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May we Dismantle Oppressive Behaviors and Embrace Mutuality

A prayer for every person who is devoted to social change that leads to a more just and humane world… May each one of us strengthen or develop our capacities to address tensions and conflict, receive and give feedback, and learn and grow from our encounters… may we stay focused on the goals of change for the greatest good and those most vulnerable, as we dismantle patterns of oppression and embrace healthy patterns of mutual relationships.

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What Is This Moment Calling For?

Ashley041417-219As 2018 walks into my life, making herself at home like she’s been here all along, I’m reaching out to you, most of the people that I know, because now feels like the time.

As I see it, we are facing an opportunity of our lifetime: Can we learn or remember how to take better care of one another and guide ourselves towards a future that is more humane than this moment we are living now?

Most days, I have hope that it’s possible. In my 40 years of life, I’ve been blessed to meet thousands of incredible people all around the world. I’m in awe of how many folks from different backgrounds and life experiences are actively investing their energy and resources towards creating a more compassionate future. I hypothesize that perhaps the majority of people on this planet have good in our hearts and are capable of acting in ways that bring out the positive side of humanity.

So in 2018 – that’s a question that I’m exploring and where I will continue to focus my attention. Here are a few things that I believe which guide me:

  • People are amazing and capable of so much goodness
  • We are wiser together — the challenges that we face at this time are solvable when lead by the collective wisdom of diverse groups
  • If we face the truth of the past and present, then we are capable of imagining a future and working together to create the world we dream of
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Facing the Challenges of This Time

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“In the face of daunting challenges, we must summon the courage to believe we are the ones we have been waiting for, take risks, and experiment towards solutions. We’re being asked to believe in our inherent capacity, step into the unknown, and challenge deeply held assumptions. For most of us, that’s radically disruptive and contrary to how we’ve organized ourselves to succeed in life… Together we will become the leaders we collectively need. And in the process we will continuously grow and shift and change to meet each new challenge.”

Jodie Tonita from Social Transformation Project, published in Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown.

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Earthseed Series with adrienne maree brown

Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 10.07.02 PMSo much goodness in this podcast about Octavia Butler, her books, particularly the Earthseed Series, Emergent Strategy and fierce guidance for liberation movement work. Continued gratitude to Adrienne Maree Brown.

Key Questions in the podcast:

  • Who was Octavia Butler?
  • What are the lessons of Acorn, the post-apocalyptic community that was created in Parables?
  • What does it mean to shape chaos?
  • How do these books teach us about resilience? survival? Love?
  • What can people do to practice radical compassion and empathy?
  • What does it mean to practice humility and create space for everyone when it might also mean that we let in potentially harmful people?
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Active Hope

Active Hope is not wishful thinking.
Actve Hope is not waiting to be rescued
by the Lone Ranger or by some savior.
Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life
on whose behalf we can act.
We belong to this world.
The web of life is calling us forth at this time.
We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part.
With Active Hope we realize that there are adventures in store,
strengths to discover,
and comrades to link arms with.
Active Hope is a readiness to engage.
Active Hope is a readiness to disvover the strengths
in ourselves and in others;
a readiness to discover the reasons for hope
and the occasions for love.
A readiness to discover the size and strength of our hearts,
our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose,
our own authority, our love for life,
the liveliness of our curiosity,
the ususpected deep well of patience and diligence,
the keenness of our senses, and our capacity to lead.
None of these can be discovered in an armchair or without risk.

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Solstice Lessons on Life and Death

Walking along the beach, I’m drawn into the bramble of a small grove.
Explorer’s eyes wide-open. Shells and sea creatures washed ashore catching my attention. A scanning gaze joltingly stops at a large dead bird. A pelican’s body, twisted and strewn out. Recently deceased as is evident from the perfections of life still intact.

I’m drawn in by its beauty. The elegant lines of its head, its feathers, fur, colors, shape. And yet… I’m scared to approach it. I circle the perimeter, maintaining a wide distance.

Why? Why must I stand so far away? Why am I afraid to approach this dead bird?

I stand with reverence. A moment of prayer. May you pass peacefully along on your journey.

The beauty beckons me forward. I’ve never been able to be so close to an animal such as this one. To gaze at its lines and shapes, to drink in the size of its life and presence. And yet I’m resistant. With fear. Why this fear?

I realize that I am afraid that it might not be totally dead yet. If I get close, I may see it move, last grasps at life. Its shape hints at an unexpected death. I project suffering. I recoil from fear of that suffering. If I get close, I might personally feel it. It will make me suffer too. And perhaps even the irrational fear that death will jump up and take me too.

I don’t want to see it suffering because I don’t want to suffer.
I don’t want to die.
I don’t want to feel that pain.
So I stay away. I stand back. I create distance.
Somewhere inside me I have been programed that I am doing this for my own protection.

I disagree. Not right now. This moment of beauty and death is calling to me.

I breathe with the realization that in this moment I am afraid to get close and genuinely feel what-is if there is a chance that I will feel suffering.

I must walk in. Walk closer. Push beyond this internally polarized force, repelling and invoking.

I flash to bigger picture, parallel patterns. In order to invite growth, change and transformation I believe that we have to start by accepting what-is, and then discovering what we can love about what-is. Often situations that are in need of transformation and change have a coating of suffering that surrounds the core. To face what-is means to be with that pain and suffering, to feel through that contraction and seemingly awfulness… for only in that acceptance is there room to travel beyond into the opening and fruits of possibility.

And so on this solstice day I dance with the balance of beauty and death, suffering and possibility, my own personal fears and universal patterns. May the light grow increasingly more abundant and may I discover new acceptance in the caverns of the darkness.

