Winter Solstice 2021–Grateful for the Darkness

By Joshua Woroniecki on Pixabay

As we move into the Winter Solstice on December 21st, 2021, I am feeling so grateful for the darkness.

Darkness, cover me like a blanket of night, oh cover me lightly.*

I feel the growing blanket of night that holds me, our home, the land, the forest in a cozy embrace. It’s dark outside, but the fire is glowing and there are pockets of light inside.

The darkness all around has the effect of focusing my attention. Especially in the 12-hour power outage last month, the flickering flame from the woodstove and candlelight, the beam of our headlamps made me focus on what was to hand as we were gathered in by the blanket of night.

Shadows gather around me, deepening darkness, whispering softly.

These days, we have to take our headlamps to walk the dogs after I finish work, but our animal bodies still find the path in the gathering shadows. I keep my headlamp off as long as I possibly can and wear a light-colored coat my parents can see as they follow me up the path.

The cedars whisper as I walk among them. The ferns speak in frond-talk. The alders sigh with their loss of leaves. And I sing to them, pray with them, or speak quietly… depending on what is called for.

And the path in the deepening darkness leads us home.

Holy Maker of Moonlight, singing through starlight, Keeper of all life.

Standing in the darkness, under the fullness of the moon, receiving the darkness, the moonlight, the starlight. This is what I was made for. To stand vigil, to hold the sacred without and within—for who can tell the difference in the dark… to live the aliveness of the living earth all around and within me.

Hidden Seed deep in the dark soil of the earth,
fertile ground, womb of the night, bring us new birth.

It is a time for waiting, hidden, claimed by the dark, claimed by the living earth. It is a time of slowing down, of resting in the womb of the night. Somehow, I seem to always need this invitation.

The ground has been prepared—by my heart and hands, by those of others, by the living earth herself. The fertile womb of darkness will bring new birth. It is my job to trust, to wait, to listen, to grow, to leave behind what has become too small and be welcomed into the growing light when it is time.

Winter Solstice falls on Tuesday, the 21st of December at 7:59 am PT. It marks the longest night of the year and the turning toward growing light.

I hope you enjoy these long nights and darkness’s cozy embrace so that you will be ready to grow into the light when you are called into the Spring.

If you would like to join in a Winter Solstice Gathering,

I’m leading A Quiet Winter Solstice via zoom from 7:00-8:00 on Solstice evening. It will be an evening celebrating the turning of the year. I will lead the group in song and sing a few pieces solo, weaving poetry and participatory ritual that invites us into the depth, stillness, and contemplative aspects of the season. Consider having a candle and matches available if you want to participate in the candle-lighting towards the end.

And if you need a last minute gift, my CD The Path, a collection of folk, medieval, and Celticky Christmas music, is available digitally and as a CD on bandcamp:


Happy Winter Solstice, however you celebrate!

* Italicized, centered text is from the song Darkness Cover Me by Sara Thomsen. Come sing it with me at the Winter Solstice gathering!

Autumn Equinox–Earth-Based Practice

Happy Autumn Equinox!

Autumn Equinox 2021 falls on September 22nd at 12:20 pm PT. It is the balancing point between light and dark, the approximately equal day and night before we tip toward darkness.

When I think of balance these days, I think of how out of balance we humans have gotten with Eairth,* how our presence has caused such harm to Eairth’s life systems.

Listen to an Equinox round by Laurence Cole
that invites us to walk in balance with Eairth.

How do we walk in balance with Eairth?

What does that even mean?

There are so many plans for mitigating the crisis we find ourselves in, living on a planet whose weather is getting more and more erratic and whose life systems are failing.

For me, the biggest thing is to find a way to live in balance now, in this forest garden home where I am living. To find a way of belonging, of connecting, of being in relationship with Eairth. If I don’t have this, I won’t be able to choose well how to act in the world.

I find what helps me the most are earth-based practices.

It’s been a gradual shift for me to take on earth-based practices consciously, even though I have been slowly moving in this direction for years.

