Walk in Beauty

This blogpost was originally a sermon for a service I put together
for Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on August 16, 2020.
You can watch the whole service and find the readings that accompany it.

 

When Heidi (the musician I was working with) and I were rehearsing for this service, she asked me what the focus would be for my sermon. And as I answered, I realized that really, all of my work—paid, unpaid, personal or business, has been about this—about walking in beauty. No wonder I wanted to try to put it into words!

The titles I hold—Interfaith Minister, Sacred Musician, Spiritual & Life Coach, Yoga Teacher, and more—they are all different ways that I help myself and others walk in beauty.

 

For when we walk in beauty, our lives are more whole.

We love our lives.

We are kind to others and to ourselves.

We live a good life that is good for all beings, including Eairth.*

 

John O’Donohue says Beauty points beyond itself to the circle of belonging that holds everything together. When we experience it, we feel at home in ourselves and in the world.

This reminds me of a story I read in Trebbe Johnson’s book Radical Joy for Hard Times. David Powless, a scientist and member of the Oneida nation, was given a grant by the National Science Foundation to develop a process for recycling steel waste. His initial impulse was to go out and conquer the problem—to force the waste into a new form, but when he arrived at the waste pile to get a few bucketfuls, he felt something else.

From his years of ceremony, in which all beings are honored as part of the sacred circle of life, David had an epiphany that this waste was not something that needed to be forced into a new and better shape. It was an orphan that needed to be brought back into the circle of life. It wasn’t just an ugly manifestation of industrialism wreaking havoc on Eairth, but a rejected part of life that needed support to be brought back into the Circle.

 

The circle of life holds everything together.

This is a way of living and knowing our belonging that many indigenous peoples before us practiced and still practice today.

We are invited into this deeper experience of participation with all beings if we are to walk in beauty. When we are part of the circle, no-one, no creature, no part of the natural world, no part of ourselves, no earth processes, nothing is left out. We realize that we all have our place and each one is needed. When the circle is broken, we must do what it takes to re-home the orphans and make the circle whole again.

 

How do we do this?

The Diné or Navajo Nation walked the Beauty Way Path. Patricia Anne Davis of the Navajo Nation Justice Department says walking in beauty means to consciously live in and with the natural order of life—finding meaning and sustenance in contact:

  • with the Directions: East, South, West, North
  • with the Elements of Eairth: air, fire, water, earth
  • with the seasonal energies: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter
  • with our maturing: through the life stages from child to youth to parent to grandparent.

All held by the Center representing the hearth of home, the spiritual family love.

 

Finding beauty, seeing beauty, making beauty, walking in beauty not only maintains the circle of life, but makes sure we keep our place in it.

 

From our Western tradition, the poet Keats said it this way: “Beauty is Truth and Truth is Beauty—that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”

When we walk the Beauty Way Path, we have a much greater chance of knowing this on Eairth; when we do not, we might miss it.

Let’s consider Keats’ words for a moment: Beauty is Truth and Truth is Beauty.

How amazing is that? I immediately go cosmic and think of the beauty and truth of the Universe—of the incredible, unfolding powers that created our solar system and planet Eairth and make life possible, even now as things are collapsing.

I think of the Beauty of words and thoughts from the Truth of one’s experience, spoken and written. Of the Beauty and Truth expressed in music, in art. Of the Beauty and Truth in each action and moment if we only have eyes to see it…

 

And, indeed, Beauty comes down to how we see life.

Do we see it, as I still sometimes do, through our personality-clouded eyes? Or do we see clearly through the eyes of the heart?

As an Enneagram type One, my habitual, less awake way of seeing is about seeing what’s wrong, not what’s beautiful. I like to fix things, make them better, help return them to Beauty. (Not always in skillful ways, though—my husband doesn’t usually want to know when he has put something in the wrong, unbeautiful place.)

 

There are many ways we see without seeing Beauty:

  • Perhaps with too-busy or distracted eyes that don’t take the time to land and take it in,
  • Or maybe with pre-occupied eyes, that look but don’t really see,
  • Or perhaps with inner-turned eyes, dwelling on some deep thought or inner sadness, frustration, or fear…

 

If we had a Beauty Way tradition like the Diné—of ceremony, prayer, and intimate participation with Eairth—we might not find it so difficult to feel Beauty’s loving embrace.

But we don’t. In our evolution into “modern” humans, we thought we had to leave that behind in order to develop an objective science. We wanted to find and know our place in the universe, but we plundered Eairth and her other living beings to do this. Because of this, we “moderns” don’t understand how to live in the natural order of Eairth’s ways anymore.

We have learned to think that Beauty is not here with us, but out there somehere:

  • Created and performed by artists
  • Hung in museums, found in magnificent structures, idealized in models, celebrities, and beautiful people
  • Or in a perfect view of nature
    • The Salish Sea with Mount Baker rising behind
    • The stunning layered landscape from the top of a mountain
    • The giant cedars, doug fir and hemlock of old growth forests.

While that kind of Beauty is real and nourishes us, I’m interested in cultivating ways we modern humans can participate in Beauty every day.

