Re-enchanting the World

October 19, 2013

I have a sad story to tell. It is the story of a woman who lived in a shoe. No, that’s a different story. This one is about a woman who lived on top of a sweet little mountain tucked into a great range of mountains in Western North Carolina, the oldest mountains in the world some say. With wildness, woods and big sky all around her, she breathed every day the immensity of her environment. The animated world of nature’s sound, light and color, of strong wind blowing through big trees, of owls, coyotes, bears and forest animals filled her days as she taught and wrote, dreamed and mused and enjoyed the company her tribe, the mountain people. When the woman conducted telephone sessions with those who called for her assistance with dreams and plumbing the depths of psyche, the massive trees outside her window spoke to her in oracular ways, communicating in astonishingly precise messages what the soul of the world had to say about the soul of these conversations. Wind, light and shadow shaped leaves and branches into faces and symbols that spoke deeply to the emotions and issues at play. She could read them as easily as some read their books.

This woman loved her mountain home, thinking to stay there to her dying day until one day she suddenly realized, like a lightning flash, that she had to move into town. The knowing struck so soundly that she could only move forward with it, could not look back. And so she did.

In town she was helped and guided with loving care by both visible and invisible allies as she faced the challenges of finding living spaces and work spaces, as she endeavored to build her new work along with networks of colleagues and friends. One day, quite magically, she found a new cottage home to buy in a forested neighborhood with nearly an acre of enchanted secret garden behind it. Birds and squirrels, wild turkeys and even bears came to call. She began to make plans for how to build little yurts or domes in precious woodsy spots around the magic garden, there to host dream groups and other activities in support of soul work and psyche. Her next planned project was to transform her cute little wood shed into a zendo where she can get away from phones, computers and electronics of any kind to just be in the woods alone with nature.

One fateful day last week, after being away at her downtown office from morning til night for several days running, the woman went out to her back garden to sit in the sun while she had her lunch. Looking up from her plate her eyes could barely register what greeted them. The forest on one whole side of her property had been clear-cut. It was gone. Disappeared. A cleared, devastated landscape now shown where the forest had been. Her secret garden was no longer secret – there is now no barrier between it and the barren land that stretches over to the brand spanking new three-story house that had been built on land that she thought was two lots over, but which now, excruciatingly, she realizes borders her land. She had been saddened at the new development as it did not seem consistent with the other houses and sensibilities in this forested place, but at least the trees and shrubs created a visual and sound barrier. No more. Now the formerly private life in her garden is but a view to cut down trees and a looming house. At night, what was previously dark forest now has three stories of light bouncing off the trees. And the woodsy spaces where she planned to place a yurt, a dome and her zendo might as well be in the middle of the street, it seems.

If someone had torn the side off the woman’s house it would be horrible, but at least she could call in a carpenter and have it put back up in short order. Not so with a forest that took decades to rise up into its lusty complexity and beauty.

A friend came over to take the woman out into nearby woods on a hike, hoping to help revive her spirit. Normally the rich enchantment of the wild world would soothe and refresh her immensely. But when she got to the forest she realized that something felt altered in her perception and it scared her. As she entered it seemed as if the enchanted world had faded like a dream from which she had been jolted awake. Now all she saw about her was wood, dirt, leaves, roots, rocks – all seeming like dead matter rather than living presences; she saw the forest as a simple commodity you can just cut down and not care. The woman thought, “Wow, this is how the world is actually experienced by some people. I never, ever saw it like this before!” As Henry David Thoreau said, “It is not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” She was suddenly seeing differently, or not seeing what had always been apparent to her before. She began to question her sanity; was this diminished reality the raw truth of things and previously she had lived in a fanciful delusion?

Her heart became sick. She couldn’t think or sleep or look out her window.

She hasn’t yet met the people who did the clear cutting. They will move in soon. These folks may be the sweetest people in the world, and her assumption is that of course they absolutely mean no harm to anyone at all; they are just building their own nest in the way that makes sense to them. But these new neighbors have left her with a task she never expected to be faced with – how to reclaim lost enchantment. The shock has done something to her she realizes, more than just the matter of planting new trees and boundaries. It switched off an internal energy current, and now she has to figure out what the experience wants from her, how to respond, how and even whether to locate the inner light box and turn the switch back on. She is bemused.

Ok, it is time for the author to change voice. I wrote the story in the third person because it is feels too painful to write in first person. And maybe because it would sound self-indulgent to say “me” and “I” throughout. Some have told me that I am over-reacting to this event and I accept that. But I want to write a short bit about my grief for the Earth that arises along with my own personal grief; maybe that is partly what makes it all so big for me.