My first official foray into a deeper connection with Eairth was through Sara Avant Stover’s The Way of the Happy Woman. This work helped me get more connected to the seasons—how they manifest not only in Eairth but in me, how I can align with them in how I eat, how I plan my life, even how I do yoga. This was thrilling to me—to realize that I could choose to energetically match my life to the natural patterns of Eairth. 

Tending the earth continues to teach me about how alive Eairth is. When I see how Eairth can grow plants without fertilizer, without artificial interaction, simply from the basic elements of earth, air, water, and sun, how can I not be grateful and amazed?

I often greet new sprouts and blooms by singing to them, thanking them for growing, welcoming them. It is not a very big step to simply thank and praise Eairth for the larger gift of life, that allows me and my beloveds also to live.

I take inspiration from indigenous practices, the Native American medicine wheel, Pagan and Celtic practice, the work of Charles Eisenstein, geologian Thomas Berry, cosmologist Brian Swimme, deep ecologist Joanna Macy, wilderness-based soul guide Bill Plotkin, poets Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder, and many others.

While I have found it helpful to learn the data points that comprise this experience of being alive, of plants greening, of earth sustaining us, I have also felt a need to enter more deeply into relationship with Eairth, into more-than-head-based knowledge.

So, other than thanking and praising the plants as I tend,

the trees and ferns and moss as I walk,

what does this look like?

Most mornings, I practice a version of what Native Americans call a medicine wheel, just outside our back door, turning to face each cardinal direction and addressing one of the Elements, or what Brian Swimme calls the Powers of the Universe. The circle I move in also blends elements from Wicca and from Bill Plotkin’s wheel of eco- and psycho-spiritual phases of development. Sometimes I add yoga, too.

I greet and thank East, Power of Wind, of air, of breath, of sky, of the new day dawning. Grateful for the qualities of freshness, newness, of innocence and open mind, of the generous distribution of air that keeps plants, animals, and humans breathing and warms and cools our planet.

I greet and thank South, Power of Fire, of flame, of warmth, of noon heat. Grateful for the qualities of passion, of growth, of flowering, of playfulness, of the instinctive life force that runs through the animal body that I am.

I greet and thank West, Power of Sea, of water, of flow, of depths. Grateful for the qualities of sensitivity and responsiveness, of the ability to be affected by others, to absorb and assimilate, and to be absorbed into the One/the Beloved.

I greet and thank North, Power of Land, of matter, of stone, field, and mountain, of cosmic memory. Grateful for the qualities of gravity, of strength and action, of re-membering and remembering, for my elders, teachers, mentors, and ancestors.

And in the Center, I touch earth and reach up to sky, turning in a circle, bringing my hands to belly and heart, breathing in now. I feel myself taking my place, as human, as being, as earth standing on two feet, as a member of this amazing web of life.

I think what we are all seeking in our lives is a feeling of connection with True Nature.

Call that God, Goddess, the Universe, Higher Power, Beloved, Love, Truth… to me, it is all the same. We had a taste of this connection, this love in our mother’s womb and have been searching for it ever since.

Being surrounded by the natural world, as opposed to the human-made world, helps me feel this connection more easily. Many people experience this—we seek moments of wonder, awe, beauty, peace in nature.

What if these moments are simply openings to True Nature, that which is the most essential and natural to us all? And what if we could consciously cultivate this connection on a daily basis?

There are many ways to practice connecting—this is just one detailed example of a morning practice. Bill Plotkin’s books, Joanna Macy’s work, The Way of the Happy Woman, Forest Breathing practices, books about getting kids in to nature—there are many more ideas out there. One other important way for me to connect is through singing—check out this song by Gretchen Sleicher.

What earth-based practices support you?

* Eairth = Earth and Air, a more descriptive way of spelling the planet we live in, from geologian Thomas Berry

Summer Solstice 2021

our pond and surrounding gardens

Here, in the Northern Hemisphere, on June 20th

at 8:32 pm PT, we are at Summer Solstice again.