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At Home in the World

First train home, I’ve got to get on it
First train home, I’ve got to get on it
First train home, I’ve got to get on it
First Train home
(soundtrack for this post)

So what? What matters to you?
What are your strongest feelings? What is your central wish? What stirs your inmost being?

Are you home yet?
Lying awake, enchanted by the natural world, caressed by the powers that envelope you, genuinely relating to the beings and things in your life, aligned with a divine presence that permeates everything? everything? It’s there… is it here? Can you see it? Can you touch and taste and smell and hear that divine immanence resonating in the world around you? through you? connecting you… to you… to me… to a tree… to much, much more than we can see? Can you feel it? Is it here?

A lover is trying to seduce us into her wonder and mystery, into the heart of her beauty, home. Day by day, moment by moment, the waters of life are pouring forth into our soul, fed by the little encounters of being that happen without effort… simply because we are alive. We are alive! Can you feel it?

This week three men and the lineages, teachings, and life experiences they embody are helping me travel home. Their messages and essence swirl in my being, chemical reactions activating holy sparks and snapping authentic living into the cells of my waking body.

ahhhhhh
{{{ insert your favorite sound for the divine here }}}
{{{along with one deep breath }}}

You can read my full notes from an evening hearing Brian Swimme, the next night listening to Bill Plotkin, and all the while reading Martin Buber‘s book, The Way of Man. And below (as well as above) are some of the pieces that are cooking me… igniting me… wanting to be shared!

Brian Swimme’s central point was that we humans have forgotten the sacred dimension of nature. We need to renew our capacities to recognize the presence of the divine throughout the natural world. He believes that people have a deep hunger to:

  • Know how we fit in
  • Make sense of the world
  • Live in alignment with the powers that envelope us, with the divine presence that permeates everything

Buber says that here is a fulfillment of existence that a quiet devoted relationship to nearby life can give us. Developing genuine relationships with the beings and things in whose lives we get to be in, a mutual gift, creates true, fulfilled existence.

By hallowing our relationship with the things and beings that we meet on our way and that attract our hearts, we get in touch “with what manifests itself in them as beauty, pleasure, enjoyment. Hasidism teaches that rejoicing in the world, if we hallow it with our whole being, leads to rejoicing in God.” (Buber)

Bill Plotkin defines soul as “our place in the world.” He sees a true adult as someone who knows how they belong to more than the human world. They understand their place in nature, not just their place in culture.

He talks about how we humans long for our own unique and vibrant participation (membership) in a world that works for all beings. At a soul level we want to be contributing, being of service, and we want to feel at home in the world. We can both contribute and thus feel at home in the world by embodying our deepest passion. Plotkin believes that each individual has gifts, ways of being of service, they were born to embody. Finding our service is both deeply fulfilling and incredibly challenging. Embodying those gifts that are unique to each of us is the biggest contribution to social change that we can make.

And Buber supports this belief,

Every person born into this world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique. ‘It is the duty of every person… to know and consider that he is unique in the world in his particular character and that there has never been anyone like him in the world, for if there had been someone like him, there would have been no need for him to be in the world…

Every man’s foremost task is the actualization of his unique, unprecedented and never-recurring potentialities…‘Everyone has in him something precious that is in no one else.’ But this precious something in a man is revealed to him only if he truly perceives his strongest feeling, his central wish, that in him which stirs his inmost being…

He must find his own self, not the trivial ego of the egotistic individual, but the deeper self of the person living in a relationship to the world…. A man [must see] himself … as a genuine person, whose transformation helps towards the transformation of the world… The task of man, of every man, according to Hasidic teaching, is to affirm for God’s sake the world and himself and by this very means to transform both.

And in order to “belong to the world in the ways nature birthed us,” Plotklin acknowledges the challenge for many of feeling at home in the world. Most people have never learned to feel themselves as a natural element in the world and so cannot feel a part of it and at home in it. Not feeling at home in the world creates a core restlessness and anxiety. Humans have the ability to experience the enchantment of the natural world, they can learn how to be at home in the world and wonder about the world. Feeling at home in the world leads to treating the world as our home. And as these men point out, in order to do so, we must recognize the presence of the divine throughout the natural world.

Swimme uses the story of the cosmos to paint visions of and personify some of the wonderment and divine essence of the universe. For instance, he explains that the atoms of our skin and the air that we breathe are from an exploding star.

Carbon and oxygen exist in the core of a star. When a star explodes it releases these and many other elements into the universe. Our own solar system and planet with its minerals and life forms were created out of these supernova explosions. Every single atom of carbon and oxygen (of which humans are made of) is foraged in stars. The atoms of our skin are from an exploding star. In order for these atoms to exist, stars had to blow up. “I am a cosmological event!” (source)

And when I breathe, I breathe the creations of stars. All the life I will live is possible because of the gifts of those stars. These facts/stories help to illustrate for me the immensity of each moment and they invite me into a direct experience of the divine presence that exists in the natural world.

And then Swimme teaches about the sun. Every second our sun is transforming 4 million tons of itself into light. The sun doesn’t get back that energy. Once it transforms itself into light, the light disperses in all directions. The sun gives it away. Everything that’s happened in the life of this planet is directly dependent upon that light. We’re moving here and talking and thinking only because coursing through our bodies is the energy from the sun. All of human activity is powered by the generosity of the sun. Our existence directly depends upon the giveaway of the sun; this is a real sacrificial, ongoing event. (source)

All of these men are extending deep invitations to directly experience the divine presence permeating the world. The Baal-Shem (founder of Hasidism) teaches that no encounter with a being or a thing in the course of our life lacks a hidden significance. ‘God dwells wherever man lets him in.’

To go, to go, to go
Get, get, get, get
Out, out, out, out
Now, now, now, now
soundtrack by Imogen Heap!

                    
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