An Unusual Harvest

Today is Lughnasadh, or Lammas, in the northern hemisphere. On the Celtic calendar, it is the cross quarter holiday that marks the midpoint between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. When we lived in farming communities, it was considered the first harvest.

Since some of us were born with brown thumbs and outside of farming communities, as many do in the current era, we can still find value in these calendar pages through the power of metaphor. And so, once again, I ask… What’s in your harvest?

My Sacred Gardeners and I met in February for the annual workshop on intention setting. At Imbolc, we planted our figurative seeds of intention. Even with a brown thumb, intentions can grow when nurtured with mindfulness and attention.

We anticipated gathering again at the end of March, for the Spring Equinox, and even had a Beltaine retreat planned in my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains. It was to be a weekend dedicated to falling in love with ourselves, right down to a commitment ceremony with rings and circlets of flowers for our heads.

But sometimes, something happens in life that takes our attention away from the garden. A loved one dies, a job is lost, the path forward becomes less clear and uncertainty enters like a thick fog. 2020 has certainly been that kind of a year, ten-fold.

But every eight weeks, the wheel of the year turns to remind us to come back to the cycles of nature. Everything changes. All life is temporary. We remember that though these days are challenging, frustrating, disappointing, sad… they, too, are temporary. This pandemic will come to an end. This physical distancing from those we love will come to an end. This financial insecurity and horrific failure of leadership will come to an end. In the meantime, we are free to set our fears and worries aside, to come back to our gardens of intention.

So… this would be the time of year, the midpoint Imbolc and Winter Solstice, to assess the status of our intentions. What is ready to be harvested and stored to sustain us through the long winter? When I look back at my own lifechart completed with my gardeners, I can reflect on the key words I chose to adorn my candle of intention.

I realize that what I might have pictured to be a result of these intentions may not have manifested in the ways I had intended, but I can usually see that the Universe conspired to bring them to fruition in glorious and unexpected ways. The beauty of the garden is always found in the eyes of the beholder. One gardener may prefer something tediously manicured, while another may delight in allowing Mother Nature to do Her own thing.

What I have found is that my word for the year is RECIPROCITY. and I have found it in the ways that love is offered and returned, as friends and community respect and care for one another. We wear masks, we connect by phone, text, and Zoom. We don’t take personally the necessity of our distancing. We do what we can to deliver kindness, compassion, and togetherness in new and innovative ways.

I wanted to EMBODY TRUST. Which was not just to be the friend and daughter that those I love could depend on to hold their truth with gentle reverence, but that I would do the same for myself. That I would trust myself completely. That I would hear the sacred voice of my own intuition, and never doubt it.

I intended to continue to HEAL AND GROW this year, and I certainly have. Gratefully, much of this work can be done out in the world, but is even more succinct when done in solitude or isolation. In silence and without distractions of others, we can hear the cries of the oppressed, and ask ourselves what we don’t know. How is my silence harmful? How might I do better and be better as a trusted friend and ally? Oh, yes! I have learned so much… and I am still learning.

To CULTIVATE JOY was an intention, and I can see the many ways this has grown. Right before our world shut down, I was reunited with the boss who loved me, at the occasion of her son’s wedding. When he later wrote me, he said that it was so obvious to him how much she and I loved and cared for each other. And even though that was the last time I’ve gathered in a room with others… I have continued to find joy in the beautiful moments of each and every day… in a brief chat with a neighbor, having a giggle with my parents, witnessing the bats fly over my head as I walk home from tucking them in. So much delight can be found in living a small and simple life.

I wanted my year to be GROUNDED IN LOVE, and though there are many days when anger and outrage rise to greet the news of the day, it is always love that grounds me. Primarily, self-love. Each time I enter my home, after caring for my parents or doing the bi-weekly grocery run, I greet my kitties, and I walk through a mist of homemade balancing spray. As I do, I feel my shoulders drop, and my whole body relaxes. I can feel my roots reconnect to the earth through my sanctuary of home, and all is right with the world.

The final word on my candle of intention makes me laugh. Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, always reminds me to be careful what you wish for. The word is RETREAT. Well… my intention was to host TWO retreats this year, in those sacred mountains. At first, we thought we would just lose the opportunity in May, but now… as my home state has skyrocketing Covid cases, it is clear that none of us will be traveling in October, either. But still… this intention surely did manifest. Just… not as imagined.

We have retreated into our homes, to keep our loved ones safe. I am in a daily retreat, really, as each day when I return from caring for my parents, I enter my home, and come back into myself… each day a little deeper. I can remember hearing about silent retreats or going on retreat alone, and thinking it had no appeal. And yet, I have found myself here over and over again, not just this year, but in the two years prior, as I endeavored to create a life beyond the corporate world I’d always known.

