity either will strengthen us to do our present work or support our discernment to find new work. Wherever we choose to use our Warrior skills, we will remain actively engaged in the world, supported by new capacities and a strong community, in dedicated service to the human spirit.”* Take a moment to learn more here.
The first cohort is just beginning, assuming she got a critical mass to make it a go. It’s a huge commitment in time and money for many, but I have a friend who signed up so I can get the inside scoop as it progresses.
Bottom line, this is an incredibly brave and beautiful effort on behalf of all beings and the Earth, and an example of someone walking their talk or, as Rilke said, living the questions. I encourage all of us to take being a warrior for the human spirit to heart and ask ourselves how we can embody this in our own lives. Margaret, I wish you the very best.
“…and the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now. Perhaps then,
someday far in the future, you will gradually,
without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke “Letters To A Young Poet”
* From Margaret’s web site
I have been silent for a while – again. I have been grappling with some very deep and challenging stuff – still.
I have been “stuck between the impossible and the unthinkable”* and it has been trying hard to render me speechless.
Clearly, sometimes succeeding.
The “unthinkable,” to paraphrase David Roberts, is the future into which we are heading if we continue on our current path – especially regarding “the brutal logic of climate change”.
The “impossible” refers to what appear to be insurmountable “forces that retard or prevent (necessary) change.”
In other words, the ultimate rock and hard place.
I’ve been pondering this for some time and I am finding that “between” is vast and it is timeless; it conjures up soul and presence and healing and possibility. It implies mystery and awe, and energy, and creation….
I have been pursuing for years the question of how we are being called as human beings in this planet-time. I think there are clues in the “between” if we can free ourselves enough from the impossible and the unthinkable to discern them.
A key, for me, is “essence.” What is essentially mine to seek, to know, to give? What is uniquely mine to live? What will empower me to not give up on life, on the future, on the mystery, no matter what? “There may be no better time to learn the inner story that our souls carry and find the ways we are intended to be in this world of uncertainty.” **
The BeingChange mission is, essentially, to bring together people who feel this call to discover and live their soul story in service of the Great Turning. This year I will be searching for more and better ways to make this mission a reality. I invite you to join me in whatever way you can.
* From “Hope and Fellowship” by David Roberts
The following link takes you to the article and a Ted Talk by David called “Climate Change is Simple.”
If the link doesn’t work, email me and I’ll send you a copy of the article.
** From “Fate and Destiny – The Two Agreements of the Soul” by Michael Meade (pg. 9)
Photo by George Hodan
I think I’ve been afraid to speak my deepest truth. Especially since, when I have, it hasn’t been well received. People don’t want to talk about changing and dying, even though that is the nature of all things, even though changing and dying can lead to healing and initiation and rebirth. And even though I believe with all my heart that being able to talk about changing and dying is profoundly necessary for guiding us into the future.
Consider this from The WorldWe Have by Thich Nhat Hanh: “The wisdom offered in the Buddha is that we accept impermanence – our own death and the inevitable death of our civilization. And after having accepted that, we will have peace and strength and an awakening that will bring us together. Then we will have the opportunity…to save our beloved planet.” (pg. 56)
Or this from Coming Back To Life by Joanna Macy: “Pain is the price of consciousness in a threatened and suffering world. It is not only natural, it is an absolutely necessary component of our collective healing…Pain has a purpose: it is a warning signal, designed to trigger remedial action. The problem, therefore, lies not with our pain for the world, but in our repression of it. Our efforts to dodge or dull it surrender us to futility – or in systems’ terms, cut the feedback loop and block effective response.” (pg. 27)
In The Green Boat – Reviving Ourselves In Our Capsized Culture, Mary Pipher talks about the Trauma-To-Transcendence Cycle – a process which “requires us to face the truth, feel the pain of (our) experience, and ultimately transform that pain into action and authenticity. As we move through this cycle, we can acquire the skills we need to overcome our sense of doom and discover our own capacities for transcendent coping…we can find deep within ourselves new strength, deeper courage, and an enriched capacity to love the world.” (pg. 4)
In So Far From Home – Lost and Found In Our Brave New World, Margaret Wheatley writes: “If we fully accept the world as it is – in all its harsh realities – then we can develop the very qualities we need to be in that world and not succumb to that harshness. We find our courage, morality, and gentle, non-aggressive actions by clear seeing and acceptance. As we accept what is, we become people who stand in contrast to what is, freed from the aggression, grasping and confusion of this time. With that clarity, we can contribute things of eternal importance no matter what’s going on around us – how to live exercising our best human qualities, and how to support others to discover these qualities in themselves.” (pg. 11)
Mary Pipher, in another of her books – Writing To Change the World – tells this story:
In September 2003, when I was fifty-five years old, I visited the Holocaust Museum, in Washington, D.C., to view the Anne Frank exhibit. I looked at the cover of her little plaid diary, and at pages of her writing, at her family pictures. Meip Gies, Otto Frank’s employee, who brought food to the family, spoke on video about the people who hid in the attic. She said that Anne had always wanted to know the truth about what was going on. Others would believe the sugar-coated version of Miep’s stories, but Anne would follow her to the door and ask, “What is really happening.?”
