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Under the Veil With My Tender Heart

There is a tendency inside of me to feel responsible for the world, responsible for the well-being of others. If I can see someone suffering, if I can feel the presence of sorrow, if I can recognize that injustice or unfairness or cruelty is happening, I feel a sense of responsibility to “do something” — I am able to respond, response-able, and thus a feeling arises in me that it is my obligation to act. Easily I can deny my own feelings or needs, ignore internal voices that are looking out for my own well-being, and invest all of my energy into this perceived need that I see “out there” in another person or situation. Or… if I choose not to act, I can get caught in a spiral of guilt, fear, worry and concern that my actions or lack of actions are causing further harm to another. I can completely exhaust and deplete myself with these tendencies, with this inclination to jump out of my own skin and over-prioritize my perception of the needs of others. I used to think this pattern in me was compassion. I am growing in my ability to see that it is actually an unhealthy habit that is self-centered, toxic, and codependent behavior.

This year I have invested a great deal of energy and attention into my own healing. I am growing in my ability to stay rooted in myself, listening to my own body and my own needs while also sensing what is going on around me and with others. I’m making choices about how to act that keep my well-being in the equation and aren’t reactions to some self-imposed mandate. I am learning how to not give more than I have and how to not act from a place of pity, guilt, or that unhealthy flavor of “you have to…”. Often I am still confused when discerning between healthy human family obligations and unhealthy codependent perceived obligations. This is one of my learning journeys. And I feel my boundaries and discernment ripening.

My Mid-Life Labyrinth

This has been a huge focus of the 40th year of my life. I was initiated into my 40’s with a powerful and sacred full solar eclipse that moved me to my core, returned me to my core, spun magic and awe and love all around me, and tossed me into life like a shooting star, aware of my trail of light and clear that I was on this journey with many other light beings. I was hopeful for the alignment that would unfold in me in the coming year. I had dreams of me glowing in my body, strong in my big-hearted, bright-eyed, wise sense of self, and vibrant with the flow of connections weaving between me, the people I love, the places I live, and the work in the world I am doing. I was committed to this journey… as I often am at the beginning of a cycle.

As I near completing another spin around the sun, reflecting on where I am now and where my soul and psyche have traveled this past year, it seems like I’ve been walking my mid-life labyrinth. I’ve had stretches of joy and celebration where I feel aligned and focused, and I’ve had stretches of depression and darkness where the sparkle in life has faded and the depths of personal and societal work has drained me. It’s been both an orienting and disorienting year.

Today I find myself in a familiar and yet possibly an unfamiliar place. There is a dark and shadowy pit of insecurity, self-doubt, stories of inadequacy and lack, and beliefs of scarcity that I know all too well that is close by. A magnet that pulls at me, whispers tales of failure and self-deprecation, and fills me with dark, negative images of myself. So much energy is required to counterbalance this force. As I said, it’s familiar. Yet today I find myself thinking that perhaps it’s a situation of “two steps forward, one step back.” I imagine the terrain I travel is a spiral, spinning towards wholeness, evolving and devolving on a windy road that ultimately takes me home to myself and my purpose. I know that I am aligned with my North Star and the universe gives me signs, though I don’t always understand them. This latest return to the shadows has arrived after an incredibly intense gift from the most holy.

Divinely Protected

Two weeks ago I felt the most divinely protected that I have in a long time. Driving 70 miles on the highway, in a state of bliss and celebration as I traveled to experience a birthday gift I’d bought myself, tickets to see Janelle Monae in Charlotte. I lost control of my car, skid for 384 feet (longer than a football field), spun around, hit the guardrail, skid backwards another 61 feet, and stopped on the right hand side of the road, snug against the guardrail, facing oncoming traffic. Once the car was stopped, the clearest memory for me is the perception of, “Holy shit. I think I’m okay. I know I’m in shock, so don’t believe my thoughts. But I really think I’m okay. I am protected. Gratitude.” I recall the moment of heading straight for the guardrail, recognizing that “this could be it,” feeling a sense that I may die or be seriously damaged by the impact about to take place. Then the next thing I remember is the car stopping and my recognition that I think I’m okay.

The highest priority for me this last year has been my spiritual practice: Deepening my sense of faith and trust, strengthening my partnership with forces unseen, settling into myself, breath, acceptance and finding new connections and life-threads. I always pray before leaving for trips, but that day my prayers lasted longer than expected. I imagined it was because of the goodness of the gift of my pleasure and joy I was giving myself for my birthday. I did not realize it was genuinely connected to the gift of life that was being given to me.