 

One of my favorite practices that have shared with clients over the years is called “Beauty sees Beauty.” When I first started practicing it, I would take a slow walk and everything I saw, I would say “Beauty sees Beauty.” Over time, I incorporated this practice into my life, including other senses as well: Beauty sees Beauty, Beauty touches Beauty, Beauty tastes/hears/smells Beauty…

Try it on right now with me.

Just look around wherever you are and let your eyes alight on something—even something that you would not necessarily call “beautiful” and slowly say out loud or internally “Beauty sees Beauty.” “Beauty sees Beauty.”

What happens inside of you?

For me, my heart leaps, lights up, comes alive, a smile comes on my face, warmth infuses me. I receive the Beauty of what I have seen and I receive my own Beauty, of Beauty seeing Beauty.

As O’Donohue says, “The human soul is hungry for beauty: we seek it everywhere…” Why not land in the present moment and be with Beauty right now?

This practice returns us to the Beauty Way Path. For when we receive Beauty in ourselves and all around us, we want to walk in it. We want to live its natural order, we want to make choices that continue the circle of life, of Truth, of Beauty.

The other wonderful part of this practice is that it reaffirms that not only what we are sensing is beautiful, but that we, too, are part of this Beauty.

Beauty recognizes Beauty.

Our unique and individual Beauty is a necessary and vital part of the circle. “Though sometimes ,” as Galway Kinnell reminds us, “it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness…”**

Many of us come to our adulthoods with wounds, with broken places from not being seen or understood, from intentional or unintentional abuse. We need to be retaught that our lives, our thoughts, our feelings, our being is beautiful and part of the circle.

We are that orphan that needs to be welcomed home. My own inner work and my work with clients always involves this.

David Powell saw this in the steel waste pile. St. Francis in the sow.

 

And Trebbe Johnson invites us to see the beauty in broken or wounded places.

An environmentalist, Trebbe’s work focuses on how we can be in relationship with places on earth that have been devastated by human abuse.

It’s all about allowing the place to touch us, to see with the eyes of the heart and open to the Beauty that is still there. Yes, I may be scrambling through a clear cut, but just look at those foxgloves standing tall and waving on the slope! And here’s what looks like an entry to an animal’s shelter tucked under that stump. And everywhere, new growth shooting up.

 

Beauty sees Beauty.

Yes, the heart aches with the loss, the grief, the fear, the anger—and suddenly, something amazing happens, a threshold is crossed and Beauty arises—we are able to perceive the Beauty that is already here, everywhere.

This is not something we can make happen, but we can practice. We can show up, open up, soften up, and be available to the moment. One of my teachers calls this making ourselves “accident prone to grace.” For only in this moment, in presence, is Truth and Beauty.

 

People tend to want black-and-white Beauty—to evaluate the standards of Beauty and judge how beautiful a thing is. To judge like this is to step out of the circle and see ourselves or someone/something else as “other.”

If we soften our gaze, and allow our hearts to open… If we sustain our gaze and wait and practice, even in the most devastated places and people, Beauty sees Beauty.

Beauty is big enough, inclusive enough, vital enough to include everything, even the broken, wounded, abandoned places. In fact, it is often in the wound, in the vulnerability that we find a deeper meaning, a richer experience of Beauty. We move from “view-finder” prettiness to a Beauty that touches and opens our hearts.

 

John O’Donohue says “to participate in beauty is to come into the presence of the Holy.”

That is what it feels like. As Beauty opens—or our eyes awaken to it—we perceive that everything is sacred, everything is whole, everything is included in that wide embrace.

I created an e-book for my clients called Welcoming the Sacred. It’s packed full of simple practices we can do in our everyday lives to bring us into the moment and welcome the sacred, the True, the Beautiful.

Trebbe Johnson finds this sense of sacredness when she practices what she calls “Guerilla Beauty.” After spending time gazing, seeing the Beauty in wounded places, she gives a spontaneous gift of Beauty, created from whatever materials are available. It may be stones piled into a cairn, sticks, leaves, and flowers in a mandala, root sculptures, a story or a song… But giving this beauty to the wounded place moves her past feeling separate into relationship with the place—as she says, “to give beauty is to marry the world, outside and within.”

For, when we do this, we take our place in the circle of life. We perceive ourselves, our lives, the wounded places as full of Beauty. And if we perceive this Beauty, we will walk in Beauty with each other, living a good life in a wide Circle that includes not only all humans, but Eairth and all her creatures as well.

 

May you walk in beauty,

May we walk in beauty.

 

* Eairth = Earth and Air
** from his poem St. Francis and the Sow

Embodying the Transcendent

Image by by Larisa Koshkina on Pixabay

 

“The purpose of life is not to transcend the body,

but to embody the transcendent.”

~ The Dalai Lama

 

That’s not what I tried to do most of my life!

 

I tried to leave my imperfect-in-so-many-ways body to find a place in heaven, where things were perfect, I was told…

I tried born-again Christianity, anorexia, perfectionism, following the ideals of my family, my culture, my partners, and my EnneaType, to name a few big ones!

And none of it transcended me. I had my moments of feeling uplifted, transported, even angelic… but it wasn’t enough.

I still felt caught in a body. Caught in my moods. Caught in my habitual thoughts.

 

And my striving to always make myself and life better was hard on me and on those around me.

