From egocentrism to ecocentrism

This year I returned to beekeeping and bought a package of honeybees for the first time. I’ve avoided packaged bees and prefer to catch swarms because in the process of swarming the bees have proven their vigor.

I wanted a sure thing, though, so I shelled out $180 for a package of bees.  Two weeks later, I got a call to catch a swarm of honeybees on Mother’s Day. We set up a second hive, but by the time we arrived to collect the swarm, the bees had already moved on.

But that second hive stood empty only for a day or two. Soon, honeybees were entering both hives with pollen in their saddlebags. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The pollen signaled that each hive had a laying queen inside. What?

Instead of swarming out of their boxes, which is the usual course of things, it seems that an at-large colony of honeybees swarmed into our hive.

******

I love honeybees and consider myself more a bee guardian than a beekeeper. We do not harvest honey, pollen, or wax from our hives. Instead, we provide the bees with lodging, bee tea, shelter, and love.

As a farmer, my aim is to raise rewilded, locally-adapted honeybees to sell to others. The process takes several years, includes many colonies lost to cold winters and viral loads and mites, but there are also generations of bees who manage to overcome the season’s challenges, becoming stronger and more resilient in the process. 

My hunch, and my hope, has been these honeybees can reclaim their feisty genetic and behavioral resilience when relieved of the pressure of producing an income for me. It’s a bit like saving heritage seeds for future genetic diversity in your own backyard, only I’m doing it with honeybees.        

Or at least that’s what I was trying to do.                            

On Earth Day, two years ago, we awoke to find our four bee hives broken open and largely eaten. We learned that a hungry black bear was behind the nighttime raid on our bees and that this bear had given birth to 4 cubs the prior winter. Mama bear likely found her way to us after her nearby forest home was clear cut. 

Two of our four hives survived the bear attack even after being left out in the rain overnight; a testament to the value of our approach of letting the bees be our primary beekeepers.  

******

An interesting dynamic was created for me to watch in real time: my packaged bees side by side with a colony of bees who had swarmed.

The packaged bees stayed in their hive and remained mostly out of sight. As bees go, these bees weren’t terribly busy. The wildish swarm of honeybees, however, was a study in rowdy presence. 

They never stung anyone, but the wildish bees commanded a good 10 feet of personal space around their hive; my packaged bees let me sit right at the entrance. In contrast to our shy purchased bees, our wildish bees covered the landing boards of their hive day and night, as if they were hosting a never-ending street party. 

Within 6 weeks, our packaged bees succumbed to attack by wasps and the colony collapsed. The wildish bees, however, proved equal to dealing with the wasps from the start.

Keeping the landing board covered with bee bodies at all times served to keep predation at bay. Unable to find a place to land, the wasps were unable to enter the hive. This is the just the kind of honeybee genetic stock I hope to save and hand on.

******

At this point of our collective colony collapse, we are being asked to move from egocentrism to ecocentrism in our relationship to the world. The ecocentric stance, a spiritual commitment at root, obliges me to put the needs of the natural world before personal preference and profit.

Merely abstaining from honey or profit wears thin with time, however. To sustain and deepen in the discipline of ecocentrism one must be fed; if not with honey for the body, then with honey for the soul. This is where shamanism comes in.

Until now, I have focused exclusively on teaching others how to journey using a drumbeat. This is an incredibly fruitful meditative practice that helps one become aware of the wildish, stinging, honeyed truths within. To journey with the drumbeat is to swarm from the boxes of the mind, and as with the bees, the practice facilitates evolutionary forward leaps in those who undertake it.

But not everyone can journey from the get-go. After many hours logged in shamanic journeying, working with a wonderfully diverse cross-section of people, it has slowly dawned on me that the shamanic trance state is simply a function of one’s ability to descend into the soma, or body, from the mind.

Gaia is the vast body who lays claim to our own. As we become increasingly skillful at “losing our mind and coming to our senses,” as we learn to appreciate the subtlety and nuance of our somatic intelligence, we deepen in mystical union with the the shared soma of our origins: the earth.

Moving from egocentrism to ecocentrism is the most pressing spiritual issue of our time, but this shift cannot simply be imposed from the outside. The internal logic of ecocentrism has to take root and grow organically inside each of us, lest we simply repeat the patterns of trauma and alienation that have brought us to this moment.