Even though Anne Frank ultimately was murdered, she managed (through her writings), in her brief and circumscribed life, to tell the truth and bequeath the gift of hope. She searched for beauty and joy even in the harsh, frightened world of the attic in which her family hid from the Nazis. Her writing lived on to give us all a sense of the potential largesse of the human soul, even in worst-case scenarios. (pg. 20)
We are now facing a potential “Worst-case Scenario.” If pain is the price of consciousness in a threatened and suffering world then perhaps these are the gifts: peace and strength and an awakening that will bring us together…new strength, deeper courage, and an enriched capacity to love the world…(becoming) people who stand in contrast to what is, freed from the aggression, grasping and confusion of this time… the potential largesse of the human soul….
Is it possible? It sounds so compelling I’m willing to go there. And it looks like I’m in good company.
*In the dark times, will there be singing?
Yes. There will be singing about the dark times.
– Bertolt Brecht
Bill Plotkin continues to be, in my mind, one of the most important people on the planet – his work is that innovative, that necessary, and that potentially transformational. I feel moved to give him yet another mention in this blog.
Bill has written three books and, while each can stand alone as a brilliant contribution to evolving humans and restoring the planet, combined they offer a template for human/nature healing and wholing that is of truly epic proportions.
Creating the context for the other two books, Nature and the Human Soul “introduces a visionary ecopsychology of human development that reveals how fully and creatively we can mature when soul and wild nature guide us.”* Humanity needs to grow up and out of its current stage of (pathological!) adolescence, and in this volume Bill “presents a model for a human life span rooted in the cycles and qualities of the natural world, a blueprint for individual development that ultimately yields a strategy for cultural transformation.”
Soulcraft “is a trail guide for the mystical descent into the underworld of soul: what the descent is, why it is necessary, how to recognize the call to descend, how to prepare for the descent, what the process looks and feels like, and what practices initiate and accelerate the descent and maximizes the soul-quickening benefits of the journey.” This is a process that is sorely missing from modern day culture with devastating consequences.
In Wild Mind we discover that “our human psyches possess astonishing resources that wait within us, but we might not even know they exist until we discover how to access them and cultivate their powers, their untapped potentials and depths.” It shows us that “the key to reclaiming our original wholeness…is to fully embody our multifaceted wild minds, commit ourselves to the largest, soul-infused story we’re capable of living, and serve the greater Earth community.”
These three volumes embody a hero’s journey of initiation into our fullest human potential and a truly interdependent relationship with the natural world. They are beautifully written, deeply heartfelt and infused with decades of scholarship and the wisdom of experience. I hope you read them and then read them again. You can learn more about Bill, his books, and the Animas Valley Institute here.
* Quotes are taken from the books. I could not have said it better.