Eairth* has awoken in flowers and flourishing plants and new leaves. She is bearing fruit and food and warmer days filled with light…

Here we are with the longest day inviting us out into the light, and many of us are still experiencing what I’ve heard called “cave syndrome.”

We are more comfortable inside, or at least, at home.

We have been staying home, sheltering from the pandemic. We have, if we are lucky, had the companionship of animals and family, but most of us have led circumscribed, smaller lives. And now this lack of outer contact feels normal… And safe… And secure.

At my last two Chant & Song evenings, we sang a number of songs about surrounding ourselves with protection. One of them was a prayer I set to music  from the Carmina Gadelica, a collection of prayers, songs, and incantations from the Scottish Highlands and Islands.**

Sacred Three
To save, to shield
To surround the hearth
The house, the household
This eve, this night.
O, this eve, this night,
And every night,
Every single night.

This is a prayer based on a practice from earlier times of smooring the fire for the night so that there will still be coals to ignite in the morning.

To smoor, the woman of the house subdued the flame by dividing the coals into 3 piles, one with the blessing, “the God of Life,” one with “the God of Peace,” and one with “the God of Grace” (the sacred three representing the Trinity). Peat was then placed between each pile and ashes on top with a final blessing, “the God of Light.” ***

You can listen and sing along to my recent version with guitar accompaniment, and to the a capella original with harmony and drum on my Welcome Brigid CD.

We reflected as a group that we need these kinds of rituals in our lives to help us connect with not only the safety around us, but also with the inner hearth-flame. And especially now when leaving the cave can feel threatening, consciously or unconsciously.

I particularly like the image of keeping the hearth-fire lit because of the image of hearth as center of the house and household, which it truly was when this prayer was originally uttered. It kept the house and people within warm, protected, and fed.


I can’t help but see this connection even though the words are not related etymologically.

Keeping the hearth warm keeps the heart warm.

The center of the home is the hearth. The center of the human is the heart.

Our hearts also keep us warm and fed. The heart’s capacity to feel, to love, to connect, to create meaning makes this possible.

Since that evening, I’ve been singing this song when I close and lock up the house overnight, feeling the circle of protection here in our home.

And in the morning, when I travel the same circle, opening up, unlocking, I sing a morning welcoming song.

These rituals provide a gentle holding in my life.

They reinforce a sense of sacred center, sacred hearth and heart, held in reverence and respect.

Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron explains the power of ritual in this quote:

Ritual is about joining vision and practicality, heaven and earth, samsara and nirvana. When things are properly understood, one’s whole life is like a ritual or a ceremony.
Then the gestures of life are mudra [sacred gestures]
and all sounds of life are mantra—sacredness is everywhere…
Someone can have an insight,
and rather than it’s being lost,
it can stay alive through ritual.

~ from The Wisdom of No Escape, p. 77

I love that wisdom from earlier times can be passed down in this way—through a prayer of protection. I feel more deeply the connection to those who came before and those who continue to live closely with the land and cook and heat with fire.

So, as we find our way out of our caves into the light this summer, it may be helpful to practice or create for yourself some kind of ritual for protection.

In Celtic lands, the Irish call this a lorica and the Scots Gaelic a caim.**** A simple one is just to hold up an index finger and turn around, drawing a circle around your body. You are creating a circle of protection with you at the center. You could also add a song or prayer or mantra to the turning.

From my study with women’s work teacher, Sara Avant Stover, I also love the practice of feeling myself in my protected heart-cave as I move in the outside world.

Then as you leave your house, you take the gentle holding and flame of your heart-cave-home with you as you move out into the world.

Do you already have rituals of protection?

What might you incorporate into your daily life?

* Earth and Air = Eairth
** Alexander Carmichael, editor

The Call of Autumn Equinox


Autumn Equinox occurs on Tuesday, September 22nd

at 6:30 am Pacific Time this year.

While Solstices give us an experience of full-on light or dark, Equinoxes invite us into a threshold of changing light. Because of this, there is an uncertainty, a not knowing as we move into the turning.