One way to crack the ego open so that it might germinate and grow into something upright and true is through devotion, the path of love. Devotion to Gaia is nothing new to humans, though like packaged bees, we’ve been bred and selected and pressured to the point that we, too, have forgotten our innate, feisty, and fun-loving ways.

To practice the shamanic path suggests that we meditate upon, nurture, and delight in untamed life wherever it is found. As we learn to approach the wildish lands and beings in our midst with devotion, as we seek to apprentice and learn from these, our beloved and unlettered elders, the controlling grip of the ego is slowly undone.

This is how we embark upon the soul’s journey back home to ourselves and to the earth. The heroic task of our age is not to climb to the heights, but to embark on the inward journey of descent down and into ourselves, the soma.

The path of conscious incarnation is a sacred work, one that is undertaken to unite with the burdens and the gifts of our shared body, Gaia. To move from egocentrism to ecocentrism requires a fierce commitment to the practice of presence and the willingness to awaken and refine our capacity for somatic sensing and feeling.

I’ll be honest with you; it doesn’t always feel good. But once we experience life outside of the prison yard of thought, word, and text, once we really get a taste of honeyed connection to this ripe, round, gorgeous sphere of Life we call the earth, we’ll be hooked.

The move from egocentrism to ecocentrism then will seem obvious, worth it, and full of meaning–even delight. Here, hidden beneath our necks and out of the sight of our minds is the honey for which we, the wasps, have been on the attack through the ages.

Egocentrism is a learned state of alienation from our bodies and from the ground under our feet; ecocentrism is simply our natural state of being. Our hope lies in undertaking the journey of rewilding for both honeybees and souls alike.

******

October special offer

This month, I am offering one-on-one shamanic journeys for $50. For those who have never journeyed before, this is a savings of 50%. 

The $50 rate is normally available only to my Wayfinding clients, those who sign up for four sessions in advance. Learn more.

Perhaps you’d like to gift a session to someone? Maybe you’d like to pick a session up for yourself while you’re at it!

Reply to this email at anna@gaiashamanism.com or go to the “book appointment” button at the bottom of each page on

www.gaiashamanism.com

I look forward to seeing you soon!

New essay, “University of the streets” in the July MOON magazine

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

“Our Urban Plunge was modeled on the theme of pilgrimage: a sacred journey to a holy place in search of social healing or transformation. The homeless, if they would even talk to us, were to be the powerful ones, the wise teachers on our journey.

Leaving the walls of home, church, and university behind, we stepped into a powerful liminal space between two worlds: the world of the housed and the world of the unhoused.

There are liminal places where the worlds of spirit and matter meet and more easily converse with each other. These are the holy sites people have recognized for millennia as holding a special potency that helps awaken the latent healing and transformative power in the seeker.

But as I learned out on the streets, there are also liminal moments, times in our lives that render the strange familiar and the familiar strange. This reversal of ground is a defining characteristic of the in-breaking of the sacred through the walls of our ordinary waking consciousness.”

Here’s the full essay.

Summer Solstice Message and Gathering

The moon and the sun are eternal travelers.

— Basho

At a campout retreat at my home a couple of years ago, I took a journey for a friend that left a profound impression on me. Her guide likened shamanic journeying to crossing the Texas-Mexico border.  Crossing over to the “other side” and back again, regularly, changes you. You no longer belong completely to one side or the other, but to both at once.

With a regular practice of crossing over between the two worlds, you begin to speak a new language, the language of la frontera, the border. The spirituality of la frontera is a spirituality of the traveler, a step by step process of becoming, and a gradual letting go of all forms of false security in order to claim the true protection of Spirit.

The point isn’t “getting there” when you live in the borderland, as we all do. The point is engaging in the soul’s process of re-membering, of finding, claiming, and stitching the members of the dismembered Self back together again. This healing, this process of remembering, requires that we resist the impulse to put up walls and declare that we have “arrived” and are done with the work of becoming holy and whole.

We live sandwiched between two worlds, the world of matter seen by the eyes, and the world of Spirit visible only to the eye of the heart. The more we practice traveling across divisions of all kinds, the more we extend ourselves to see life through the eyes of the “other,” the more the brick and mortar of the false self begins to crack and fall from our hearts. This is the basis of all inner vision, wisdom, and guidance.

As we travel back and forth between worlds, we are changed. We begin to light up to Spirit, as the sun lights up our skies. Through our efforts to realize justice in this world, through our efforts to connect to Spirit in the inner journey, we stitch ourselves and this broken world back together again.