Historian and philosopher Mircea Eliade elucidates the chasm between the sacred and the profane, explaining that in archaic societies the entire cosmos was experienced as sacred – rocks, trees, stones, stars – all manifestations of the sacred. He wrote that, “It should be said at once that the completely profane world, the wholly desacralized cosmos, is a recent discovery in the history of the human spirit.” Scientist Rupert Sheldrake uses the term “machine cosmology” to describe the worldview that has developed since the scientific revolution. The universe is now seen as a machine, soulless matter mechanized by mathematical urgencies. And we, as part of it, are such. Not sacred, not gods and goddesses, but matter made up of physiological urges. Rene Descartes was an original visionary of this movement.

In this cosmology, waters are not sacred, air is not sacred, you can pour poison into them and devastate whole ecosystems without it being a crime of any kind. It’s just a machine, no sin to dismantle it. I won’t go on and on. I have written a whole dissertation about this, and addressing the concern is central to my life’s work.

We do still have access to the original mind, what I call the indigenous mind, which experiences the world as ensouled, but the other mind that is aggressively instilled by modern culture and education threatens its extinction, at which point the possibility of human survival on the planet may be in question. I am seeing this recent event in my life as a kick in the derriere, possibly precisely intended to help me regain focus around these intentions and passions which have become diluted by efforts to simply survive my life. Must begin again, and anew.

I will close with this little story. Soon after moving to my new home, I re-upped efforts around an intention I have held since childhood; I want to be able to actually see fairies, gnomes, leprechauns, dwellers of that realm that I truly believe are real but which stand just outside most humans’ perceptual capability. I spent some weeks going into my secret garden at night to leave these beings some food and drink, having read that they love to be fed by us. It is said that the matter of the offering remains, but the fairies, leprechauns and such imbibe the essence of the food and are nourished. I love the idea, so began feeding them, hoping to introduce myself as the new resident here and let them know I care to be in relationship to them and hope to see them.

When the shock of the forest clearing hit last week, I worried at once about the fairies and leprechauns and how this might affect them. I understand that my confession may now convince the reader that yes, indeed, delusion is a problem here. It does occur to me as well. To that thought system however, I impart this story told to me by an Irish friend. Priests in Ireland became concerned with the common folks’ belief in fairies and felt it their duty to eradicate this nonsense from their minds. Maybe the fairy realm competed with the messages of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, not sure. A priest says to one of his parishioners, “Now Mary, you don’t believe in fairies anymore do you?” To which she replies, “Oh NO Father. I don’t believe in them anymore. No, not at all. But – they’re there!”

To this struggle between a sacred and profane cosmology that erupted in my own psyche recently, reviving my concern regarding the same struggle in the world psyche, I will say that I’m with Mary. When we happen to stand in the position of a desacralized cosmos, matter as machine, and poo-poo the idea that trees, stones, plants, stars are beings, we know we are just too smart and too sophisticated to believe in such spirits. Of course we don’t believe in them.

But they’re there.

 

Hawk and Moon

October 4, 2013

A line from one of my favorite movies ever, Thunderheart, has stayed with me in the two decades since I first saw it. The film tells the story of an FBI agent played by Val Kilmer called to a Native American reservation to investigate a murder. Since this agent is partly Sioux in his bloodline, the government sends him hoping to soften the residents of the reservation toward him so they will cooperate with the investigation. He is, however, a hot shot with no interest in being identified as Sioux; to him they are primitive, foolish and out of touch with modernity. When he finds himself in the company of their most respected elder, a translator delivers the words of a vision the elder is having – the agent has great standing in this community as a warrior (and the movie goes on to describe why this is so) but, in his present awareness the elder says to him “You are as far from yourself as a hawk is from the moon.”

The story is epic to me. It describes perfectly, in my mind, our modern dilemma as humans. We simply have forgotten who we are. We are as far from ourselves as a hawk is from the moon.

How modernity has led us into this distant wilderness is a topic discussed thoughtfully by eco-theologians, eco-psycholgists, depth psychologists, and many social, anthropological and spiritual analysts. The simple fact remains that each of us, as individuals, have work to do to remember who we are. We have been forgotten. We are forgotten. We forgot. But we can, and must remember.

Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? This may be the most profound meditation a human can consider. The layers of this question will quickly take one past narcissistic and individualistic ideations into a deeper story of identity.

I write about this now because for some reason I keep witnessing the question surfacing in my mind and in the minds of friends, clients and colleagues. I wonder if this might be a result of the shift suggested in the calendar that moved us through 2012 and into a next phase of earth’s evolution. Old answers and old assumptions about who we are – individually, collectively and planetarily – don’t seem to hold power in the same way. People are casting about, bravely, with this question.

To me, in my way of seeing and describing, I would say we have lost the dreaming. Our forebears dreamed, remembered their dreams, discussed, revered and were guided by their dreams. Dreaming is, and was, a dimension of consciousness, a locus of operation in both day and night. To forget this is to lose ourselves and the terrain of the imaginal, a real realm in which our subtle bodies work out situations in the worlds we inhabit.