 

Being introduced to women’s work helped me to start filling out the picture a bit.

I came to realize that there are ideals up there and there is the reality right here. There is the way I want things to be and the way they are—physical, sensate, relational…

Getting into loving relationship with the inner Feminine helped me be here, in this body, in this life, in this relationship, in this Eairth.**

Not always striving for something that my mind had cooked up about the way things should be out there somewhere.

 

Meeting the Enneagram also helped because I got to see nine different ways of being in the world, and the myriad of individual expression within each. It broke open my idea that there was one perfect way (the ideal of my type, type One).

 

So, you might ask,

HOW do we embody the transcendent?

 

By doing our work to become a clear, open channel.

 

We can’t embody it if we are not living, sensing, feeling, touching, breathing, moving, resting, loving, … being in our bodies.

 

So, it starts with opening that channel—with releasing tension and habit that keeps us from sensing ourselves as human creatures, with learning to ground so we can feel our belonging in Eairth.

As continuum teacher Susan Harper offers,

“Gravity is a spiritual force of belonging that says

I have a place for you and it is right here!”

 

Our place is right here, in this body, in this Eairth. Embodied
(In-body).

 

Usually we have to work a lot with our constrictions of heart and mind, too, in order to become more embodied. We have habitual ways of feeling and thinking. Perhaps we worry or plan or emote or get frustrated or give up—these patterns block our ability to be present, to be an open channel.

 

As we become more embodied, we can offer a home to the transcendent, right here, in this beautiful bodysoul, expressing through us. It is here that heaven can find a place to live in us.

For as Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells us in Women Who Run with the Wolves, “Our work is to show we have been breathed upon—to show it, give it out, sing it out, to live out in the topside world what we have received through our sudden knowings, from body, from dreams and journeys of all sorts.” (p. 29)

 

The way I most experience embodying the transcendent is when I sing. I feel as if I am taking beauty and inspiration and giving it physical form through and in me.

Artists of all kinds do this most clearly, but so do animals and plants and everything that lives, to the extent that it is embodied.

 

For what better purpose for a life than to marry heaven and Eairth and so to live fully alive, fully inspired, fully present in this precious time we have here in Eairth?

 

What practices support you

in embodying the transcendent?

 

Join me in a few opportunities this weekend in Port Townsend!

and for women, on February 2nd, from 2:00-5:00,

a few more spots available:

 

** Eairth = Earth and Air

exploring wildness

 

Wildness

 

“the spontaneities of life”*

“the ultimate creative reality of earthly being”**

“a subjectivity that is aware of its vibrant place in ecosystems and human community”*

 

What is it to allow the truly wild creative impulse that exists deep within us, deep within all beings, that is, in fact, the creativity of the universe expressing through us?

How do we allow “the spontaneities of life” to express through us and not be distorted by our personality structures, many of which were set in place to keep them and this in control (and safe)?

We learned to ignore our body to get work down, or to over-cater to every ache and pain. Maybe we sit or stand too long…. Rather than follow the intelligence of the body that knows how to listen to and follow her/his needs in the moment.

We cover up our feelings with screens, books, experiences, and intellectual pursuits, or we indulge them and get confused and over-whelmed…  Rather than letting them inform and move through us.

We use our minds to rationalize, analyze, ruminate, daydream, plan, and fantasize, which gives us a sense of being in control of our lives, but fills our minds up all the time… Rather than allowing the mind to be refreshed by quiet, contemplation, prayer, or meditation.

 

“We misconceive our role [as humans] if we consider that
our historical mission is to ‘civilize’
or to ‘domesticate’ the planet…” **

 

When my parents moved back to the West Coast 19 years ago from the East Coast where I grew up, I was struck by the grandeur and beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

But my domesticated senses also registered what looked like mess and chaos.

Brambles covering everything, thickets so thick that getting into the woods proved almost dangerous, and when you did make it in, nettles ready to sting, and thimbleberry and blackberry thorns to grab you. Not to mention the thistles that pop up everywhere the forest is not.

 

Wildness.

I was not sure what to do with this wildness,

how to be with this wildness.

 

Wildness, too, is the energy of the cosmos, elaborated as Eairth, and expressing through the genetic coding of all beings, through those very spontaneities, through this Pacific Northwest expression.

These native plants follow their genetic coding without question—they seek sustenance to survive; they propagate, flower, and fruit; they form mutually nourishing connections, growing together. Their wildness directs their authentic expression.

 

What if we, human beings, considered to be the highest expression of the consciousness of the cosmos, could also follow our natural, wild impulses to flourish?

What if we returned to listening to our true bodily needs—for rest and movement, for food and drink, for following what makes us come alive, for inter-connection with others?

 

This sounds like the healthy, unfettered and natural expression of what we call the Instincts in the Enneagram world. Part of our genetic coding, the Instincts connect us to all beings—animals most directly, but also to the Green Ones and to the entire Eairth!

In the Enneagram world, we divide the expression of wildness into Self-Preservation, Sexual, and Social Instincts. The creative impulse of all beings includes these three—the desire to survive physically, to reproduce, flower, and fruit, and to connect with others.