What I’ve found here, is that though I may be alone, I love the one I’m with. There is no one I’d rather be secluded with when the world is plagued with a potential plague. That’s kind of a pleasant surprise, for the girl who searched long and hard for a love she deserved… to have found it within herself.

Finally, all of these intentions manifested in the form of a new kind of togetherness. With our worlds becoming so small, during self-isolation and continued extreme caution until a vaccine can be discovered and broadly shared, some of us have chosen to see more of each other. Since March, I have been virtually meeting weekly with a Thursday night group of International friends from a course we took together, a weekly Friday night group of intuitive friends, a Saturday morning group with my Sacred Gardeners, and a Sunday night group with my goddesses.

So, I no longer meet people for lunch, but I do take an occasional masked-walk with a friend, with a hip-bump greeting instead of a hug. I write random letters and send them the old fashioned way, in the mail. My friend, who lives on the opposite corner of the country, and I have become pen pals, and last week she sent me sealing wax and a spoon for melting – so our letters are both sealed with more than just love.

I don’t know what I thought I’d find when I decided to walk through my garden of intentions, but I have to say, I’m pretty darned pleased with what I’ve found here. I allowed Mother Nature to do her thing, and as always, she has WOWed me beyond belief.

I hope that you and yours are safe and well. I hope that despite the unexpected twists and turns of an unusual and extraordinary year, it has been kinder to you than realized. I hope that your personal harvest is filled with light, love, and laughter that nourishes, nurtures, and sustains you throughout the coming seasons. Thank you for walking this path with me. I love you more.

The Great Unbecoming

I feel as if the world is in a state of transformation. Global pandemic feels like a symptom of the rising perception of separateness over the past many years. Countries (including my own) that I once admired for what I imagined to be inclusiveness, being so called melting pots of many beautiful and rich cultures, somehow accepted exclusion. They allowed fear and greed to close their borders to people of certain religions or skin tones, and locked children in cages. They voted everyone off the island, so they could have it to themselves. With every news story over the last four years, many of us have asked, “What have we become?”

When forced to go within, as we have all been asked to shelter-in-place for the mercy of our healthcare workers and community members who are at greatest risk, life has become quiet enough to hear the cries of the oppressed. That’s why the world showed up for the murder of George Floyd. They were less distracted by the incessant busy-ness of the world. We have all heard the reports of black people dying in police custody for decades and brown people being caged at our borders, but it was too easy to look away, toward board meetings and soccer matches, and the mind-numbing endeavor to do more, have more, be more. It makes me wonder if this is when we get to ask, “What are we unbecoming?”

I have such curiosity about the emptiness one must feel to insist on spending their lives working so hard to ensure they can buy more things, at the detriment of others, who would be grateful just to have enough food to fill their bellies. Hoarding newspapers and hoarding dollars are really no different, they are both symbolic of filling a hole. When people who don’t pay their fair share of taxes have more money than one can spend in a lifetime (or many lifetimes), while other humans are becoming homeless because they cannot pay their medical bills, we are witnessing crimes against humanity.

To be honest, I can relate to a time in my life when my rising income felt like an affirmation of my worth. It actually wasn’t that long ago. When I left the corporate world and chose to live more simply and care for my aging parents, it took some time to move through the fear of less. This choice has made my life look very small from the outside. I am more mindful of how I spend my savings, and I no longer live beyond my means.

In the process of unbecoming who I thought the world expected me to be, I discovered the rich beauty of who I already am. My income does not define my worthiness of love, it is the actions of my heart that does so. From the inside, my life looks vast and expansive.

When the shutdown for Covid-19 started, I felt a sense of excitement alongside feelings of dread. I imagined that when other people had the opportunity (even when not by choice) to make their worlds small, they might choose to go within. I hoped that they would find the beauty of simplicity, and that even without the ability to dine out daily, and to show the world how worthy they are to be loved, by the cost of the car they drive or the overpriced iProducts they carry, they might realize that life is incredibly beautiful and that being in caring community is an enormous blessing. (This lesson did not arrive for me, until the pandemic insisted that my neighbors stay at home. Most of us have been on this block for 20 years or more, and we are just now learning each others’ names.)

And I do believe that is happening for some, at least in my virtual circles. But what is also happening, as I live in a state that opened too soon and is now seeing a distressing rise in Covid infections, is that living simply and making life small was too uncomfortable for many. The truth had become impossible to believe, and so they imagined themselves immune without regard for those who might not survive their contamination.

I’ve heard some of those people say that they refuse to live in fear, and therefore will not wear a mask, and they will not stop living the life to which they feel entitled. But I wonder what is lost in that inability to place the concern for others above their own perceived pleasure.