One cannot achieve healing only through action in this world, nor only through the interior world of spirit. Both are needed.

In crossing back and forth, we learn to speak a new language. We begin to lay claim to our birthright: citizenship in both heaven and earth. Our regular border crossings summon Spirit to bend closer to us, and we begin to discern a larger meaning at work in our small lives.

The sun, who this week will reach the zenith of his power in the Northern Hemisphere, never rests in his journey across the skies. Neither does the moon in hers.

These eternal travelers weave a loving, ever-changing, sublimely balanced rhythm of light and darkness around us. The solstice reminds us that we are beloved and that we occupy a prized center in the ceremonial dance of our elders.

Just as the sun and the moon do not circle us without the company of the other, the journey of the spiritual traveler is meant to include others. We travel always with a sacred tribe of seekers, a group defined not by nationality, profession, or creed, but by their commitment to the journey itself. It is helpful to make their acquaintance.

If you have an interest in joining in on journey circles based locally in Eugene, or accessed virtually in online journey circles, do contact me at aalkin07@gmail.com.

May your solstice be a blessed one,

Anna

Summer Solstice Potluck and Journey Circle

Friday, June 21 at 6 pm

Join us at our home in Eugene on Friday, June 21, in nature for a shamanic journey. There will be a potluck at 6 pm and journey circle to follow about an hour later. Free. Email me at aalkin07@gmail.com to RSVP and for more information.

Shamanic Vision Quest

This Memorial Day Weekend, in observance of Swarming Season

Join us for a vision quest on Memorial Day weekend (Friday evening, May 24-Sunday noon, May 26). Camping out with us is suggested but not required.

We will be outside in nature, journeying on the themes of swarming season: letting go, clinging to the essential, going out on a limb, new life, and community.

Together, out in the elements, we will leave the clutter behind and make room for inner spaciousness. We will deepen, quiet, and grow still under the sun and stars, making room for new life. Swarming from our accustomed ways of being, together, is a powerful and healing medicine.

We will create a prayer altar, share meals, make offerings to the land, laugh before the fire under the stars at night, and practice the ancient Greek art of dream incubation as we sleep on holy ground out in the cathedral of nature.

This is your sacred time. The underlying structure of this vision quest will be based on the movement of the breath, coming in as a circle to journey, then going out to an individual sit spot out on the land.

The first half of the day on Sunday will be given to journeying (perhaps by our colony of honeybees) to seek guidance on how we as a group can continue to support and catalyze our individual and collective spiritual unfolding.

Service

Honeybees work in a variety of capacities in the hive and so will we on this retreat. Part of your offering to the group will be to contribute one of more of your talents to the gathering. Examples: helping to prepare the land ahead of time, facilitating rituals or group processes, offering music or movement or food or…, or assisting with whatever needs doing.

Between all of us, there is an embarrassment of riches. Together, let us celebrate our abundance.

Monetary Offering

This vision quest will be offered on a pay-what-feels right donation basis. After the vision quest, you will be asked to humbly consider what the experience was worth to you, and your offering will be received with gratitude. True to the theme of this vision quest, we will be swarming from the usual ways of doing things here in favor of trust and reliance on our shared abundance.

If you plan to eat with us, let me know of any dietary needs in advance. The shared food cost will be modest and added to your donation.

To attend, please RSVP to anna@gaiashamanism.com.

Swarming Season (Part 3)

A beautiful Mother’s Day swarm that flew away.

When the honeybees swarm, they go out on a limb to make room for birth of a new colony. In our human colony, one “goes out on a limb” because that is where the fruit is to be found.

Vulnerability and risk are precursors to the experience of natural abundance in life. There is a big payoff to be had in letting go of the old boxes and braving the elements for the birth of something new.

Obeying the swarming action of our souls may indeed help us to harvest the fruit of external reward, but this isn’t what the soul is after. Going out on that limb helps us to become a fruitful, nourishing presence in a starving world.

Going out on that limb is a precondition of ripening and maturing into your innate wholeness. Building trust in life, and in ourselves, is earned slowly over the years out there on that limb.

We are not asked to exercise blind faith in order to become fruitful, but we are asked to observe the seasons of the soul and periodically swarm out of our boxes of safety and routine.