 

As I now live here in the Pacific Northwest and interact with the wilderness ongoingly, I find myself in creative tension with following and allowing the spontaneities of life, and wanting to shape, corral, and domesticate these very energies—both within and without…

In terms of the environment I find myself in, I strive to allow the forest its wildness, leaving little impact other than a narrow path or a place for the faeries.

In the gardens my parents carved out of the forest, it is a different matter! The wild perimeter stays and provides habitat for native plants and shelter for animals, but the plants that cannot exist without more space around them get my support in trimming, clipping, and even pulling the native wildness.

 

I am finding a place of balancing.

Asking myself how to live creatively with the inner, wild and creative instinctual desire of Eairth

and with my Western “civilized” version of being human.

 

Can I cultivate and tend without domesticating—both inside myself and outside in the garden?

Can I allow the wild spontaneities of Eairth to in-form how I live, garden, and relate to human and more-than-human life?

Can I be truly wild and fully human, not distorting these wild instincts with personality contractions of body, heart, and mind?

 

Asking questions like these invites me into ever-evolving exploration without a definitive answer.

 

So, I practice asking, living, balancing, listening, and am grateful for the support of the Tao, ever guiding:

 

“what works reliably
is to know the raw silk,
hold the uncut wood.
Need little, want less.
Forget the rules.
Be untroubled.”

~ Lao Tzu, from Tao Te Ching, #19,
interpretation by Ursula K. Le Guin

 

How about you?

How do you relate to wildness?

 

* from The Selected Writings of Thomas Berry, p. 135

** from The Selected Writings of Thomas Berry, p. 140

creating sacred space

 

Turn as the earth and move, turn,
Circling what [you] love.
Whatever circles comes from the center.
~ Rumi

Your sacred center.

What does that phrase evoke in you?

Your sacred center.

Where is it?

Is it some place in your body?

With a certain person?

In some belief you hold dear?

In some special place you go to in order to return to yourself?

Asian cultures tend to point to the hara or lower dantien as their sacred center. It’s the energy center just below the belly button, also known as the 2nd chakra, the place from which we sense our ground, our rootedness.

Hinduism, Sufism, and many Western traditions identify the heart as the sacred center, that place from which we feel our connection to the Divine / Love / the Beloved.

What about the mind? That is, afterall, what is thought to distinguish us as humans from other animals. Is it not sacred?

Among others, Buddhism, the Diamond Approach, and philosophical and scientific traditions highly value the qualities of vast, open, spacious mind, which can creatively perceive and receive understanding and knowing.

4th Way teacher, G.I. Gurdjieff, one of the grandfathers of the Enneagram, taught that we are 3-centered beings, so it make sense that each Center would have its own way of perceiving the sacred as it has its own way of experiencing life.

Sacred Center…

The Celts believed that trees recognize sacred ground and step back from it to create a clearing of sacred space (a nemeton), where earth and heaven join. Here, in the sacred center, Druids and others gathered to deepen their connection to Source.

People worldwide create places of worship—temples, mosques, churches, cathedrals—to demarcate sacred space. Often, it is found that under these buildings lie magnetic earth currents, called ley lines or even holy lines.

And, of course, the circle is a symbol of unity, a demarcation of the sacred connection of all things.

Consider the circle of your in- and out-breath.

Consider the circle of the day or the seasons.

Consider the circle of your life, born of eairth* and returning to eairth.

Consider the cycle of nourishment from earth, sun, and rain that grows seeds into plants that we harvest and eat.

This cycle sounds like one of nature giving to us. How do we complete the circle? We must give back something to eairth. We give back our breath, the CO2, to nourish the Green Ones (but they also give us their O2 to breathe).

How else can we play our part in the circle of nourishment? We can tend and care for eairth—by not polluting her, not trashing our source of nourishment. We can sing to her, praise her, celebrate her.

You can create sacred space anytime.

You don’t need to find a nemeton or a particular sacred building or space. It’s more about how you perceive your life.

We are each at the center of the circle of sacred space.

Not in a selfish way, but in the sense that all of our experience starts here, within us, in touch with body, heart, and mind, all three Centers, which opens us to Spirit and Soul.

At any time, you can perceive the circle of sacred space you are in by landing in your body to reconnect with yourself and eairth. Open your senses—what do you see, smell, taste, hear, touch/sense?

Notice your heart—how does what you are sensing affect you? How do you feel? Hint: It doesn’t have to be “good”—all feelings are welcome. Open your heart and let them flow through you, touching you.

Witness your mind. Thoughts will be there—observe them and allow them to pass through, like clouds that clear away to reveal a vast, open sky. Experience the immensity of the mind.

By engaging all three Centers openly, you open to contact with more life. Instead of staying caught in your thoughts, feelings, or body sensations or ignoring one or all of them, you are right here, right now, with all of it.

This, too, is nourishment. There is no forcing or dominating of yourself, others, or nature. You are simply here, present with what is, offering yourself to life, letting life move through you and affect you, participating in the sacred circle.

One of my current practices for creating sacred space is a breathing pattern I learned from Chameli Ardagh. These days, I practice it outside every morning. It helps me reconnect with earth and heaven, with soul and spirit, with all living beings. Try it on:

Turn as the earth.
Circle what you love.
Come from the center.