“For a year, a dear friend and I regularly visited several animals, a polar bear, a gorilla and several elephants incarcerated in the Los Angeles Zoo, an hour’s drive for us. Billy, the elephant, had evident PTSD, swaying back and forth endlessly, listlessly; no matter how hard we tried, we could never indicate our presence to him though we hoped, over time, we might make a difference. There was, in contrast to what is said here (note: in the previous post), little left of him, but that is exactly why we tried as best as we could to reach him. The polar bear, Dreamer, never noticed either. But, the gorilla, that we called Miko, did notice and we bonded over the weeks. He engaged us in elaborate games of recognition and it seemed that for at least an hour he was relieved of his terrible isolation and confinement where he was also subjected to the on-going taunts of most of the human visitors.
The two female elephants who were friends and companions, and then Dreamer and Miko died within months of each other. We don’t know why Dreamer died. One of the elephants was sent to another facility, and her friend languished here. When the friend was finally returned, it was too late. Her friend died and she died soon afterwards. Heartbreak is a real disease. As real and terrible as trauma. Miko was sent to another facility as well — to be a breeder. He died within a few short months.
I just finished a novel where one of the main characters survived the loss of a breast to cancer.
One day her granddaughter happened upon her in the bath, seeing the “still angry and red puckered flesh” where her breast had been.
“You notice that something’s different about me,” my grandmother said.
I nodded. I did not have the words, at that age, to explain what I wasn’t seeing, but I understood that it was not what should have been. I pointed to the wound. “It’s missing,” I said.
My grandmother smiled, and that was all it took for me to stop seeing the scar, and to recognize her again.
“Yes,” she said. “But see how much of me is left?” (1)
I’ve been trying to come to terms with what I believe is the reality of Bill McKibben’s assertion that “the chance that we will in fact leave to the future a world at least as rich in possibilities as the world that was left to us is nil. As in, not going to happen.”(2) That the world has changed in ways that can never be recovered. And that there’s actually nothing I can do about it. I have to accept it; I have to let it go.
Yes, says Grandmother. But look how much of me is left.
But I can’t let it go. It’s unacceptable. It’s unbearable. All I can see is the scar. To see otherwise feels like a betrayal, giving in. Giving up. Yet, is it a betrayal to let go of something that’s gone? Should it be mourned? Yes. Should it be remembered? Absolutely, in intricate detail, so our future generations will know what they aren’t seeing.
But what about that which is still left and which is still rapidly disappearing? How do I stop seeing only the scar and recognize my grandmother again? “Once something’s spoiled, it’s easier to throw up your hands and walk away, which will be the great temptation for us,” says McKibben.(3) Indeed, I have been so tempted. So tempted.
But I remember a quote by Julia Butterfly Hill that went like this:
“If you’re the only person left, as long as your hope is committed in action, then hope is alive in the world.” As long as any of us keep love, compassion, beauty, peace, the sacred…alive in our hearts and we do not walk away from that which is “damaged”, then these will remain alive in the world. And if enough of us can do this, maybe the cancer will stop spreading.
This is a poster of Deena Metzger whose work I often cite. It is available for purchase on her web site. She transformed her scar into a winding branch with leaves, grapes, and a bird. Photo is by Hella Hammid.
¹Jodi Picoult – “The Storyteller” pg. 365
²Bill McKibben – Essay “Something Braver Than Trying to Save the World” in Moral Ground – Ethical Action For a Planet in Peril, pg.175. Kathleen Dean Moore & Michael P. Nelson,eds.
³Ibid. Also see his book “eaarth – Making a Life on a Tough New Planet”
…make assisting the Great Turning my priority over everything else.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been making a list of what I imagine are essential tasks humanity must take on to heal, evolve, and to restore our planet. This is my way of even beginning to discern how to move through the uncertainty and complexity of our world today. I wanted something around which I could set my personal intentions for how to be and what to do, and then let everything else go. My bottom-line essential task, which encompasses all the others I’ve come up with so far, is to make assisting the Great Turning my priority over everything else.
What else makes sense?
