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 GroundEthical 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?”

The Invitation:
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?

…called to be a hospice-worker to what is dying, midwife to what is waiting to be born…

On the homepage of this site, these words declare what I believe to be one of the most important tasks of our time. Following the thread of my last post, I want to look at what being a hospice-worker for our species and our planet might mean.

When my mother was dying at home with the aid of Hospice, my family members all had different ways of dealing with it. Some disappeared, some got drunk, some got religion, and some retreated behind a stony, affect-less wall. I settled into a paralysis of grief, denial, and powerlessness: I waited and I watched, I watched and I waited. All alone with her in her last hours, I waited and I watched. I had never been in the presence of a dying person before. I did not know how to be there for her and in the end I felt I failed her.

If I am to embrace the possibility that Mother Earth is becoming unable to support life, how can I be there for her? How can I be there for ALL my relations?

This story, perhaps, offers a clue. It is from the book “The Hope – A Guide to Sacred Activism” by Andrew Harvey (page xix.)

A beggar had been begging for days in a small dusty town without much success. Then, suddenly, he saw in the distance the golden chariot of the King appear. He started to dance for joy because his hopes rose high and he believed all dark days would soon be over. The King would throw him alms and wealth would gleam all around him in the dust. The King, however, confounded all his expectations by stopping the chariot and asking him what seemed to him like an outrageous question: “What have you got to give me?” The beggar thought it was some kind of incomprehensible, even mad, joke. What could he, a beggar, have to give to the One who had everything? Gingerly, with some reluctance, and a little stunned, the beggar took one tiny little grain of corn out of the small bag he always carried with him to munch on. When at day’s end he came to empty the bag out on the floor of his hut, he found, to his great surprise, that one of the grains of corn had turned to gold. And the beggar wept and wished that he had had the heart and passion and wisdom to give the King everything.

I know in my heart that I didn’t fail my dying mother. Because of my fear and grief and ignorance, however, I didn’t give her everything. I watched and I waited and I did my best to take care of her. But out of my fear and grief and ignorance, I did it for me. I didn’t want to lose my Mom. I wanted her to get better. I wanted all the dark days to soon be over. I didn’t grasp the opportunities that were possible for transformation.

My Mother Earth is dying. It’s possible she might go into remission. It’s possible that she might have a miraculous recovery. And it’s possible she won’t. How can I be there for her and for all beings through whatever transitions lie ahead? How can I give them my everything?

In Kathleen Dowling Singh‘s book “The Grace in Dying” she describes what she has named the “qualities of the nearing death experience.” I studied what I gleaned to be the essence of these qualities to see if they held any clues as to “how to be there” and “give my everything.” Indeed, I feel they are qualities of a profound spiritual journey of transformation that are relevant in all stages of life and death, personal and planetary. Meditate on them for a while. Tell me what you think.

The Quality Of Relaxation
an end of struggle, a letting go, “the emptying of self into the fullness of life.”

The Quality Of Withdrawal
a detachment from all but that which is most precious, in a way that is positive, purposeful, and transforming.

The Quality Of Radiance
an inner illumination, the experience of being filled with light.

The Quality Of Interiority
an accessing of the deeply interior space where creation is unfolding; a threshold or “liminal” experience.

The Quality Of Silence
much communication is beyond words; if there is communication, it is essential and deep, often symbolic or metaphoric, pointing toward the ineffable.

The Quality Of The Sacred
a feeling of entering holy ground; awareness moves closer and closer in to the great mystery.

The Quality Of Transcendence
development of a consciousness beyond the personal self; a transpersonal consciousness.

The Quality Of Knowing
becoming part of something vast; a recognition of the need to experience death so that the next experience might be begun.

The Quality Of Intensity
energy field opens, enlarges, intensifies; rises through the chakras.

The Quality Of Merging
an end of separation, a cessation of duality.

The Quality Of Experienced Perfection
a sense that this experience is right, fitting and just; complete appropriateness and absolute safety.