Here is Libana singing the Rumi poem from the top.

* I use “earth” to refer the ground, the soil, and “eairth” to refer to the living, evolving planet we live in, composed of earth and air.

the living quality of each moment

Don’t seek perfection. Instead,

be in touch with the living quality of each moment.

~ advice from Pema Chodron

 

Try it right now. Open your senses—eyes, ears, nose, taste, touch, balance—and allow the living moment to touch you.

Take it inside you and allow your inner self to be touched. Let life make an impression on you.

What do you notice? How are you affected by this living moment?

Open your awareness to sensations, feelings, thoughts, inner soul-touch…

Can you allow this impression to actually reach you?

Can you allow what is outside of what-you-define-as-you to enter into your inner being?

Or are the walls of your ego too strong to let it in?

 

It used to be really hard for me to be touched in this way, but I didn’t know it until I realized how much more I could sense/feel as I gradually opened.

Now I recognize that I felt a bit cut off, a bit dry, a bit untouched… but that felt normal…

My Enneagram type One ego did not see the value of letting things in. I wanted to feel in control of myself and my surroundings, and to stay on task, not be distracted by outer information. If I let too much in, that wouldn’t be possible.

 

Ego

An inner psychic organizing structure that helps us to feel a safe and solid sense of self.

 

Eco

Greek from oikos = home/household. The same root from which economy (household management) and ecology (the study of home/household) come.

 

Ecology

The study of our home/household.

We usually limit ecology to the study of physical organisms in the environment out there. But what if we expanded our sense of self, creating more porous ego boundaries, so that our sense of home were not just this safe, inner sense of self, but a much wider self, one that includes that which is outside of us as well? 

What if the sunlight, the water trickling over the rocks, the hummingbirds that just got into a fight over the sugar water, AND the barking dogs were all allowed to enter and touch and in-form our sense of self?

What if, instead of resisting this touch—oh, I’m too busy to stop and feel the sunlight, or I don’t want to feel how the barking dogs bother me—we actually let it in and flowed with these impressions? What if these impressions are an important part of the ecology, our physical interaction as organisms with the environment, with our home?

What if our home included the forest, the ocean, the animals, and mountains?

What if we could know ourselves not just as a separate self, a separate ego, but as a self who is part of Self? An ego that is part of a much larger eco? A human who is a living expression of Eairth?

 

What I’m finding, as I dip my toes into this running water,

is a deeper connection, a deeper sense of home,

a deeper sense of perfection.

 

My relationships with others are easier, more fluid, with less expectation of how they or I should be.

My sense of being home in myself and the world, even in the midst of most of our household still in boxes and camping out in my parents’ guest room, is clear and flexible.

And my experience of perfection has changed dramatically! As an Enneagram One, I have always struggled with thinking there is always some perfect way for things to be, and I just needed to figure it out and then do it and/or get others to do it, too.

 

Not so, I learn ever more deeply as I spiral into what I am calling “true perfection.”

 

True perfection is about completeness and wholeness (which is why I call my business Nourishing Wholeness).

True perfection is this living moment experienced right now, exactly as it is, without any need to make it better.

It is what the Buddhists call “the suchness of the moment”—this, here, now, just so. And this. And this…

 

It is NOT an ideal to chase or attain. It is always found right here when we land in the living quality of the moment right now.

 

This move to the country, to closer contact with natural surroundings and more-than-human beings is helping me to soften the boundaries of my ego and allow a broader sense of eco, of home.

It’s gotten me out from behind the computer screen and engaged with hands-on living life that needs tending, nourishing, and participating.

I feel more whole weeding, preparing food, helping my parents, connecting with my family, unpacking boxes, petting the dogs, relating with the new forest and ocean environs than ever.

 

I feel more real

even as I feed and protect my individual ego self much less!

 

For our moving trip, I drew the Medicine Card for Turtle.

Turtle is the oldest symbol for our planet Earth and the symbol of the Great Mother energy. Turtle reminds us to slow down and to let Eairth support us, “to flow harmoniously with [our] situation and to place [our] feet firmly on the ground in a power stance” (Medicine Cards, by Jamie Sams and David Carson, p. 78).

 

If we find our ground in life, not only in our small, inner egoic sense of self, then we can be firmly planted in life and allow life to flow harmoniously and flexibly in and through us, feeling its touch.

From this place, the quality of the living moment sustains us and connects us to our true home, to all beings, in Eairth.

 

Happy New Moon and Lammas

from our new home in Port Townsend, Washington!

Serene Alchemist of the Wild

 

Serene Alchemist of the Wild, she whispers into the circle of women at Women’s Temple, looking straight at me. Yes, the women nod, it’s my temple name.

 

These women don’t know me. We have just spent about an hour dancing and practicing in circle together, but we don’t know each other outside of this. Or do we?

 

I left Women’s Temple that night wondering about this name. It seemed so mysterious, yet so fitting. So big, yet so presumptuous.

 

I wrote it on the top of the full-length mirror in my room in red white board marker. I read it from time to time.

 

Now, 4-5 years later, I am claiming this name as my phrase to live into for this New Year of 2019.