Out on that limb, we build a reasoned relationship to the unreasonable dreams of our hearts. Out on that limb, exposed to the elements, we find again and again that our fears were overblown, that we have not been cast down by sudden cloudbursts, that we are not only surviving, but thriving.

Clinging to the intention to discover and live our soul’s purpose in life is itself protective. Instead of looking for external shelter and validation in the form of jobs, money, fame, or degrees, we grow strong enough, wild enough, alive enough, to fly out of our boxes and out into the world.

Swarming honeybees clothe the queen, their mother and Source, with their very bodies, fashioning for her a living hive of love.

Our queen, our mother and our Source, is the soul. We are called to embody the sacred love at our core, to clothe our deepest intentions with action and effort, and to fashion a living hive of love out of our days.

Swarming season is a communal rite of love in the service of new life. Honeybees go out on a limb together to birth a new collective.

It is time we do the same.

Swarming Season (Part 2)

The colony as a whole
arrives at the decision
to swarm
through a felt sense:
the time is right.

The queen doesn’t decide
when the colony will
create the special,
peanut-shaped
swarm cells
into which she will lay
an egg
for the birth
of a successor queen.
 
The nascent queen
is fed a diet of
royal jelly
as she develops
in her chamber,
but again,
it is not the queen
who “orders” this.

The darkness
of the interior hive
symbolizes
the subconscious realm,
the communal womb
from which dreams,
shamanic journeys,
and all intuitive
“knowingness”
arise.

We, too, swarm
from existing
social structures.
We come to
knowingness
in similarly
subconscious
and collective ways.
 
No one person
can order,
or contain,
the coming seismic shifts
in the ground of our shared consciousness.
 
Our conscious minds,
like our governments,
are often
the last to know
of the changes brewing
deep within us,
not to mention
deep within the heart
of our living planet.
 
This mysterious
and natural
swarming instinct
should give you
no
small
amount of hope.

Pressure for collective change
is building
under
the polished veneer of
business-as-usual.
 
Subconscious means
“below”-the-head
consciousness,
and this realm includes
the energetically
wise and
receptive
consciousness
of our bodies.

We feel orphaned
and separate
from Life
because we identify
with the “superior”
boxes
of the mind.
 
In our boxes,
in our proud exile and
isolation,
we have forgotten
how it feels
to plug into the larger consciousness
of the organic life force
through the “current”
of the Now.
 
In its commonality,
in its lack of exclusion,
in its open access to all,
this “current”
has the potential to unite us
with the wordless wisdom
of the body
and the greater body
to which we are united:
the living earth.

This current of energy
runs through everyone and
everything,
without exception.
 
The more often you
swarm from the boxes
of your mind
to come to your senses,
the more you align yourself
with everyone and everything,
the more “here” you are now,
the greater the voltage
of Life “current”
that can
and will
run through you.

Spiritual electricity
is as impersonal
as physical electricity.
It follows certain metaphysical laws.
 
One of the laws
of running greater life current
through your body
is practicing
radical inclusion
in thought, word, and deed.

In supporting and sustaining
all forms of life
without distinction or exception,
Gaia is our best teacher
of this spiritual law.
If you are matter, you matter.
Period.
The word “matter”
is from the Latin, mater,
meaning “mother.”
 
Spiritual attainment,
as modeled by Gaia,
is truly
down-to-earth.

Her spiritual power
is so material,
so common,
and so reliable
that countless species
have built their lives upon it.

Such is the power
of the sacred feminine
and the earth’s example
of a love
radical,
inclusive,
and embodied.
 
For too long in the West
we have worshiped
at the altar of the Father,
the sky,
and the intellect.

But reason
loosed from feeling,
thought
unmoored from body,
and spirituality
disconnected
from the wisdom teachings of the earth
is anything but
rational,
relational,
sustainable
–or sane.
 
Our social order
is built upon
an anti-matter
platform.

We worship at the altar
of powers
immaterial,
out-of-touch,
and unapproachable;
once in the cathedral,
now in forces of the Market.
 
Our Western cultural orientation
enshrines and encodes
striving,
scarcity,
and exclusivity
into the words we speak
and the ways we distribute
value and power.
 
We inhabit an
aristocratic view
of reality,
we the common people.
This is the view we inherited
from our conquerors.
 
We hold a blind and
unexamined
faith
that worth is found
in what distinguishes
something from the rest.