This is especially true now in the USA, in such a time of unknowns, changes, and uncertainty:

  • Our white supremacist culture is being rightfully challenged causing upset and confusion, amidst even more loss of Black life, but hopefully turning us toward justice;
  • Climate change is causing unprecedented wildfires in the West with huge loss of life, home, and wilderness, while more hurricanes threaten the south, winters are colder and snowier in the East, more frequent tornadoes and high winds erupt in the Midwest, and everywhere, temperatures continue to rise;
  • Covid-19 continues to not be contained thanks to an inept president, causing death and pain of disconnection from family and friends; and
  • We head into a very contentious election with threats of violence if the current president does not get his way…

As we move through the threshold into Autumn Equinox and live with all of these uncertainties, we move toward more darkness. But this is not all bad…

Darkness has its own logic, its own holding, its own invitation.

To rest. To slow down. To pay attention inwardly. To listen. To stop doing.

Wendell Berry says it this way:

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

We need to enter in to find the gifts of the dark, the blooms and songs…

We can’t find the gifts of the dark in the light.

We can’t find the gifts of uncertainty and unknownness when we think we know.

We have to be open to something new.


As we cross the threshold from light into deepening dark,

Autumn Equinox calls us to reassess our lives.

What’s working? What’s not? What changes are needed so that we can enter, so that we can allow something unknown and new to unfold?

A few things sing to me:

We can choose to make changes that allow us to walk in beauty more in our lives. No matter how uncertain, how much dark, how much confusion, each step we take can be done in beauty. (Read new blogpost.)

We can choose to create ceremony / living ritual to reconnect with Eairth’s autumnal rhythms.

In these complicated and uncertain times, with the darkness all around and growing, may you find support in the threshold, in the knowing that this turning toward dark is a natural expression of life here on Eairth.

With the seasons, we turn in, deep into dark, then back out again and deep into light. Perhaps this particular Autumn Equinox turning is exactly what is needed.

If you would like to join voices during these times, please join me for 1st and 3rd Thursday Chanting for Community, Healing & Hope or consider an in-person, outdoor contemplative Evensong service on 1st Sundays.

In the meantime, allow the dark.

Go dark. And trust the dark song, the dark feet, the dark wings…

the steady center

Cutting Loose by William Stafford
Sometimes, from sorrow, for no reason,
you sing. For no reason, you accept
the way of being lost, cutting loose from
all else and electing a world
where you go where you want to.

Arbitrary, sound comes. A reminder
that a steady center is holding
all else. If you listen, that sound
will tell you where it is and you
can slide your way past trouble.

Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path—but that’s when
you get going best, glad to be
lost, learning how real it is
here on earth again and again.

Thanks to my Full Voice Coach Training last year, I’ve started reviewing the poems I’ve learned by heart over the years. (Poetry is a wonderful way to practice exploring different parts of your voice.)

I almost always start my day with poetry—a bit of beauty, of inspiration, of deeper meaning to open my heart and mind first thing.

This poem by William Stafford jumped out of my stash of poems, asking to be brought back into my bodysoul, so I’ve been reciting it every morning, waking up the poem within me again—or should I say, allowing it to wake up me?

The reminder that from sorrow—in fact, from anything—anger, joy, even fear—we can sing…

Singing is another practice I do every morning. Usually I sing to greet the morning. Sometimes I hear melodies that become songs through me. And often I sing along to a song I’m learning.

For no reason, except that singing wakes me up, too—lights me up, and connects me with a deeper heartful and devotional contact with life (myself included).

Singing has been a lifesaver in this transition of settling into a new home and community, a tether, a grounding cord to Being. Even though I feel lost—and often even “accept the way of being lost”—singing/sounding provides a constant “reminder that a steady center is holding all else.” 

And that “all else” includes me.

I also listen to the new sounds here—the shooshing of the wind in the fir, spruce, and hemlock, the west-coast birds greeting the day, the bark and talk of our new dog Sammy to get our attention, the crackle of the fire in the woodstove, the rain on the metal roof, the voices of my parents…

Sound/song/singing does help me “slide [my] way past trouble” because it unsticks me, “cutting loose from all else” that might be running in my mind, landing me here, now, in the moment, with this particular beauty.