 

Serene Alchemist of the Wild

 

 

I have not always been a serene alchemist of the wild, but rather a lion tamer, a domesticator, a perfecter, a fixer, a manager of all things wild. It has been my job, especially as a Self-Pres type One, to make things proper and right and good. Wild was not that.

 

Wildness had no choice but to go underground.

 

It was OK for those trees out there to be wild, and those squirrels racing around, and those rabbits that try to get into my garden, and nature lavishly abundant in the countryside, but not me and not things around me and not anything that I could get my hands on, that I could fence in or fence out…

 

And serene I was not. I was serious. I was stern. I was carefully contained. I was—yes, truthfully—at times rigid. I was often frustrated that so much wildness was taking over and needed managing, that so much was “not right.” And I needed to fix it.

 

I did transform things. I have always had a knack for improving things, for making beauty, for creating order and goodness out of the raw materials at hand. But the transforming was often fueled with distress and frustration within me and had that effect on anyone in my trajectory…

 

And there was often not much fluidity, but more forcefulness, pushing against the river to try to get it to flow better… I had ideals, perfect ideas in my mind of how things SHOULD be, and I tried to reach them and to make things and people around me live up to them as well.

 

 

Quite unconsciously, I had bought into the “habit of dominion” (from Nora Murphy’s book White Birch, Red Hawthorn). The patriarchal culture I was born into that values using people, animals, things, and nature (a thing) to get, first and foremost, our superior human “needs” met also taught me how to express my type One tendencies. I learned early on how to be an active doer in the world, a subject, not an object, that acts on other human and non-human objects to satisfy my separate “improving” and “righting” self.

 

This separation of us and our superior needs from the rest of life is how, on a small but infinitely multiplying scale, we continue our habit of dominion—over those less economically stable than us, over native peoples, over nature and the earth. How we glean the goods, the profit, the resources we “need” at the expense of human and non-human “others.”

 

In my small case, for example, I assumed that the separate me knew better how things “should” be—better than my husband or even the plants growing outside. And I imposed my ideas on them, not taking theirs seriously, if taking them into account at all.

 

How do you continue the “habit of dominion” to get what you,

as a separate self, think you need (quiet, praise, love, safety, etc.)?

 

 

Cut to now. A new time. A time of transition and wonder and freshness.

 

Winter Solstice and Christmas herald the rebirth of light. The New Year creates a fresh start, recommitment to a new vision of living and promise of a huge relocation to Washington state with my husband, literally a new life opening up.

 

And a new relationship to what I now recognize as my soul’s calling—

 

Serene Alchemist of the Wild

 

It is stunning to me to view my life through this lens—to see how my spiritual practice, my re-training as an interfaith minister, laughter yoga leader, holistic coach, yoga and women’s work teacher… how all of this has been part of the unfolding of this deeper soul’s calling.

 

I am much more serene.

 

Like the trees that bend and bow in storms or ice, that let rain wash over them and funnel it down to their roots, I am coming to a much deeper sense of calm, of contentment, of easeful equanimity amidst the “Sturm und Drang” of life.

 

“In the Virtue of Serenity, there is no feeling of effort or of striving.
We are soothed and soothing. We flow from one experience into the next,
feeling calm and balanced, regardless of the ups and downs of life.”

(Understanding the Enneagram, Riso & Hudson, p. 64)

 

And Serenity is the Virtue for type One (those women didn’t know I was a One)—it is the specific grace of the heart that my One soul learns as all that fixing energy dissolves, allowing me to be at peace and at home in life exactly as it is, unfolding now, and now, and now…

 

“The Alchemist takes our pain and turns it into compassion
for ourselves and for each other… the Alchemist spins
our fear into love and our pain into prayer.”

(Sweat Your Prayers, Gabrielle Roth, p. 189, 190)

 

The Alchemist trans-forms, shapeshifts the seeming dross, pain, fear and dis-ease of life into shining, precious gold, fierce, radiant beauty, and deep, rich Love—within ourselves and through us within those with whom we share the journey.

 

Them’s big shoes to fill!!

 

But we don’t do this alone—it is not a separate “I” that trans-forms me or you. It is God/dess within, True Nature within that shapeshifts and spins our lives into a healing prayer.

 

We orient to this continual “optimization of being” with our lives—by what we take in through our senses, consciously and unconsciously. Just like an Oak tree receives nourishment through sun, rain, soil, micro-organisms, and its connections to other plant and tree-life to grow into its unique form as White, Red, Black, Pin, or Burr Oak (the familiar species here in Minnesota), so do we receive constant nourishment from outside and inside. From our relationships with people, animals, sun, moon, stars, trees, animals, plants, birds, and non-human others as well as our inner relationship with ourself and God/dess, to become, to trans-form and shapeshift into Who we are.

 

Serene Alchemist of the Wild

 

Which brings me to the WILD!!

 

 

The dynamic, instinctual, primal life pulse within us all that keeps us as human animals alive on this planet—that cannot be separated from our wild soul’s calling to BE who we are—wild child and all. That spark of the Divine that lives within and as all of nature, including humans and wants to express and grow and heal and BE you and me.