We are now, collectively, as far from ourselves as a hawk is from the moon. But remembrance is possible and seems to be beckoning. An open doorway stands straight ahead. Crossing its threshold requires willingness, imagination, humility and sense of adventure. But I see it, we’ve got it, we can do this. We can shorten the gap between hawk and moon. I know it. I’m looking forward to it.

Vision Quest Reboot, 2013

August 31, 2013

I have done a number of Vision Quests over the course of my adult life, but three, and now a fourth, stand out as pole stars around which the rest of my psyche and life revolve. The depth of insight into Self and world from these experiences is unmatched by anything in my experience.

I will briefly describe the first three, and then in more depth the one I undertook just this week. The first one took place around the time of the end of my career as a minister. Knowing a shift was coming and being still unable to conceive of it, something from deep inside of me said, “I need a vision quest.” I don’t know where that came from, as at the time I had never known personally anyone who had done one, and barely realized that they were still practiced. “Ask and ye shall receive.” Very shortly after that I met a woman at a gathering who was part Native American. She mentioned that she led vision quests. I asked her without hesitation if she would conduct one for me. She did. After careful preparation with her I sat awake under the stars from sunset to sunrise in the mountains outside of Malibu, California. It was the simplest, clearest, most pure rite of passage I could ever have imagined. Within a month I resigned from the ministry that had been my life and career for 20 years and embarked on the rest of my life with new vision.

Some years later, after my ex-husband and I had separated, a situation that was unbearably traumatic for me, I began work with a Nigerian dibia who conducted a training and initiation for me over the course of about 9 months. It was the year 2000. Eze instructed me during that period that I should shave my head. I dwelled upon his suggestion for a time and then one night the thought hit me. Ok, I will shave my head, but when I do I am going to go out into the wilderness on a solo vision quest for 10 days to sit in raw nature and listen deeply. It came as a crystal clear vision and I committed myself to it on the spot. I spent several weeks preparing for this, and then did so. It was one of the most magical, informative and transformative experiences of my entire life. I have written and spoken about it elsewhere many times since then, so will say no more about it in this writing.

In 2004 I moved from my long home in Los Angeles to live in the wilderness within the mountains of Western North Carolina and start a retreat center. As I think about it now, the intentions behind this move were largely based upon the experiences I had during those vision quests. While working through the processes of making such a huge adjustment, in 2006 a friend who is a professional nature photographer, Lori Kincaid, invited me to hike to Shining Rock Wilderness with her where she was going to take photographs. I jumped at the chance. Shining Rock is a miraculous mountain of crystal rock that ages ago exploded out of the earth when continents collided. It is a white and brightly colored rock several stories high. Looking up at the side of it while we were there I saw a little cave-like grotto half way up the wall of stone. I heard a clear message that said “Come back here for a 10-day quest and spend as much time as you can in this grotto.” This I knew would help me to relocate my spirit to this side of our continent and get a vision for the next phase of my life. I committed to that vision and prepared myself for a couple of months before I came back. This experience was, equally and differently, as profound and transformative as the other two quests I described had been. One of these days, possibly, a book or writing of some length will come out of all of this, but for now my life itself is a testament to the quests and an outgrowth from them.

Now, in 2013, I have just made a move from my wilderness home into the city of Asheville, North Carolina. The move has been an earthquake in my soul, a shift that has rocked me enormously. When my friend Lori mentioned recently that she wanted to return to Shining Rock and did I want to come, I knew it would be a perfect time for me to reboot the power and the experiences from that 2006 quest. We went for two nights and three days this past week. Hiking the 4.7 miles in over rocky terrain with heavy packs on our backs I felt the weight of the experience in more ways than one, but the anticipation in my heart was so high that I barely felt the strain. When we got there we put our tent exactly where my tent had been those ten days before. I prepared the circle in the ritual methods I know. While Lori was off photographing I spent the time in communion with the familiar rocks, woods, trees, and spaces that had been my home and my village in 2006. I told Lori that a million dollar vacation to an exotic location could not have made me happier than I felt being there.

I spent timeless time in the area of my tent home, in the grotto, in what I called my tea garden, and in the spot where I had written down my dreams and in my journal every day previously. The spirit of the place was fantastically alive for me, and I felt fantastically alive as well. Memories of where and who I had been in 2006 were clear, reflections and questions about all that has transpired since then emerged, and information from nature that had been sealed into me then flooded back and expanded.

On the final morning I revisited and spent timeless time reflecting in all of my familiar areas, and explored some new ones as well. As I sat leaning on the tree across from some tall rocks in the location where I had done my journaling, I mused upon the stones in front from me. For the very first time I saw a face in the stone as clear as if it had been carved like the busts on Mount Rushmore, only this one more beautiful as it is nature’s carving. The face is of a Native American man, high cheekbones, smiling eyes, perfectly chiseled nose, chin and mouth. I could barely believe I had never seen it before. (I will include pictures in a future blog post. New programs automatically added to my computer changing how things used to work, and now using a new smart phone rather than my camera, prevent me from knowing how to do this just now.)