While this misplaced
faith
has long impoverished
us spiritually
(for the sacred is what we hold in common)
it now threatens
to extinguish us
as a species. 
 
For too long
we have uncritically
accepted
and celebrated
a scornful relationship
toward things common.
 
To be common
is to be “vulgar,”
literally,
in our language.
To be common, we feel,
is “beneath” us.

But what is beneath us is
the earth
—our mother, our source, and sustainer of life.
 
The symbolic landscape
we have inherited
is backwards and upside-down.

And so are our ways.








Swarming Season (1 of 3)

As we leave the dark inwardness of the winter months, we find ourselves in the midst of one of the most ancient and venerable of our seasonal rituals: swarming season for the honeybees. This 100 million-year-old rite of love for the greater whole has many lessons to teach in our current age of collapse.

When honeybees swarm, the queen flies out of the darkness of the hive where she dwells and works tirelessly for the whole of her life. The queen quits the protection of the communal womb of the hive for the outside world. She is accompanied by about 2/3 of the colony in the swarming action of the honeybee colony.

The queen, the mother of all the honeybees in the colony, goes out on a limb (literally) to make room for the emergence of a new queen or queens in a few weeks’ time. The colony prepares to swarm when there is enough brood (baby bees) to repopulate the hive and ample honey stores for the new colony to have a shot at survival during the transition to a new laying queen.

Swarming is an expression of abundance, an acknowledgement of “enoughness,” and of love for future generations. Swarming is a sacred and vulnerable moment for the whole colony—only about 50% of swarms make it to a new home.

The honeybees fashion a living hive out of their very bodies to protect their mother, their queen, their Source, from the dangers of the larger environment. As a collective, clinging to one another, out on a limb, and exposed to the elements, the swarm is only one rainstorm away from devastation.

Why would the honeybees willingly undertake such a risky endeavor? Simply put: to evolve.

******

May this day, and this season, bestow the blessings of new life upon you. 

If you need help or encouragement in swarming from the habits and story lines of your old a narrative into something as-yet unformed and new, let me know. Honeybees don’t swarm on their own, but do so together. So do we. 

For those who might be interested in my weekly Zoom online journey circle on Wednesdays at 4-5:30 pm PST, let me know. The prerequisite is a one-on-one session with me. Test driving you first circle is free. The monthly subscription is $40.

If you live in Eugene and would like to regularly attend a weekly circle, or would like to attend a weekend retreat on the theme of swarming season, also let me know of your interest at aalkin07@gmail.com.

A love letter to you

Image by Marc Benedetti from Pixabay

A love letter to you, when life is hard.

It seems a divine renovation and expansion program is now underway, centered upon your heart. And it hurts.

You are apprenticing in fierce love in the service of Life. You are learning how to keep your balance and not shut down in the face of so much intensity. Instead, you are learning to allow all these powerful feelings of awakened life to rush through you in all their color, hue, and ferocity.

This is how Life carves a spacious canyon out of the common sandstone of the heart.

St Francis of Assisi once prayed: “Make me a channel of Thy peace.” The peace you seek is not to be found in building walls, getting out of the rapids of life, or in constructing a dam. Quite the opposite. 

In the center, in your expanding heart, you are learning how to allow increased emotional and energetic flow. The more feeling or wattage that you can run, the more life to which you can say “yes!” the more you will be able to recognize a greater order in the rushing and chaotic reality that is this river of life.

Instead of riding the rapids, you are learning to hold your ground while the rapids run through you. This is what it feels like to become a channel of peace. This hollowing out would be a great violence if you didn’t meet the force of Life with a still greater power: the steadfast and all-encompassing Love which has, until now, slept unnoticed at your core.

As with electricity, grounding is what keeps the circuit from shorting out. Stretching your heart’s capacity to embrace this untamed river of lifeforce is hard on the nervous system. Working with the lower chakras, in particular the root and the sacral chakras, will help you to stabilize these rushing and wild emotions. 

Your root chakra is waking up and the experience is like sitting on fire. It is an uncomfortable process, but if you master this energy, bend it to your will, and forge it into a tool, then fear and anger will never make a tool of you. Move consciously, with deliberate, quiet, slow focus to channel this awakened root chakra energy to constructive ends.

In times of transition, observe a regular rhythm: bed times, rising times, eating times. Keep a schedule; this helps stabilize the root chakra. Toddlers need a lived rhythm to help them to maintain a (relatively) even keel. Consider yourself 3-years-old for now: that alive, that raw, that real.