 

This wild life force participates in the ever-dynamic flow of Being that optimizes naturally by coming into relationship with all that is around it. It comes into a shape within which it is held without being trapped, which gives it form, like the banks give form to the flowing river as well as respond to its flow.

This shaping is not perfecting or domesticating, but a natural response to participating in relationship, a dynamic responding to life. There is a trusting of the wild pulsation, the impulse within which gives birth to a new form, a new shape, a new unfoldment.

 

I finally understand how necessary it is to give each part of me a home—to welcome all the wildness in. The too big parts, the critical parts, the angry parts, the grieving parts, the fearful parts, the wounded parts, the over-indulging parts—all our wildness must be welcomed home within.

 

No part excluded. All Welcomed. Accepted. Loved. Seen. Understood. With compassion, gentleness, kindness, and Love.

“I see you,” say the African Bushmen as they greet each other, responding with “I am here.” (The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo, p. 428)

 

From this place of full acceptance of our wildness, the individual spark of the Divine within can continue its journey of expression in this world.

 

Who knows how that wildness will shapeshift and trans-form when it is held in Love, not forced to be other than it is?

 

Who knows how the passion and juicy life-force energy will radiate in our lives when we are not trying to change it, shut it down, tame it?

 

Serene Alchemist of the Wild

 

 

I accept you as my soul’s calling for 2019.

I am willing to grow with, unfold in, shapeshift and trans-form into who this soul invitation calls me to be.

 

 

How about you?

How is your soul calling you as we enter into 2019?

How will you live into your soul’s invitation?

 

 

 

Join me for some Serene Alchemy this month!

 

Check out my calendar for more information:

Weed or Wild Nourishment?

 

I’ve spent a lot of time pulling weeds.

 

Starting with the most common ones—Creeping Charlie taking over the whole backyard when I first moved in with Dave, grass growing in garden beds, plantain, dandelions, and here in Minnesota, those purple bellflowers that seem to spread everywhere…

 

Other weeds that have caught my attention include all the ways my Enneagram type One personality judges that I (or others) need weeding. Over the years, I’ve dug out my messy emotions, pulled up my gut instincts, rooted out my raw and uncontrollable sexuality, and excavated all the wild impulses that might lead me astray.

 

“Got a dirty eye, see a dirty world.”
~ Mark Nepo, in The Book of Awakening

I think we all have dirty eyes—in the sense that our vision is clouded from seeing life as it is. Perhaps it’s Enneagram type that clouds, or maybe it’s family upbringing, or maybe it’s trauma, or our culture or religion…and most likely a combination of all of the above.

This clouding keeps us stuck in one way of seeing.

Plant—Weed.
Healthy—Unhealthy.
Clean—Messy.
Civilized—Wild.
Heaven—Earth.

 

But what if that plant, instead of being a weed, is Wild Nourishment?

 

Over the years, as I started realizing there was such a thing as wild nourishment

I dug up the dandelion from my yard, ate some, and transplanted the rest into its own bed in my backyard. I enjoy eating it all summer, but especially when it’s tender in the spring (now!).

I pulled out the plantain and dried it for use in tea and herbal salves. (Internally for indigestion, externally for skin ailments.)

The grass spreading into flower and veggie gardens I still weed out—and the Creeping Charlie, too!

I gave up on weeding out the purple bellflowers—I still manage them in some places, but in others, I let them be a lovely, green ground cover, and on our front stairs, their purple bell flower welcomes people to our home. (Dave’s youngest helped me get this—I was madly ripping them out one summer when he said how he missed the greenery and flowers on the bare concrete stairs, and I realized I did, too. It has saved me a lot of work over the years!)

 

And my own inner weeding?

I am finding the gifts of wild nourishment of my fuller self—

How my unedited emotions, my instinctual-knowing, my juicy sexuality, and my spontaneous impulses don’t lead me astray, but nourish and bring more wholeness to my life.

I feel more alive, more embodied, more present on this earth when I embrace all of me in this way.

 

How about you?

Are there ways you see through dirty eyes and try to weed out parts of yourself that are unacceptable? Or the world around you? How could those parts you are pulling out be important to your growth into the fully alive human being you are?

 

Join me on Sunday, June 10th

to practice seeing our lives through a clean eye with…

a thousand ways…

 

What does it mean to be awake?

 

An age-old question, for sure.

 

If things aren’t going wrong in our lives, we sometimes don’t even know that we’re not very awake.

 

It can be so easy to glide along in the comfortable illusion of awakeness.

  • I’m fine. 
  • I don’t let my partner’s idiosyncrasies bother me.
  • I swallow back my frustration when the children act out.
  • I know how to self-medicate with chocolate, alcohol, TV, sleep, or …

 

But there is more possible!

 

What if you felt your irritation rise up, understood its connection to your past, and, instead of swallowing down frustration, responded to your children with attunement, helping them navigate their emotions?

 

What if you had integrated the connection to your own needs and concerns, instead of inwardly cringing, when your partner does something a little whacky, thus opening up the awareness of her/his precious individual expression?

 

What if you had energy to savor your life—every drop of it, instead of numbing out to soothe yourself?

 

That’s what waking up can open up in you!!

 

Waking up is not just a experience of the mind. Waking up involves all 3 Centers—Belly/Body, Heart, and Head.