When I made the intention to quest at Shining Rock the first time, I happened upon a statement in the book called Shamanism by Joan Halifax saying that the Huichol believe that the spirits of departed shamans go into the crystal rock, inhabiting them, and from there they instruct the living shaman. When I encountered these words I got chills all over and knew that the idea to go to the rock for those ten days had been inspired by the shamans living in the rock. And now I was actually seeing the face of one of them. As Lori said to me when I showed it to her, “I believe this is an omen.” I was an unexpected and very powerful blessing.

A dear friend of mine, Chris Moors, recently encouraged me to publish my blogs in book form. He said that to him they represent how the indigenous mind handles modern world challenges. He wrote these words that have reverberated within me and mean very much to me: “Can it be done to hold ancient space in the modern world? Yes. How do I know? You are doing it.”

This is indeed my quest. My commitment. My hope. My longing. And my journey.

Vision Questing is a profound ritual. I commit myself to providing and reviving these rites for modern men and women. Just yesterday a friend and client who attended a vision quest that I conducted on the mountain years ago spoke passionately and eloquently about the profound benefits and life-altering effect that experience has had on her, effects that increase and continue to move her constantly.

May each of you who reads this find and follow your deepest visions. I ask the blessings of nature and the ancestors for you in this.

A Ritual for Bonding with Place

August 4, 2013

When I purchased my home in Asheville 3 months ago, along with a darling little cottage came an acre of beautiful gardens on the slope behind my house, complete with a gorgeous waterfall created by the previous owners. It was impossible not to fall in love with this place.  Hook, line and sinker, I was a goner. Where do I sign? The sale went quickly.

I hadn’t been here but a couple of weeks, however, before the shadow of this great grace began to present. Few people would be as naive as I was about what is entailed in caring for these gardens. In negotiation for the purchase, a for sale by owner property, I explained to them that I know nothing about gardening. I was married to a landscape contractor for 20 years who for the length of our time together had his crew come in and take care of everything. During those years I was working two jobs and raising children, and happy not to have to even think about that part of the responsibility in home ownership. When I moved to the mountain I took care of my 6 1/2 acres, but those weren’t gardens – it was wild land. I bought a tractor and mowed it myself, and otherwise had only a tiny bed for herbs, tomatoes and a few flowers.

The owner told me that this garden is low maintenance; it really only requires that you put down mulch every couple of years. She probably easily assumed that anyone’s mind would be able to fill in the blanks – that hours and hours of weeding, pruning, dead-heading, thinning the overgrowth, and on and on would also be included. Sadly that was not the case for me. I thought, “Ok, mulch every couple of years and I get to live in Disneyland, garden-wise.”

Oops. I moved in at the end of April. Summer hadn’t even started. With all the rain we have had it wasn’t long before the weed population threatened to take over everything. And every other undone garden thing began glaring at me – as if to say, you idiot! I was a deer in the headlights. I couldn’t sleep for a month. I thought I had made a huge mistake, and felt very down on myself about it. How could anyone be that naive? If I were in a better situation financially I could just hire someone to do it all, but that is not my circumstance at the moment. There is so much to learn I feel a little like a pre-schooler suddenly thrust into a Ph.D. program. Sitting to just enjoy the property became barely possible.

And so, rather than sell the place, cut and run, or continue to wallow in fear and despair, I decided I had to do the only thing I DO know how to do. Create a ritual. Ritual calls in the great powers; it is the language that connects mere humans with the caring and wise invisible resources who are just waiting for us to engage with them so that they can assist. Ask and you shall receive. Knock and the door will open. Those principles are at work in ritual well conceived.

I did not feel bonded to this place. Like a newborn who is not bonding with mother, it is a dangerous situation. I felt alien. I didn’t know how to engage. I truly believe that there is a spirit to every place, and spirits that inhabit it – devas, plant spirits, elementals, angels, fairies and the like – but I didn’t feel remotely conversant with them. How do I open myself to the conversation, introduce myself to them, tell them my situation and ask to become an active part of this community of life? I need desperately to bond, to feel a sense of belonging, to care for the land and let it care for me.

The idea came in a flash; begin a 40-day ritual. 40-day rituals are spoken of in nearly every spiritual tradition. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days before he began his ministry. All scriptures are rife with such stories. Indigenous people say, “You must feed the holy;” make food offerings to the land, spirits and the ancestors. So I decided to go out in ritual mode every day for 40 days and make offerings, pray to know and be known by those who live with me in this place, and then look about and see what comes for me to do. Try not to think about the never-endingness of what there is to do, and how little I know about it all, but just do something, whatever shows itself.