The “twisted monsters” barring my path are very familiar and include fear of loss, fear of newness, fear of not-knowing, frustration at the time it is taking to settle, overwhelm at how much there is still to do…

And these are familiar stories—they crop up wherever I am because I always bring myself with me… Remembering this helps me “get going best, glad to be lost, learning how real it is here on earth, again and again.”

This being human is no joke!

We get lost over and over, and we re-find our hold on that steady center over and over, again, too. This is reality here in Eairth.

We sorrow, we sing, we cut loose, we find our steady center, we get lost, and we do it all over again…

How do you hold fast to your steady center when you feel lost?

It’s good to remember these teachings now as we move more deeply into Fall in the northern hemisphere. With the waning light and cooling temperatures, this seasonal transition of completion and letting go as we move toward Winter heightens the sense of loss even as we harvest and celebrate.

It’s a time to deepen our practice of welcoming everything, to add more stillness and cozy time amidst the Fall chores.

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: (audio file coming).

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.

Savoring Eairth’s Gift of Summer

The People
Today we have gathered and we see
that the cycles of life continue.
We have been given the duty to live
in balance and harmony with each other
and all living things.
So now, we bring our minds together as one
as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.
Now our minds are one.
~ from the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address:
Greetings to the Natural World

Summer Solstice,
the threshold of Summer,
the outer sign of an inner
an inner
maturing into fullness.

At 10:54 am CT on Friday, June 21, we in the Northern Hemisphere enter into the days of lush growth, of rampant blossoming, of warmth and celebration.

We are held in this natural cycle of life that Eairth and her seasons continually unfold, a cycle that invites us to us back into balance and harmony with ourselves, with each other, and with all living things.

The wren that has been singing to me daily this week is living out her natural cycle—she has been nest building and tending, and sharing the abundance of the beginning summer in her beautiful song. Take a listen above if you have not already!

And isn’t it interesting that at Summer Solstice, at the peak of the longest days of light and the generous greening of Eairth, we also turn the corner towards Winter Solstice? Every day past the Summer Solstice will get a little shorter and each night a bit longer until we reach the longest night on December 21.

Summer correlates energetically
with the Full Moon (this past Monday)—
the fullness of energy,
the following of desire,
living large, embracing our passion…

And we know, just like the cycle of the moon, already beginning to wane, that summer is also balanced with winter—expansion with contraction, light with dark, activity with rest—always balancing and harmonizing in the natural cycles of life…

What would it be like to live into our fullness, to follow our desire, knowing that it is deeply rooted in the dark, fertile nourishment of Eairth?

To only follow desire so long as it is tethered always to Source, like an umbilicus connecting us with the nourishment of the Mother?

The Native American Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address continues by first honoring the Earth as our Mother:

The Earth Mother
We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth,
for she gives us all that we need for life.
She supports our feet as we walk about upon her.
It gives us joy that she continues to care for us
as she has from the beginning of time.
To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.

Feeling the ground of support of the Mother under our feet, receiving the gifts of her bounty—fertile soil, food, water, air, birdsong, animals, mountains, trees, plants, rivers, oceans… Without these we would not be alive!

Summer is the perfect time to appreciate these gifts—
to savor the abundance
of Eairth and of our lives.

Moving too fast and doing too much—habits I easily fall into—keep us from savoring. And it’s usually a sign that we’ve forgotten the deep rootedness and moment-by-moment belonging to Eairth, skating along on the surface, not experiencing our daily life as a gift.

One of the ways I’ve been savoring recently is through all the sweet friend dates we’ve been having before we move (in a little over 2 weeks!).