 

Opening one Center can support the opening of the others. All are intimately intertwined in our awakening.

 

I recently read Brené Brown’s book Braving the Wildnerness, on what it takes to show up with awakeness in the world, in particular, in this political climate. I LOVED this concept:

 

Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.

 

As we awaken, we develop a strong and flexible spine—representing our will and ability to focus (Body and Head Centers)—instead of a rigidly over-protective back.

 

When our back is sturdy and flexible enough, instead of hardening or collapsing to protect a weak spine and defend from hurt, our front is open, soft and available to the world (Body and Heart Centers).

 

And within that soft front blossoms what Brené calls our Wild Heart. The Wild Heart is an awakening heart that is soft, open, and available to life’s beauty, chaos, unpredictability... Not numbed out or stuck in any one feeling, but able to respond to the paradox, feeling deeply and wildly available to life.

 

As Rumi says, “There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground,” a thousand ways—and likely more—to practice waking up.

 

We’d like to invite you to a few coming up:

 

For you who love the Enneagram, as we do, as a map for waking up, the earlybird deadline for our new workshop is Friday March 9th. Sign up now!

 

 

For you who love all-things-tea, as I do, as a presence practice, the earlybird for Tea & Poetry is March 11th. (Note new times.)

 

What are you working on in your life right now
that supports your waking up?

with each step

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking
we used when we created them.” ~ Einstein

 

Dave and I taught a daylong on the Law of Three, a deeply embedded teaching of the Enneagram, for our Minnesota Enneagram community this past Saturday.

The more I work with this teaching in my own life, the more I experience this truth—

When I’m stuck trying to solve something with my thinking, I don’t solve it by chewing over the same thoughts…

When I’m stuck in my feelings, re-experiencing them over and over again, they do not release…

There’s actually something valuable about that funny and famous cartoon (I paraphrase):

  • Patient: Doctor, when I move my leg like this, it hurts.
  • Doctor: Then don’t move it like that! 🙂

 

If we’re not running our habitual patterns to find an answer—overthinking, overfeeling, avoiding, denying, repressing, all of which cause us pain—what DO we do?

 

We apply what the Buddhists call skillful means.

 

Monday morning after my run, aware of a problem my mind and heart had not solved from the day before, I was practicing one of my favorite walking meditations from Thich Nhat Hanh:

The mind goes in a thousand directions.
The beautiful path is the path of peace.
With each step, a gentle wind blows.
With each step, a flower blooms.

 

This is an example of using skillful means—

When you’re stuck in your mind or heart, running the same old tapes…

Try coming back to the body.

 

As I walked this meditation, my senses came alive–with each step:

  • the gentle, cool breeze was blowing and kissing my face,
  • the flowers in yards and boulevards were blooming,
  • the trees were standing solid, tall, rooted, their leaves waving to me as I passed,
  • the sun filtered through the canopy, lighting up all it touched,
  • the moon, moving to half-waning, holding watch in the sky.

And my body came online, her intelligence sparkling, softening, supporting all that was trying to work itself out in my mind and heart.

 

No big “AHA,” but now, where there wasn’t before, there is space for something new to arise.

 

It can be this simple.

We can trust the intelligence of the body to support the heart and mind.

What body practices do you have in place to help you open to more spaciousness when you are stuck?

 

In my upcoming workshop on forgiveness, we’ll be exploring many types of skillful means of body, heart, and mind to find our way home. It starts next Wednesday, October 18th, 2017, here in St. Paul, MN, and I’d LOVE to have you join me!

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The F-Word

This is the 1st of a 3-part series. Read the 2nd here.
Or listen to the full talk.

 

The F-Word.

As a born-again Christian (and an Enneagram type One), this word was totally off limits. It was a BAD word. Only BAD people used it.

And I, of course, did not want to be BAD.

I was working really hard to be GOOD, with a Capital G.

But the F-Word held a certain power, a mystique, a “je ne sais quoi.”

After that teenage phase of my life, it slowly found its way into my expression, for better or for worse.

 

These days, I’m much more interested in the other F-Word.

 

I bet you know it, but maybe not by this moniker, which I learned from Gabrielle Bernstein.

It actually has many similarities to that first F-Word I mentioned–

It holds great power…

  • To open new pathways in our being,
  • To affect relationships between people,
  • To make a huge impact on communities, our culture, and the world.

Its mystique is well-chronicled…

  • Demons lose their power,
  • Stuckness mysteriously disappears,
  • The heart unfolds.

 

So, what is this F-Word?

Maybe you have guessed it by now?

 

Forgiveness

 

I know, it’s a doozy!

We’ll break it down little by little in this series of blogposts, but for now, let’s end with this:

 

For-Give, Etymology:

  • from Old English: for + gifan = to give
  • from Old German: vergeben
  • from perdonare, Latin = to give completely without reservation.

 

To give completely without reservation

Without losing yourself–

  • Without giving up,
  • Without giving in,
  • Without giving over,
  • Without compromising your values,
  • Without condoning what was done to you or by you.

 

This requires a soft and open heart, mind, body, and soul.

 

Read the 2nd of this 3-part series or listen to the full talk.

And in the meantime, I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts thus far!

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