What would happen if I really let myself journey into the realms of death: of our species, of other species, of our planet, of all our human potential for beauty, creativity, compassion, evolution? What if I really opened my heart to this realm, to this possibility? What if I named such a journey sacred, a pilgrimage? What, then, could my living be like?

What if our planetary demise became my default scenario while always allowing for other possibilities? Because surely I believe that anything is possible. Yet, what if I embraced this default, again, as a sacred journey rather than a fearful, egoistic apocalypse – which is the story my culture would have me believe? This is not such a fanciful notion. Many spiritual and wisdom traditions see death as a great teacher and innovator. I know when I try to deny the possibility of planetary death, I feel stuck, limited, small. My heart feels closed and ironically dis-empowered.

I see our earth in great distress. I see us killing her with every mountaintop removal, every clear cut, every fracking, every oil well and tar sands extraction, every mine, every monoculture, every toxin we put into the air/soil/water/seed. We are killing ourselves. We are killing our bodies, minds and spirits with every war, every act of violence, every act of injustice, every act of arrogance and separation.

Clearly I see the planet and our human sensibilities as dying, but are they dead? Are they mostly dead? Soon to be dead? Even now I keep hearing reports that we have fifty years (twenty-five, ten, five) to change things around before we have reached irretrievable overshoot. Some suggest that we already have.

So it comes around full circle. I feel that a critical component of our planet-time is the willingness to face death, a death far more challenging, most likely, to grasp and accept than that of our own. The question is, accepting this, embracing this, what is the call? How does one answer the call? How goes the journey? Where is the gift?

I would like to share this story by Michael Meade from his book “The World Behind the World – Living at the Ends of Time.”

“Run Towards the Roar”

“As fears about the world accumulate and terrors abound, I often recall an old African teaching about fear. On the ancient savannahs life pours forth in the form of teeming, feeding herds. Nearby, lions wait in anticipation of the hunt. They send the oldest and weakest member of the pride away from the hunting pack. Having lost most of its teeth, its roar is far greater than its ability to bite. The old one goes off and settles in the grass across from where the hungry lions wait.

As the herds enter the area between the hunting pack and the old lion it begins to roar mightily. Upon hearing the fearful roar most of the herd turn and flee from the source of the fear. They run wildly in the opposite direction. Of course, they run right to where the strongest lions of the group wait in the tall grass for dinner to arrive. ‘Run toward the roar,’ the old people used to tell the young ones. When faced with great danger run towards the roaring, for there you will find some safety and a way through.”

To embrace this time of the Great Turning is to truly be immersed in messiness. To be sure, I feel my life and Being Change shapeshifting almost daily.

To be honest, I have been feeling some anxiety about not posting to this blog in a while. But I have just emerged from my most recent shapeshift – a time of deep inner process work that has been nothing less than profound. I welcome this profundity, this intensity, this depth, and I am gratefully (and mostly) unapologetic for my messiness.

Still, it’s tempting to feel like a life or a work is a failure if it doesn’t fit in the old, rigid constructs of timeliness or perfection. I must remind myself that these constructs are limiting and dis-empowering. Being a pioneer is messy. Being in the unknown is messy. What messiness is, really, in the context of this dying culture, is the willingness to stop, look and listen: to see, to feel, to wonder, to be courageous and creative, to be open to possibilities, to evolve. And surely to let go of any arbitrary sense of worthiness or success.

My original intention for this Being Change blog was (and is) to share with you my journey through the Great Turning. I cherish this journey and I value you, my co-pioneer. Being messy together is assuredly part of the bargain. There is sacredness there, don’t you think?

Siren’s Song

It is one of those dreams that

leaves you on a threshold

surrounded by mystery,

straining to hear voices, catch glimpses of

patterns and meaning.

And the dreamworld continues on

(but where?)

leaving you reflecting, as if

on a memory.

But not a memory. More

like movement in the

corner of your mind or

a calling encoded behind the

lids of your eyes.

You ask, how can I know

what is real, while

your ever-patient soul

jostles your heart with its


The dreamworld continues on, retreating

beyond your reach and

you fail in your

efforts to follow.