Normally, the most time I might have spent would have been 1-2 dates/week; but now, sometimes we have up to 4 dates in a week!! When I look at my calendar, my habitual self thinks it’s crazy…

But, in reality, we’ve both been really conscious about savoring these in-person connections that we will be leaving behind as we settle in a new land. Instead of feeling distracted or depleted from too many dates and too much to do, by staying connected with our deeper rootedness and relaxing in the field of connection between us, we feel abundant and full of gratitude for these connections!

Another way I practice savoring is sitting on the front porch in the morning, looking out at the dancing river birch, the green lushness of ferns, pachysandra, and hosta circling it, marinating in sun and birdsong. And when walking through the neighborhood, I open all of my senses to savor the profusion of summer beauty that Eairth is opening into right now. (Find more savoring practices.)

Open to this moment. Live it.
Belong to it.

Summer is a gift given by our Mother, Eairth, right now.

Live in harmony, enter the cycle of abundance and celebration, of savoring and en-joying, knowing that this cycle will give way to the next, a new season, a new rhythm of life.

And like our indigenous brothers and sisters, two-legged, four-legged, winged, standing, sitting, lying, and flowing ones, give thanks for the generosity of Eairth, who continues to give us all that we need for life.

there always, something sings

“…in the muck, in the scum of things, there always, something sings.”

~ Michelle Isaac from her song Something Sings

I spent July 15th – 20th in the hospital in Ithaca, New York.

A monthlong on-again, off-again headcold was brewing into pneumonia unbeknownst to me, and the pleurisy that abruptly awakened me at 5:30 am on Sunday the 15th was so painful and gripping my left upper chest and back that I feared I was having a heart attack. Various complications, including fevers spiking daily, kept me in the hospital longer than usual for pneumonia…

After the initial fear for my life–not a heart attack, not a clot on my lung, and later, not MRSA…, I found myself settling into an amazing experience of holy refuge and practical, hands-on love everywhere–through the ongoing expressions of support, care, blessing, and prayer from facebook when I posted to my friends that I was in need, and through the daily, attuned attention and ministrations of the nurses, aides, and doctors on 4 North, where I was convalescing.

the singing

I felt so much gratitude and appreciation for all the care I was receiving. Even in the depth of pain on every breath, even in the fear of the unknown, even in the sadness of this happening–without any effort on my part, love brimmed over like a waterfall from my heart, flowing over me and over others.

Why not see the good in everyone and be kind? I was feeling so supported, so I kept letting people know how much I appreciated their kindness. This created a beautiful reciprocity of kindness meeting kindness.

After many meals, I spontaneously wrote a thank you note on the slip of paper that had my order on it. Each day, I got a menu to choose from for the next day, and on the back was the typical “My Plate” diagram from the US government about healthy meal proportions. One day, I wrote a note and drew an arrow to the “My Plate” and said I wasn’t able to fulfill my need for vegetables at breakfast. Within a half an hour of taking my tray, someone from the kitchen came up and asked me what I’d like and from then on, I had a salad with every breakfast! Kindness meets kindness.

I was able to truly receive the care offered to me-all the little things that the nursing staff did as a matter of course to care for me, and all the things I asked for. I let them care for me in ways that in the past I would have apologized for. I would have maybe not even asked for fear of being needy. But by asking, I got to receive their care and love.

Food is healing! As I ate my very simple, mostly protein- and veggie-based meals, I felt their life-giving power. How chewing made the vitality of the food accessible to my body. How eating slowly and reverently helped me receive the bounty of each bite. How I never felt like I had to be a “clean-plate clubber” and eat it all, so I could listen to what was the perfect amount in the moment for my healing.

The view of the lake. I was so lucky to get a room that had a view of the lake and to be in the bed by the window so I could see it! As soon as I could, I asked my care team to turn my bed so that, instead of the TV, I had a view of Lake Cayuga. The “leaping greenly spirit of trees and the blue true dream of sky” along with the water saved me (e.e. cummings)! I could feel their life force blessing and healing me. It was so odd–they said no-one had ever asked for this before!