The first day I was shoveling dirt that had fallen down the hill in the torrential rain. The next I was cutting back plants that had already bloomed, someone had pointed out to me which ones needed that. The next it was another thing, the next another. Each act is a prayer. One day I sat with the big tree in front, planted a crystal under its root, and just hung out with it. Another I got a blanket and lay on the land and watched the life buzzing all over it – wild turkeys, bunnies, butterflies, birds, bugs. Some days treasures are delivered – the gorgeous shell of a turtle who died, the luminous body of an expired butterfly, beautiful feathers.

We’re bonding. It is happening. I don’t know what is ahead or how it will all get done, but I’m not going to let the worry and anxiety that was threatening my sanity to intrude on this ritual. It’s a beginning. Adventure is ahead, and I am readier to embark. Ritual is good. I am grateful.

Something is wrong, but I don’t have the words…

June 23, 2013

Recently a physical therapist I was working with told me this story of her little 2-year-old granddaughter. The girl’s parents were separating, her dad had moved out, the household was full of turmoil and conflict. The toddler looked hard into Grandma’s eyes and said, “Something is wrong, but I don’t have the words.” The dilemma of this child has haunted me.

I remember the story of Helen Keller whose life of darkness inside of her deafness and blindness was broken open one day when she realized there are WORDS for things. Water! This is water, her teacher finally got through to her. A word to match a thing. After Helen learned that first word, life was never the same for her. She grew by leaps and bounds, becoming highly educated, and became a writer and an educator herself.

I think I and my fellow humans are in need of just such a breakthrough. I have been looking at the news every night these last months and feel choked, without the words for what I see. Devastating storms, tornadoes, fires, hurricanes, droughts, floods – every time I tune in I am interested to hear more about how people are faring in regard to yesterdays disaster, only to learn that there is a new one just as horrific today. Something is REALLY going on. I feel like that little girl. Something is wrong, but I don’t have the words.

Speculation is frequently offered that perhaps such has always been going on but that news reports were more sparse so we simply weren’t as aware of it. I think collectively we sense that there is more to it than this. It is natural to believe that nature herself is in charge and all we can do is attempt to protect or defend ourselves, that we are not responsible for how she behaves; but even that notion is weakening. From scientists to the people on the streets the disturbing realization that these effects are a result of human choices and behaviors is being voiced more clearly, with more conviction. The denial we have been involved in is cracking.

How do we find the words to learn how to think about this? Albert Einstein says that we cannot solve a problem at the same level of thinking that produced the problem. Attempting to solve the issues by applying more legislation, more government, more corporate innovations, inserting anger, accusations, finger-pointing — or the opposite — have another drink and look the other way, these are thinking at the same level and will not help us.

I remember vividly hearing one of my greatest teachers, Thomas Berry, speaking at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1993. He was as lucid a speaker as any I have ever heard in addressing pointedly what I feel we need to know as humans in this era. Speaking to people interested in the world’s religions, he suggested that we cannot save the human without saving the planet. The ecological issues have to become the primary concern of the religions, of economists, educators, and absolutely every field of human activity. Humans will have to take a back seat. If we do not have air to breathe or water to drink, the rest of what we concern ourselves with will not matter anymore. We must figure out an integral Earth economy that preserves the possibility of life.

The natural systems of earth are given no “rights.” They cannot speak for themselves. They do not have words, I’m thinking. So maybe their words now are fires, floods, tornadoes, droughts. How else can they get our attention?

Thomas Berry asked – why do we need to have writings to express the depths of religious experience? Why not go to the Earth? We do not need a new religion, he says, but new religious sensitivities. When we can no longer see the sky and the mountains are torn up, what will evoke our sense of the divine?

These eloquent thoughts pierced my soul in 1993 when I heard them. I made an unspoken commitment to live with and into the responsibility that they suggest, and my life became an experiment with learning how to respond. Nature more than any other notion became my religion; I resigned from the religion I was then a minister of to pay more attention to what I felt this revelation asked of me. Just after completing my doctorate, I moved to the wilderness to listen to Nature with less distraction, and started a retreat center to bring others into the experience.

Now I live in town again, wanting to bring along with me what has been gathered. But I do not have words. I listen to the news at night and know something is wrong, and like that little girl I don’t have the words.

I hope we humans can listen deeply, reach for new levels of thought, and find the words together. I commit myself still, and once again.

Ecuador’s Rain Forest and Us

May 4, 2013

I have been following the news about what is happening in Ecuador as their government plans to destroy rain forest and the way of life for the Waorani tribes people as well as a vast diversity of plant, insect and animal life in order to drill for more oil. The U.S. is their largest importer of that oil, so we in this country are deeply connected to this problem, a travesty and tragedy in the opinion of many, and certainly in mine. The whole world is deeply connected to this, we are one organism on this planet. We lose that forest and those people and we lose a significant and sacred part of ourselves. Tragic denial is at play here. Concern for this is trumping nearly every other concern in my life right now. My heart wants to know what to do with it.