The Drive to Keep Going

Thanks to my dearest friend and family who drove out to meet me, check-in that I was really okay, and swapped cars with me, I still went and danced and glowed with Janelle Monae and another dear friend and family. With only mild pain in my neck and head and a couple of commitments that I felt I needed to keep, I “pushed through” for another week… mildly listening to my body. One week after the incident, I had time to pause and stop, to recognize that I actually needed a lot more of that, likely had a mild concussion, needed rest and restoration, and so slowed way down.

And then… the shadow cloud moved in. I had been feeling that I was taking steps forward in many areas of my life, but that I was just on the edge. It was requiring a lot of effort to keep the hustle moving forward. With this mandate to slow down and listen to an aching body that also needed to rest and go slow, doubts and uncertainties and stories of “see what you’re NOT doing, see how you’re NOT living the world you dream of, see how you haven’t brought to life what you’ve been working towards” came flooding in.

I Am a Work in Progress

So I’m in a familiar place, and I’m not. Tears return with a smile right now. I still have so much to learn in regards to how to genuinely listen to myself, listen to and nourish my body, trust in the patterns and cycles of the universe, and show up for my purpose here on this Earth in ways that are enlivening for the world around me and the world within me. Once again, my body is speaking to me and it feels like a foreign language… clearly a language meant to reach me, but one I’m not sure how to understand. Once again, she says, “I get that this is hard for you, and you must give it your attention.

And while the dark shadow threatens to cloud my view, I recognize it for what it is. I see it’s familiar neural pathways in my existence, and I also have the strength and insight to not indulge it (or catch myself when I am). A taste of its presence comes accompanied with the reminder that this is a habit, pattern, it’s familiar and not the full truth. I am so much more than the stories it whispers to me. I can recognize its presence and yet not indulge its desire to settle into me. I can feel that it is close while also staying connected to life-giving sources that nourish and inspire me, that allow me to dance with the sparkle in life, I do not have to be shaded by life-draining habits of my psychology.

So, here I am, walking vulnerably on this path of life. Marveling at the labyrinth of the year I was 40 and curious about where I am going on this journey, which souls I will partner with as I continue to live forward my purpose, and what we will bring to life. I am so grateful for those who are on the journey with me now, living and weaving love to the fullest of our capacities. Thank you for reading my tender storytelling and heart sharing. And if it feels right for you, please join me in offering a prayer for me and for you — May we shine with the light of our souls, radiant in and devoted to our purpose here on Earth, loved, supported, protected, and divinely guided. Thank you.

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Turning Inward

UnderEarth

Right now I’m under my brown earth blanket with 3 journals open, reflecting on life, what I’m learning, this year, these last 3 years… synthesizing, drawing pictures, conjuring… cozy and incredibly grateful for this season of slowing down and turning inward.

Photo source

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Which America Do You See?

“I never knew. This isn’t the America I thought it was. It hadn’t touched me personally.”

I hear these kinds of comments a lot lately, about so many different aspects of this country. I’ve said these words myself. If you are feeling this way, may you find the courage to stay connected to the shock, horror and overwhelm so that you can actually act to address the causes and effects of the truths you are waking up to. We need you active, not deflated.

To those of you who have for generations been dealing with these realities and dedicating your lives and those of your ancestors towards changing the tides… thank you. Humanity is indebted to you. May enough of us join you to actually make a difference in the lives of those living now and future generations.

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Rosh Hashanah and Being Alert to the Raw Truths

Yesterday was Rosh Hashanah. Thanks to Phyllis Utley I was able to attend services. The Rabbi spoke of the symbolism of blowing the shofar (a ram’s horn). Its sound is raw and piercing. It sounds pained, like crying. It is also a triumphant sound of joy and celebration.

She told us that it’s meant to remind us to pay attention and be alert to the raw truths happening around us. To listen to people when they tell their own stories.

To hear the cries of those who are suffering. To hear the mothers wailing for their lost children, even if their children are your enemy.

In her sermon, she connected this to the need for us to hear the declarations that Black Lives Matter and the accounts of how Palestinian people are suffering. We must listen to their stories in their own words. We must allow ourselves to hear and feel their cries.

I had thought I would write more about this sermon, but life took another turn. Here is a letter that she read fully during her sermon.