Your sacral or second chakra is the realm of sexuality, sensuality, and creativity. Focus here, too. Draw, sing, dance, cook. Take bubble baths, walk barefoot on the grass, and so on. The second chakra influences the root chakra, so focusing here will help mellow the meltdowns and calm the storms of emotion blowing through. You have homework. Do it religiously and you’ll find that you can truly help yourself navigate through these wild, creative, life-giving waters.

While this situation may feel like your worst nightmare, I assure you nightmares are themselves harmless. Their purpose is to rouse us from our sleep and to awaken memory.

Nice dreams tend to float away and we just keep floating downstream with them, going along with the overall flow of our environment. Onward we float indefinitely until something unpleasant prompts us to change direction and start swimming upstream against the “current” or the “now” of popular thought and behavior.

Upstream is Source. You are swimming to sanity. Don’t let anyone pathologize the powerful transformation in which you are engaged, most of all you. Cheer your wise warrior heart onward.

A new you is being born. It is disorienting to be in the midst of a spiritual, emotional, and energetic rebirth. Remember to breathe. And to smile. 

Just because something doesn’t feel good doesn’t mean it isn’t–in actuality– a good thing. 

Welcome to the process of spiritual becoming. Like all births, it hurts. Like all births, it’s worth it.

To go forward, we must return

Last week, we gathered to eat dinner before our wood stove. Two candles helped to partially illumine the darkened room along with the firelight. About two feet of snow glowed bright with moonlight, blanketing the ground outside. It was our third of four days without power or water.

I was talking about returning to some of the rituals observed in earlier times before modern conveniences took hold, practices such as growing your own food, digging a root cellar, and building an outhouse or having a composting toilet. 

My 14-year-old son interjected, “So you are saying in order to go forward, we have to go back.”

This statement has been echoing in my mind ever since.

To go forward, we have to go back. I find this reasoning objectionable. Ask any woman, person of color, survivor of the holocaust, or survivor of any kind at all, and these folks rightly have no desire to “go back.” This whole political era that we’re in feels like a stepping back, and for many of us “that dog won’t hunt,” as we would say in Texas.

But. As one who has been apprenticing in “going back” since returning to Eugene seven years ago—going back to the land of my birth, going back to the earth with a small farm, going back to nature’s “first words,” the honeybees, to articulate a spirituality for these times of collapse, I recognize the wisdom in this formula.

Coming full circle does not mean returning to how things once were. That is impossible. We are changed by our journey away from the past. That journey from our origins and the changes it engenders in each of us is the point of our lives.

To go forward by going back means instead to walk a spiral path, deepening and changing with each turn of the seasons. To walk this path is to get somewhere, and yet this journey called life isn’t aimed primarily at arriving to some external state or place. This is where we get led astray by our minds and by the collective mind of our dominant culture.

To really get somewhere in this life is to be here now—finally, at last—and to know this place for the first time. That is the spiritual journey, the “turn” of mind and heart that we are in the midst of realizing as individuals and as a people. In actuality, we are already there, there is nowhere else to get to, but for the most part we aren’t “here” enough to notice.

There is no going back, and yet there is. Perhaps all of this (waving arm to indicate the world around us) does indeed serve a purpose, from climate change to power outages to the rolling blackout we are experiencing in the white house.

Darkness always serves a purpose. Where there is darkness, there is the incubation of new life. Every tomb is a womb. The distinction between the two is a matter of time… and of perspective.

At the moment, I find myself in the dark once again. My writing hasn’t been working. At all.  When I try and conjure up new offerings or classes, I get nothing.

In journeys for myself, my guides tell me that I am inhabiting a new land. I have apparently stepped onto a new energetic ground, one that is as new to me as when I moved to Oregon with my family from Texas.

The first time I walked out onto these 14 acres with my family, I kept calling my son back to me as he marched down the hill, worried that he had gone past the bounds of our new property. He kept pointing to the fences in the distance, telling me that all of this was ours, but I couldn’t comprehend it.

I shook as I took each step. I was afraid that I was doing something wrong, something transgressive, to claim so much beautiful space in this world. It took me time to explore, to root, and to inhabit this large new canvas that is my life.

Now, coming out of the dark womb of four years of illness, I am again confronted with an expansive, new, beautiful land, but this time that land is me. I keep thinking my capacities and my boundaries are far closer than they really are. I am disoriented. And I am scared. But I have been here before; I know the drill.