Since moving into town during this past year my psyche has been adjusting. It has not been an easy adjustment. I love, appreciate and enjoy immensely the value of what town and city offer, and know the absolute necessity of congregating in towns to feed and support each other at every level. But experientially it has become clearer and clearer to me how much the landscape of where we live affects and creates who we are and how we think. I had been living in wild, raw, undomesticated terrain, for better and for worse unfettered my much of what human progress is about. The values of what it is to be a part of that, and what benefits THAT, are what I was living at a cellular level for more than 8 years. It took over my being in a way I invited and hungered for.

My dissertation for doctoral work in depth psychology was titled Reawakening Indigenous Sensibilities in the Western Psyche. It was to me not only a matter of historical and anthropological interest to understand how indigenous peoples perceive and interact with the earth and each other, but a matter of survival. My inner experience was telling me that if we do not rediscover and reclaim our human birthright demonstrated in the modes of perception and capacities indigenous people maintain to be in clear conversation, mutual respect and intelligent interaction with the natural world we will destroy ourselves with certainty. These ways of theirs are the baby that was thrown out with the bathwater in modernization and civilization. I cannot easily describe how this concern took over the deepest level of my heart and being.

When I recently moved back into town and listened to all that is around me I was having an almost violent reaction inside, which I learned to monitor and be quiet about for the most part. I am learning to train and domesticate my internal psyche, attempting to trust the process while maintaining connection to all that I had reclaimed of my original nature, as I see it, while living away from all of this. The focus, the concerns, the values, the conversations reflected to me in an urban environment scream, at times, of a disconnection from what I had been awakening. I have felt like a lone tribal person with persons around me unaware even of the existence of the landscapes of psyche which I had come to know as home. Part of me cried “These are not my people.”  As I have looked at the faces of the Waoroni tribe people on the news these  last days I have instinctively felt, “Those are my people,” even as biologically and culturally I am worlds apart from them. Their internal values, their inner GPS, seems more familiar and significant to me than that of the world I now inhabit and was raised in.

This is not just theory, it is very personal for me. I believe if we are to remember who we are as a species, something about this needs to become more personal for all of us humans. We are developing a collective pathology that urgently needs a cure before we destroy ourselves and our nest. To pour poison in rivers and into the air is the same as injecting arsenic into our own blood stream. The shortsightedness of our modern way of life has made us addicts who need to come out of denial and into recovery. It is nobody’s fault, yet each of our responsibility – personally, individually, one-by-one – to wake up. This is my belief, and an urgently, deeply held conviction.

Obviously I have to learn how to stand with a foot in each world psychologically and spiritually, to integrate the seemingly opposite value systems into an inspired and careful relationship in my life, internally and externally. That is the private part of the work for me. But the public part is to make this cry, to find voice for my crying.

One of Carl Jung’s favorite stories was of a Chinese village that was suffering a devastating drought. They heard of a famous rainmaker and brought him to come help them. He asked only for a hut where he could sit alone for 5 days. He stayed in there, and on the 4th day the rains came. The rainmaker explained to the village that they had become terribly out of Tao, and this was producing the imbalances that were creating the harsh circumstances for their village. Jung loved the part of the story that all it took was one person to come and to sit in Tao to bring the whole village, and nature, back into harmony and allow them to flourish once again.

How can we measure the out of Tao-ness that we are experiencing all over our tiny Spaceship Earth, with war and hunger, social and psychological ills? What might Ecuador’s diverse rain forest and these Waoroni people be doing to help us powerfully to survive as they hold a certain relationship to Tao? What can each of us do to assist in this situation?

I have written a massive dissertation on this, I want to make it a book, I need to do more, I want to do more to address this passion in my heart and my gut. Meanwhile I am trying to find Tao within and to say these few words, hoping they are good for today.

Making a Life Declaration

April 28, 2013

I just turned 62 years old. It is easy to believe at this stage of life that this is a time of diminishing, a natural time to let go of earlier vitality, beauty, relevance. I have struggled to accept nature’s way in this; age takes an honest toll, even as it delivers such powerful gifts.

Tonight I stopped everything to sit down and make a declaration, a clear intention for how this next third or half of my life is to go. I just moved into a new home, a good time for intention-setting. Moving has been a monumental task for a person with only one hand, as my right one is broken. It requires that I learn to depend on friends, which has been humbling, which not according to my nature I have done, which has been full of gifts. Yet the biggest part has fallen to me, of course, to pull off. When my daughter Josi mentioned to her husband Eli that I said that I felt busier than a one-armed paper hanger, his comment was “Or a one-legged ass-kicker!” It has made me smile to know that they believe I am as ever up to task in kicking ass.

Tonight I wrote the following in my journal, and then decided to transcribe it also as a blog. When I logged on to do this I saw that the last blog I wrote was the 499th since this blog’s inception. I have often wondered what #500 would be, but determined not to be self-conscious about it. So now this is it, without pre-conception.