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Indigenous Peoples – Keepers of the Library of How to Be Here on This Mother Earth

A very powerful account of the significance of what has already happened in this Indigenous peoples led movement, history that has been made. So much has been accomplished. So much to learn from this moment… and to apply to the other areas where resistance and courage in the name of peace and Life is needed. How prayer and nonviolent direct action and profound stepping in to support and stand up for one another and for the life of Mother Earth, how together we can create change and impact. And how the struggle is no where near over… we are just beginning in this long process of waking up from the deep slumber we as a collective peoples have been in… and we are so fortunate that there are Indigenous leaders showing us ways forward. Keep your eyes open… the leaders are alive now and showing the way. They are living amongst the people.

From Pat McCabe on Facebook:

I can’t help but notice… For the first time in the history of the planet that I am aware of, there was an international outcry, first, on behalf of the rights of indigenous peoples, who are the keepers of the library of how to be here on this Mother Earth, and who need their place on earth with its accompanying water, food, mountains, animals, etc., in order to keep being who they are, and to keep making their relationship, with this critical knowledge. Second, the international outcry rose to meet the tactics of the extraction industry with truth, outrage, grief, protest, donations and finally, with prayer. For the first time in ?the history of the United States, a.k.a. Turtle Island, all of the indigenous peoples banded together bringing their deepest ceremonies, on behalf of their neighbors, and on behalf of Water, and on behalf of Life for ALL. Then, indigenous communities from around the world, also came to support this prayer. Then, peoples from all nations worldwide came to join this prayer. Then, as if that? weren’t enough, ?entities such as the entire city of Los Angeles, as an official entity, sent their official seal of support, not only on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, but in support of all of the activities that were opposing the petroleum pipeline, and for the protection of water, far outside of their immediate concern. Then, 500+ multi-faith clergy showed up, for the first time ever, at the request of an Indigenous, spiritual, and government leader, Chairman Archembault, to put themselves on the line, their physical being endangered on behalf of Indigenous Peoples rights, yes, but also on behalf of Water and Life, and yes, against the extraction industry, and corporate and government interests. AND, as if that were not history making enough, these clergy from all different faiths, were trained in non-violence action, made ready for other actions, conceivably. AND, THEN, they participated in a ceremony in which they BURNED THE DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY, renouncing it, as sacred law, renouncing it as “God’s will” and saying outright it was WRONG. (For those of you unclear on what this doctrine is, in a nutshell, it came from the Vatican, the Pope, in which it was decreed as a kind of divine law that any peoples on any part of the Earth that were “discovered” and who were not “of the one true faith” were humanus animalus I think was the term, meaning they were a form of animal, and therefore had no soul, and therefore could not possess, own, land and who could rightly, with divine blessing, be taken into perpetual servitude, aka, slavery. The Pope has been approached probably every year for the last 50 years by indigenous peoples worldwide, asking for the Vatican to rescind this doctrine, and acknowledge its error and falsehood. So, far, has not happened, although the current Pope did meet with Indigenous peoples this spring, and promised to continue the conversation. What may not be known, is that many governments worldwide, including the US government have based their relationships with indigenous peoples and their rights on this doctrine. But I digress…) After the 500+ clergy from the full-spectrum of faiths, turned their back on their institutional rhetoric on behalf of Indigenous peoples’ rights, Water, and Life, U.S. VETERANS showed up! They showed up, saying that they were sworn to protect and uphold the safety, the Constitution, and U.S. citizens, against enemies foreign and domestic. This means they were calling the petroleum Corporations as well as North Dakota law-enforcement, as well as a sleeping U.S. Government, “domestic enemies” that needed to be stopped. How freaking huge is that?!?! Under death threats, and deep scrutiny by their peers, in an unprecedented, shall I say again, historic act, they came to protect Indigenous peoples- what?!?!- as well as the thousands of “non-indigenous” peoples fighting this petroleum corporation that is all but government sanctioned. They could have stopped there and still they would have stunned the world, but no, they took it a HUGE step further, they surprised the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Sioux nations by getting down on one knee, and attempted to name all the harms committed by U.S. Armed forces on the original peoples of this part of the Earth, even including the destruction of their languages, the stealing of their children, and more. And… they asked for forgiveness… I don’t think there is another place on the Earth where this has happened. EVER. They also called upon the treaties to be acknowledged and upheld by the U.S. Military- as well as the U.S. Government. AND THEN… when law enforcement from eight states would not allow the Dakota people to attend to their ancestors’ disturbed burial sites, repelling the people in full-riot gear, with gallon-canisters of pepper spray and rubber bullets, one morning, hundreds of women made their way to the frontline, and this militia, parted, allowing the Women’s Nation to approach the water to pray. The sheriffs, police, military, national guard, hired guns, etc., FULLY ACKNOWLEDGED THE AUTHORITY OF THE LIFE-BRINGER LIFE-BEARER. And all of this doesn’t even address the fact that native youth in South Dakota and North Dakota had devastating suicide rates, the reasons systemic, and now they can know that their people and their ways were instrumental in showing the entire world that there is no such thing as “inevitable.” It was their people that woke a sleeping giant. No one will ever forget who the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota nations are ever again. This changes everything, for not only other Indigenous peoples, worldwide, but for humanity at large. For humanity at large because, what has taken place could not have been possible without all races stepping out of their comfort zone, creating an unprecedented interracial collaboration, and human solidarity that withstood gale force storms of every nature.
Once again it has been proven, and in our time, at this critical moment, that nonviolence is the way that creates, deep, lasting, widespread, inclusive, change on this Holy Mother Earth. In the lineage of Gandhi, and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., these events will also be noted. These events are the proof, and guidance, that we needed in order to understand how to move forward in the face of overwhelming odds of brute force and economic and political power. Oh, and it is definitely worthy of mention, that after the brutal attacks that took place on the front lines, 700 people, native and non-native (it is hard to explain how huge even this interracial unifying is in the part of the world known as North Dakota) walked from Mandan to the municipal legal complex, encircled it by joining hands, and let law enforcement know that they forgave them. I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I witness very often.