But what! What

eludes you? The laughter haunts,

tempts like a Siren’s song:

“Wake Up. Wake up and remember

who you are.”

Phebe AllenGustafson

Use with permission only.

Two months later – it’s time to recommit to posting every week. But I haven’t been idle.

I realize that I don’t want to dream small. I realize I want to give my best shot to making a Being Change Center a reality. So, I’ve been spending my time of late crafting an in-depth proposal, fleshing out what that might look like, what that might entail.

It’s amazing how clear my vision actually is. I know precisely what spaces I want, what purposes I want them to fulfill, what opportunities I could offer – basically, how it could be an awesome, co-creative, visionary, energetic field for transformation and conscious evolution. How lofty and bodacious is that!?

As I pursue this lofty, bodacious dream, I keep in mind that there are ways to fulfill the intent and possibilities of the Center – without the Center. And I will look for opportunities to do so. But the idea of a dedicated space for this growing Being Change community – a place where people can gather together to learn about, contemplate, explore, and play with the idea of what it would mean to co-create a new story… Ahhhh, I want to be there, don’t you?

I hope to soon have a new page on this site that will contain this evolving proposal and I will welcome all feedback and offers of help. But don’t wait! If you have any ideas you want to share, contact me any time.

There has been a great deal in the news lately about the unrestrained misogyny coming from pundits, popes and politicians. Yes, I’m disgusted and outraged and I could say so much about that. But underneath it all, I’m left with a profound and weary sadness. I could say so much about that as well. But underneath that remains the truth and the beauty of the sacred Feminine that is still very much alive and so necessary in this time of the Great Turning. It’s important to understand the reasons behind our culture’s fear and denigration of the Feminine but this is not my intention today. My intention is to say no to misogyny, to explore a different perspective, and to align with love, compassion, and peace:

And finally, “In These Arms: A Song For All Beings” – What I would want to hold in my heart when I’m overwhelmed by the fear and violence of the world.

In my last post I talked about an important role for certain human beings to especially find it in themselves to fulfill in service of the Great Turning, a role some have described as a “non-anxious presence” or “frequency holder.” I have since discovered another term: that of “subtle activist.” The following is from the GaiaField Project – a project of the California Institute of Integral Studies. This really describes the essence of the role I was envisioning:

Subtle activists are people from any faith, spiritual or consciousness tradition who apply their practice for the benefit of the collective public realm. A subtle activism practice influences social change through the inner or subtle planes, rather than through conventional exterior means. We seek to support change through our focused collective intention and the depth and quality of our being, rather than our outer actions. However we do not believe that subtle activism, on its own, can solve all the world’s problems, any more than a meditation practice, on its own, is sufficient to solve all our personal problems. Action in the world is of course also necessary. Subtle activism simply expands the range of options open to an awakened activist. Subtle activism practices can be:

  • religious or spiritual – e.g., meditation, prayer, chanting, and so on;

  • indigenous ceremonies and ritual;

  • science-based consciousness programs – e.g., Heartmath’s heart appreciation exercises;

  • expressive arts – e.g., conscious media, ecstatic dance (like Earthdance), contemplative music, etc; and

  • relational/process-oriented – e.g., healing aspects of our collective shadow, such as gender or racial reconciliation workshops.

Subtle activists focus on collective healing, which includes and transcends personal healing.

I feel this coincides well with Joanna Macy’s third dimension of the Great Turning – the shift in consciousness. (See my previous post.)  Some of the points worth noting are:

Some people are particularly called to this form of activism;

Focused intention and presence are as powerful and empowering as outer actions;

Focused intention and presence and action are not mutually exclusive;

The breadth of the practices of subtle activism are rich in diversity, possibility, and creativity;

Subtle activism includes both personal and collective healing and transformation;

Subtle activism is especially powerful when practiced with others, forming a field of intention around whatever we want to create: peace, compassion, healing, conscious evolution…

I invite you to take some time to meditate on the concept of subtle activism. How does it resonate with you? Where do you practice it in you own life? How do you balance it with outer actions?