Grief. Yes, grief is part of the gift, too. Since I was sick in my lungs, I realized grief might be a component. In addition to grieving being so sick, and missing not only my family gathered for the wedding, but also the concert I was supposed to sing and all my friends I was going to see that week in the Hudson River Valley, I found a well of grief that still needed to be felt about losing my brother in 2016. I let myself grieve his loss–that we could not save him, that he was so unhappy, that this was how turned out. The tears, the deep feelings helped me release another layer of this painful loss.

People, relationships, connections matter more than work! Joy matters! Singing! Laughter! Time for pleasure! Work is not the most important thing to prioritize in the day. This was so evident while I was lying around healing, receiving all the love from facebook friends, from the Unit, from my family and friends. It’s the heart-full connections that were healing. I barely touched the book I had with me that was related to work. I instinctively reached for the connection… 

Asking sincere questions creates real connection. I loved learning about the lives of my caregivers–the nurses, aides, and Brendalee, who was in charge of the meals and kept coming to check in with me.

I found out Brendalee keeps chickens, pigs, and rabbits for her grandchildren so they will have a chance to have animals in their lives. In her home, there’s a basket by the door and everyone puts their cell phone in when they enter in order to have a chance at real contact. Her love of cooking is passed along to her 4 yro granddaughter through cooking together in the kitchen and through her service at the hospital. What a gift to feel the heart connection of so many common values and desire to be of service under our very different exteriors. We both felt filled by this connection.

Spaciousness around everything. Nowhere to go. “Nothing to do or undo, nothing to force, nothing to want, nothing is missing” (Venerable Lama Gendun Rinpoche). There was so much time for rest. I saw how all the things I love and all the ways I want to live create stuff to do and track and manage–they take up time. I want time in my life–to rest, to connect with friends, to sit with tea and take in beauty, to sing, to pray, to heal, to journal… to be. And NOT just in the hospital! 🙂

Singing gives me life. Even when I was sick, in pain, and had almost no breath from the pneumonia, humming or lightly singing a healing song carried me. The tune and words lifted me, bringing conscious intention for my mind, attuned contact with my heart–whether grief or joy or longing, and holy vibration to my body. Singing accompanied, companioned, and inspired me, surrounded me with the healing life force of my bodysoul. The primary song I sang as I did my “rounds,” (walking around the unit) was originally a birthing song, and I changed some words to birth my healing:

I am trusting my body to carry me through carrying you to me, I am trusting.
My body wide open, the veil lifts, my heart is filled, my mind it empties.
Wide open, I am wide open.
Welcome breath into my lungs, welcome flow into my muscles, welcome joy into my organs, welcome qi into my cells.

Click the link below for the song.
It is meant to be sung as a round.
Listen below for the separate parts I sang to save my life.

I Am Trusting My Body

(A birthing song, learned from Kathar Grant, who learned it at the gathering, Singing Alive. I changed the words to make it a birthing-my-healing song while in the hospital with pneumonia.)

the feast in everything

The heart at rest sees a feast in everything. ~ Hindu Proverb

Do you see the feast in this video?

Cherry blossoms releasing from the tree in the wind.

A flower blessing.

An unexpected shower of beauty.

A fragrant and soft caress.

Or perhaps you experience the other side?

The tree losing its blossoms.

The loss of beauty.

The petals sticking to face, hair, patio furniture…

When the heart is at rest,
the mind, too, can be at rest,

and open our perception
to the truth of what is.

Now you’re probably expecting me to say it’s better to see the lovely things related to the loss of the blossoms, but I’ve had to learn the hard way that

all of it is true.

When we focus on only one side—the “blessing” or the “curse”—we miss the preciousness of the moment.

We miss the fullness of life, right here, right now.

We miss being at rest with what is.

What if we just stopped struggling? 

The rest of the words to that song by Kaitie Ty Warren include: “What if I let it go?” “Can I surrender?”

What would happen if we stopped struggling with what life brings us? What if we met it just as it is, felt any pain, and opened to the beauty and blessing, too?

What might change in your life?

Whenever you need a shift, watch that video, sing those words, ask that question, and see what arises… (you can learn the whole, beautiful song, “Surrender,” here.)