Becoming useful

I have found myself longing for a text, a spiritual elder in the form of words to help guide, ground, and keep me honest in the crazy whirl of these times. 

The Bible is the sacred text handed down to me by all four of my ancestral family lines. The Bible is the spiritual text which shaped and informed me and it is the one in which I am professionally-trained.

But whenever I return to the words of the Bible, I feel imprisoned by a system of thought that orders the world into hierarchies of dominance and has the unfortunate habit of splitting organic wholes into antagonistic polarities such as light vs dark, male vs female, mind vs. body, human vs nature. 

For me, reclaiming the value of the dark, the female, the body, and the natural world constitutes a large part of the spiritual and social justice work of this age. 

But merely reversing the polarities in our Western worldview isn’t enough. If we are to heal our people and return to our earth-honoring origins, we need to disrupt the linear, conquering, and separating habits of the Western mind. 

The practice of drum-based journeywork is a big part of the equation, helping us to remember how to speak the heart-centered language of kinship with soil and soul once again. But this, too, isn’t enough.

We also need to find ways to counter our culture’s tendency to toxic individualism. Spirituality needs to be grounded in shared understandings and communal practice if it is to help us live in ways liberated and liberating.

And so we will anchor our journeys in the teachings of world religions outside the Western canon. These sacred scriptures have much to teach us about the work of cultivating and sustaining Life in ourselves and the world.

This week and for some weeks going forward, I will offer readings from the ancient Taoist text, the Tao Te Ching, written by Lao Tsu some 2,500 years ago, as the basis for our journeys in the circle. 

This week’s passage, titled “Eleven,” in the translation by Gia-Fu Feng:

Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;

It is the center hole that makes it useful.

Shape the clay into a vessel;

It is the space within that makes it useful.

Cut doors and windows for a room;

It is the holes that make it useful.

Therefore profit comes from what is there;

Usefulness from what is not there.

You are encouraged to carry these words with you as you go about the days before our meeting. Allow them to work on you. Together, we will journey on this passage and its teaching for our life, individual and collective. 

To deepen your journey experience, search these words for their connection to what you are experiencing in your own life and in our common life. 

How might you practice the wisdom of this passage?


This week we will attempt to make the sacred offering of an open heart and mind. 

However you wish to symbolize this intention, while putting forth some kind of time or effort, will be what we share at the start of our circle.


To plumb the wisdom of what it means to become useful to Spirit, self, others, and/or the natural world.


You are invited to join us for a free online journey circle this Wednesday, November 18 at 4 pm PST. Open to all skill levels. Email for more information.

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