And so do you. Together, we are stepping from one state of being, from one ground, to another. The storms in which we presently find ourselves are here to force us to deepen, to find that “turn” of heart and mind that will enable us to enter at long last into the Promised Land.

The Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey, refers to a state of awakened inner vision and to a heart grateful and overflowing with the miracle of life. It is not to be found in a place, a possession, a state of achievement, or in a moment other than the one you and I inhabit right now.

The challenges we face, these beautiful and changing lands of broken oak trees and addiction, of collapsing honeybees and mass shootings, are our labor coaches. They are here to remind us to breathe. They are here to remind us to push and to dig deep. They are here to prompt us to birth our beautiful dreams into the world.

To go forward, we must return. These moments of return, these moments of starting over from the ground level of life, are here to teach us. We return to learn that the fence lines which used to constrain and define us now stand a good distance away.

This moment, just as it is, is so damn good, so full of natural abundance, of power, of love, and, yes, of sunshine, that we can scarcely let it in. But we must.

There’s no way forward except though. Our labor coach, Reality, is insisting on new life this time around.

******

If you, or someone you know, would benefit from a journey to spark your creative process or to help you get back in touch with your subconscious, wise self, let’s set a date.

In honor of my birthday this month, journeys in March will be offered on a donation basis. Let’s push the fence lines of the known out a distance and open up to the expansive new land that is now our home.

Observing winter solstice, the longest night

All life begins in darkness. All gestation, physical and spiritual, takes place in the dark, in the underground realms of earth, body, and soul. These worlds are not well-understood or frequented by the mind; this is why they seem “dark” to us.. But nothing new under the sun is ever born without a long sojourn in darkness. This is the case for us as individuals and as a collective both.

Once the temperature gets below 55 degrees, honeybees find it difficult to fly. For a season, they remain inside, abiding in complete and total darkness, clustered together to conserve warmth. This is a time of absolute inwardness, a season given to taking a deep and profound in-breath after months of outward focus and activity in the warm and bright fields of life.

Winter is, of course, a vulnerable time for honeybee populations. Like people, honeybees are prone to collapse in the dark winter months.

All transitions, all births, are inherently perilous. The answer is not to minimize risk—creating new life is an inherently risky endeavor—but to strengthen ourselves for the process by laying in rich stores of inner nourishment.

Without darkness, without the unknown, without wintry seasons of difficulty and disruption, as souls we would remain forever outward, depthless, and unable to renew the life that is collapsing within and all around us.

Our human colony does not heed the teachings of winter. We fear the dark. We resist the invitation to return home, to come down out of heads to receive the wordless wisdom of our bodies and of our shared body, Gaia. The dark roots of our souls reach for something larger, something whole, something fruitful, but we resist their pull.

Instead, we exchange gifts. We attend parties and eat holiday meals. We light our homes, we light our streets, we light our skies.

We ignore the wordless teaching of our elders—bear, honeybee, salmon— all of whom surrender to the dark and cold logic of this season and return home. The bear in his den, dreaming. The honeybees clustered into a single, reunited body. The Chinook salmon who swim thousands of miles from the open seas back to the humble steams of their birth to deposit eggs and die, laying down their lives to feed unknown and unseen future generations.

All of these feel the oncoming change in season long before winter arrives. They prepare in order to heed the call of darkness. They all return home to the womb of the den, the hive, or the stream. They do this not only to survive, but to fulfill their deepest purpose: to incubate new life.

*******

 

To observe the teachings of our elders on this, the longest night, let us yield to the larger ritual that is playing out in the natural world.

Let us leave our houses, even for a little while, to look on darkness. May we taste it, smell it, and listen to Her messages for us. You see, darkness is the realm of the feminine, of the soul, of the receptive and the generative soil within each of us, whatever our gender.

To participate in a celebration of the feminine this night, you might want to forgo lights in favor of candlelight for an hour.

You might choose to stay in your den this evening to dream new dreams.

You might pause from activity in the human colony to recollect yourself into a single, united self.

Or you might choose to take some time to reflect on and set intentions: what is it that you want to spend your precious life energy on in the New Year? How can your find the streams of your birth, your life purpose, and make a gift of your life for future generations?

May this be a wonderfully dark and restorative winter solstice for each of you.