Tonight, April 28th, 2013, at 9:03 PM, this is my declaration for life. These words come from my bone-marrow, my cells, my deepest heart. I hope they might strengthen you as well.

From today forward I am going to be more happy
more strong
more beautiful
more healthy
more joyful
more buoyant
more giving
more grateful
more free
more generous
more confident
more in charge
more loving
more forgiving
more humorous
less fearful
less worried
less vain
less holding on
less angry
less terrified

Today I begin a new life. I am 62. The changing world defines age in changing ways.
I want to call this stage free.
Happy.
An increase in vitality.
An increase in beauty.
An increase in perspective and gracefulness.

So be it.

My great love to each of us as we make our declarations.

Love on the Bus

April 25, 2013

It is my 62nd birthday today, a Full Moon, lunar eclipse day too. I’m celebrating with a few friends tonight in my new home, FINALLY a home to settle into after two years of being in transition. The house will be empty as we celebrate and I won’t own it until after the closing first thing tomorrow morning – but what an amazing timing and gift this is. I’m feeling quite full and grateful. And stressed and exhausted – there’s nothing quite like moving. I have a broken right hand, so the term “busy as a one-armed paper hanger” really applies here too.

But, I got inspired today to want to tell one of my best little heart stories as a gift from me to my reader. I was reminded of it as I drove to my little grotto/prayer spot and found myself following a school bus, having to stop here and there.

A few years ago, while driving home to the mountain on a mostly untraveled two lane highway a school bus was coming from the other direction. It stopped in the middle of the highway, extending its stop sign to tell oncoming traffic – me – to come to a full stop and wait until the passenger was safely off the bus. I stopped. I waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. As it happened, thankfully I wasn’t in any particular hurry so I just sat there curiously. The driver of the bus shrugged her shoulders at me, indicating sorry, but there wasn’t anything she could do to hurry the process. Finally I began to see what was taking place. As the young man who was leaving came forward to get off, he stopped and hugged every single child on the full bus. They weren’t quick hugs either, it was taking some time. Every student stood to embrace him when it was their turn. Finally he came to the bus driver who hugged him too, and then stepped off the bus beaming and hugged his father who was patiently waiting on the ground at the door. I could see that the young fellow was an autistic child of maybe 12 or 13. As he and his father began their walk to the car, the stop sign folded back in, and the driver smiled to me as if to thank me for my patience as she drove on. I got the sense that this was a daily ritual, and that everyone on the bus happily gave all of the love and time it took to participate.

That story makes me cry every single time I think of it. People are so essentially good. Isn’t it just so sweet?

Considering Apparitions of Mary

April 15, 2013

When I was quite young I saw the exquisite little movie The Song of Bernadette (for which the lead actress Jennifer Jones won an Academy Award as Best Actress). I have never forgotten the experience of seeing this film. As time has gone by I realize more acutely how this story affected my forming psyche and my spirituality. At my confirmation, a ritual that Catholics offer to adolescents, I took the name of Bernadette and with all my heart it felt like such a blessing to receive that name.

Later in life, during my second pregnancy there were complications. The doctor ordered me to stay in bed for the last two months lest the baby come early. Having a full-time job and a 4-year-old, I remember thinking that I should have been thrilled to be  given permission to just rest. But instead I felt sentenced to absent a life I loved and sit in a room by myself. I could hardly bear it. Somehow I acquired the biography St. Bernadette Soubirous: 1844-1879 by Francois Trochu. It is an enormous volume, and I lapped up every page of it, thirstily taking in each word, idea, image, tale. I read it once, then read it again. I lost time. Those months disappeared.

Sometime later, having two very young daughters, my former husband and I received an invitation to join some friends to travel to France and to Italy. My life felt so full of responsibilities I couldn’t quite imagine taking off for a European vacation; it didn’t make sense to me at all. But suddenly I felt struck by a thought that jolted me – I could go to Lourdes, to where the apparitions of Mary actually took place! I could be there, I could see it! I could go to Nevers in France, where she lived her later years and where her incorrupt body can be visited. I could go to Lisieux, the birthplace of St. Therese whose writings I had also lapped up, every page like water in a desert. These two saints were and are patrons to my spirit, the effect of which I can never adequately describe.

Pilgrimage is a practice that I knew nothing about, I had barely heard of it and naively didn’t even know that people in any great number went to visit these places, besides Lourdes of course. I had curiosity and thought we could go just to see what we might find. To my great delight I learned that thousands of people make these trips, the maps are all laid out, the sites are prepared and readily open to tell the stories and allow for visitors to satiate their curiosity and enter the spaces where these lives had unfolded.