Everything from Nobel Prize winning scientists to indigenous prophecy to our own deepest knowing tells us that we are being called to a hero’s journey of epic proportions. Refusal of that call is not an option yet we all do it to some measure, and some far more than others. Despite our best efforts, and for many reasons, no one I know of is completely free from the gravitational pull of the old paradigm. We live between two worlds and I keep asking myself: what WILL free us – what will free ME – to follow the call as if all life depended on it which, of course, it does.
How do we begin to make assisting the Great Turning our priority over everything else? My bottom line: we have to grow up. Or, as Bill Plotkin puts it in his brilliant book “Nature and the Human Soul,” we need to become authentic, initiated adults and (re)create authentic, initiated cultures with respect for the already quite authentic Earth. Duane Elgin conducted a survey where an overwhelming amount of responses placed the developmental age of our human race at adolescence, and a dysfunctional adolescence at that. I think this is an apt analogy in many, many ways.
And how do we begin to grow up? We heed the call and step over the threshold. Imagining what that might look like is what BeingChange is about and I will be exploring all this and more. Every person’s journey is unique of course and I want to hear all about yours. Here’s a preview of some of what is on my “road of trials” – the series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation:
Healing my addictions.
Doing the despair and empowerment work, learning to keep my heart open under any circumstances.
Making the descent into soul.
Placing myself within the larger contexts of nature and cosmos.
Practicing spiritual activism.
Discovering and doing my “true work” in the world.
What can you imagine are some of yours?
The following is an invitation I sent out to my EcoVillage community. I wanted to share it so that if you are in the Ithaca area, you might join us. If you are from afar, you may wish to gather to contemplate these questions with a community of your own:
December 21st, 2012 marks the end of the Mayan calendar, and the beginning of a new era. We have no way of knowing what this new age holds for us, but one thing is clear: we are living in a time unlike any other. Much has been made in the media about the apocalyptic end-times they claim the era represents. While much is hopefully and necessarily ending, the Maya also prophecized that it would be a time full of potential and opportunity for people to live one of the most meaningful lives in history. A time for significant change and very much dependent on the choices we make as a human species and our willingness to evolve beyond our present capabilities.
Deena Metzger, an elder of great wisdom, heart, and soul writes:
“The ancient Maya identified a place in the Milky Way that was, for them, the place of birth and death. Individual lives, tribal life and the cosmos were intrinsically connected to it.
And as it happens, the place they identified is the dark hole around which our solar system circles, is the dark hole from which the solar system and so all known life, all our lives emerged.
And as it happens, our very sun, around which we circle, will be, with other planets, in a direct alignment with this dark hole, this place of birth and death, the heart of the universe, at 6:12 am (est) on December 21st. The light of the sun aligned with the dark at the center.
Or so it is said.
…How will we meet the Heart of the Universe? How will we step out of our involvement and enchantment with the details of our own little lives, the bloody sacrificial altar to which we have been relentlessly bringing the earth, so as to meet this sacred challenge, the great possibility of our collective and community lives?”
I’m going to spend Thursday, Friday and Saturday (the 20th, 21st, and 22nd) deeply contemplating these questions. For those of you who really know me, you know that’s all I EVER do but I especially want to honor these dates. On the evenings of those dates I will offer my home as a space where you can join me in this deep contemplation in a safe and sacred atmosphere. Depending on who shows up this might include meditating, sounding, journaling, circling, journeying – whatever emerges. People can come and go as they wish; however less interruptions is far better. Feel free to invite anyone you think might be interested. I will not put out any reminders. It will be what it will be.
Thursday will begin at 7:30 and the focus will be on releasing whatever does not serve “this sacred challenge, this great possibility….” What might that look like?
Friday morning, at 6:00 a.m., I will be on the sauna deck for a 15 minute meditation on gratitude for the great mystery and this gift called life.
Friday evening, at 7:30, the focus will be on opening to “the heart of the Universe.” Putting aside all personal agendas or outcomes, “the Universe” is speaking. What is she saying?
Saturday will begin as soon as the winter spiral is over. The focus will be what, then, might it be calling me/us to?