So have a little patience friends, we’re moving as fast as we can… And quite honestly, from where I sit, it looks to be downright miraculously fast??

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The Power of a Single Prayer & People Banded Together

I cannot express how much gratitude I have for the indigenous leadership of this movement… at this moment in time. I am learning so much. I am humbled. Please listen to Lyla June Johnston. I pulled out some of her words from the video, but you should listen to the story directly from her. It’s theatrical and she’s speaking serious truth. <3

“The people banded together to create a historic wonderful model to the rest of the world about how a single prayer can change everything. The people decided together that they would choose to use their prayers as a way to heal their own waters, their own people, and the waters of even those who chose to oppress and beat them.

These leaders, indigenous peoples, have created a blueprint which the world can follow which says that we do not need to lift a weapon or arm to change the world. Further more, our deepest strength comes from praying for all our relations. We can actually create a massive change when we adhere to the principles of non-violence, forgiveness, and prayer.

This is a model to the rest of us. Our strength comes from stepping out into the darkness against all odds and saying, you know what, I’m gonna try anyways. No matter where we are, if we are motivated by prayer, kindness, and the audacity to try against all odds, that we might just create a world wide movement.
We must take a moment to celebrate.

We must take a moment to celebrate the fact that we have united things that have never been united. We have united the Federal government with indigenous peoples. We have united Christians with indigenous peoples. We have united war veterans with non-violent peacenics. We have united Muslims with Christians.

The world has come together to put their stake in the ground and say, “Yes. We love our planet. We love the water. And we believe in creating some sort of solution to the century’s long issue of the oppression of indigenous peoples of Turtle Island.” This my friends is a victory, the first step to many more victories that we will have in the coming years and decades.

We have made history today by creating a critical mass where even the most Right-winged news sources cannot ignore the power and the beauty of this movement.
We have proven the efficacy of:

  • the strategy of nonviolence
  • the strategy of compassion and unconditional love for our enemies
  • having hope in the middle of the dark night when nothing seems possible, and stepping out and giving it a shot anyway.

Please, let’s all give a prayer of gratitude.
Together we have created a beautiful demonstration of human unity.

Lyla June Johnston

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Veterans and Indigenous People: Healing & Forgiveness

Deep gratitude to all those involved in this. Please may we create many more opportunities for healing and forgiveness from the horrors of our past. Confession. Healing. Forgiveness. May we learn from our mistakes and never repeat them. May the power of our prayers and ceremonies continue to weave a new world.

“BEAUTIFUL MEDICINE AT STANDING ROCK! Where else in the world do you see this level of healing? DAPL doesn’t understand what they are trying to crush, which in a sense means they don’t understand themselves. This movement is trying to set past mistakes right to create spaces of healing. Healing historical trauma, restoring sustainability to Mother Earth, clergy denouncing the doctrine of discovery, THE PEOPLE TRYING TO forgive, heal, move forward together instead of being in denial. This movement is needed but DAPL only sees $. #NoDAPL” ~Prolific the Rapper

Beautiful photos.

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