And so we went, many more stories of this might be told in another writing. At the time of this trip, 1989, there were young visionaries in Medjugorje,  Yugoslavia, to whom it was said that Mary was appearing at dusk in the local chapel on a daily basis. We went to Medjugorje, and visited that chapel on several of those evenings. I remember on our first night there the restlessness in the people as locals and pilgrims assembled, with the visionary children at the front near the altar. Nothing was particularly silent, there was lots of milling about, when suddenly I felt a feeling go through my body similar to when I once put a plug into a faulty electrical socket. My body felt like it slammed against the wall behind me. Soon after this everyone fell silent and the visionaries listened, looking upward, focused together on something unseen to the rest of us. I later inquired and others with me had not felt what I did; the quieting had happened when someone from the front notified the people to be still. But my notification came bodily, fiercely. I will never forget the feeling. After about 15 minutes, you could see the children raise their heads together as if to watch the vision ascend. And then everyone in the chapel said the rosary and left.

The very next year my husband and I visited Fatima, in Portugual, another famous site of apparitions of Mary to children, and alsowent to Garabandal, a tiny village in Spain where Mary had appeared to several small children on a regular basis from 1961-1965. We stayed there for several days, met the visionaries who still lived there, prayed with the pilgrims, immersed ourselves in the stories and pondered the mysteries.

I am not going to try to explicate messages from the visions, as to me the message is simply that she came, she shows up, she offers a mystery to scientists and believers alike. Even the most skeptical cannot seem to explain away the phenomenon surrounding these events.

After my travels, life went on busily. These stories stayed with me of course but other matters preoccupied my days. Then a dream arrived, seemingly out of nowhere. In it I was walking on the #2 Freeway that I drove to work every day. All traffic was on foot. Suddenly I saw Mary, Mother of Jesus, walking upstream, against the flow of the traffic, and I knew she was looking all about for me. I went to her, and she pulled me over to the side of the Freeway to talk with me. She told me many things, all of them very distinct and clear to me in the dream. When I woke up what she had said was right there and then, whoosh, everything was gone. Only the feelings remained. She had told me something horrible, nearly unbearable. I was horrified and devastated by the information. That is all I knew, no other sense or detail remained.

Not too long after that, my ex-husband and I resigned from the ministry we had been devoted to. The decision was excruciating, and the aftermath worse, but it was a choice that became inevitable for us. We were growing in ways the organization could not support and there was nothing to do about it. I remember thinking, this must be the devastating news Mary told me. Then not long after that, my youngest daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. This was crushingly sad to all of us, even though Arlene was and has always been unbelievably brave and good with the management of it. I thought, Mary must have also told me about this. Then very soon after this my ex embarked on a journey that ended up destroying the foundations of our marriage and family, and the shock of it, upon my discovery, almost ended me too. I thought, surely this must be part of what Mary had told me.

Today is April 15, the anniversary of the day that I received that shock (in 1999) and life as I knew it ended. I am not writing this tale today because of that fact, it is merely coincidental and interesting. I am writing because of Mary, because all of these previously almost dormant memories of my avid explorations of the apparitions of Mary have suddenly become inexplicably inflamed in my being again.

Mary told Bernadette during her first vision to her that she should visit that grotto where she appeared every day for a fortnight. And so recently I searched and found my own little grotto in nature here in Asheville. I had had a few such sacred places on the mountain, but had not found one here yet. Today I began a commitment to make pilgrimage to my new local grotto every day for a fortnight to pray and find out why this flame has come back to life in me. What does it want? What does She want? What can we do?

This does not feel ominous to me. Her prophecies to the visionaries have contained ominous things, which she said men could avert if they committed to do so. Her prophecy to me in the dream was certainly ominous, and the nature of its unfolding was of that quality. But I do not feel this now. I do not feel worry or fear. I do feel an urgency.

Why does She come? What does She have for us? And how do we sufficiently respond?

Spring and The Gospel of Thomas

April 5, 2013

Looking at the trees outside my window, and those lining the streets and covering the mountains in Western North Carolina on this day, April 5, nary a green leaf has arrived on their branches. The skeletons are yet bare-boned. But I can almost feel in my throat the energy that is ready to surge out of those trees and spring into this manifest world. Very shortly uncountable tons of gorgeous green mass will be exploding everywhere. The world is so pregnant right now!

This has been causing me to think of a profound passage attributed to Jesus found in The Gospel of Thomas, one of the documents found in the Nag Hammadi desert in Egypt in 1945.

If you bring out what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring out what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.

What if we, like the trees, are that pregnant, that ready to burst forth with what is within us which must be expressed? For each of us it is something unique – our own love, creativity, passion will be the new growth surging through us like the sap rising in the trees. The depressions, anxieties, angers, fears that we suffer may be due to damming up and not bringing out what is within.

Let’s make an intention to let go, spring forth, let the juices in the channels for our spirit come up, out and through. I like this image. I want to breathe into it. In the Book of Revelations Jesus says, “Behold I make all things new.” Let’s get ready for the new.