I would argue, based on my own life experience, that fear enters our lives to alert us that it is time for change. When I have felt most unsafe and most fearful, or rather when I was on the other side of fear – looking back, I realized that the fear was announcing that great, life-altering transformation was near. I learned that I could see the fear rise, and hold it close, then comfort it and wait patiently for new beginnings to arrive.

It reminds me of being present for the births of three of my goddess daughters. Each time, when their courageous mother, who had chosen natural childbirth, announced in panic that she “could not do this”, her body was telling us that the girls were about to leave the darkness of the womb to be welcomed into the light. I know that those moments felt frightening, but there was no going back, it was too late for numbing medication, and there was untold, remarkable beauty about to be birthed. That beauty, born through fear, made our lives and the world a better and brighter place to live.

We do have a sense that things will get harder and that darkness will grow. Covid-19 continues to surge in America, and it is rising elsewhere. The toll on world economy will surely be overwhelming and deeply unsettling. I have no doubt that fear will be seeded in the hearts of many.

But what I hope will also happen is that the light of truth will rise even higher and shine even brighter. As sacred souls go within for reflection, they will discover what is truly important (that things are not among them) – their health and wellness is important, as is the health and wellness of every being upon the earth, as is Mother Earth Herself.

I hope we can all see that it is not what we’ve accomplished, or what we drive, or where we live, or how we travel that makes us worthy of being loved, but our very existence that makes us so.

I hope that on the other side of fear, a new world is brought to birth, and that we will look back on this pandemic and social justice uprising as labor pains that brought into the world the beauty of humanity, humility, equity, and peace.

May we hold space for this better future without expectation of timing.
Let us commit to doing the labor without looking away or going numb.

May it be so. So mote it be. Blessed be. Amen.
Thank you for walking this path with me. I love you more.

We Are Grey

 I’m about to share a quote from a tv show that aired a quarter of a century ago, but I hope you’ll bear with me. I’ve been hearing it in my head for some time now, so I know there must be a reason. I mean… I can’t remember what I watched or heard yesterday, and yet… these words remain etched in memory.

“I am Grey. I stand between the candle and the star. We are GreyWe stand between the darkness and the light.” ~ J Michael Straczynski (1994)

This line has been rising into my mind with growing frequency. It is from the SciFi series from the mid-1990s, called “Babylon 5”. Joe Straczynski has said that the entire five-year story arch manifested in his mind one day, while taking a shower.

There is so much goodness to be gathered from this series, but what feels especially poignant at this moment in history is when darkness threatened to swallow the Universe, an alliance was forged to nurture a path of peace that would lead them all back into the light.

The character of Ambassador Delenn was always my favorite. She is seen in the video above, breaking the Grey Council, which was made up of representatives from each caste from her planet. She will later, after enormous sacrifice, rebuild the council with greater fairness. But long before this scene, at the end of the first season, without understanding what was to come, Delenn goes into a Chrysalis and in Season 2 emerges transformed. Ultimately, she becomes a bridge between the human race and her own. She changes in appearance, and she also endeavors to gain an understanding of who humans are and to teach humans more about her own race.

It may be difficult to figure out where I’m going with this… but there is a bridge. I have been learning how to become an antiracist. When I reached out to my friend, when the protests began to insist on justice for the murder of George Floyd, she asked me not to be silent. She and I had been together a couple of years earlier, when I was confronted with my own white privilege, as a woman threatened to call the police because my friend would not give her her designer purse. I wrote about it in my blog post called The Light That Pierces Shadow. I had been so nervous about getting it wrong. I knew that I had a lot to learn about being an ally, and the last thing I wanted was to cause more harm. But she trusted me to get it right.

I’ve only just begun to read Ibram X. Kendi’s book How To Be An Antiracist, and already I can feel the importance and the truth of it. He opens by sharing a speech he gave in his youth, and then unpacks it from his current vantage point. He acknowledges that his words at that time were colored by “internalized racism”.

I recently learned the term ‘internalized patriarchy’ during Heather Plett’s Holding Space course, as we explored holding space for ourselves. And it felt like being struck by lightning to understand that my own self-limiting beliefs and self-loathing (which I’ve spent most of my life trying to overcome) were symptoms of societal indoctrination. We have been taught, unknowingly (or not) the patriarchal view of what girls and women, boys and men should be, and how they should behave, and how they should serve… none of which have anything to do with nurturing and celebrating their unique strengths and authenticity. Realizing that women have a numbers advantage on men in the world, and yet there are so few women in American government leadership roles became a punch in the gut, because of course that means that women are not voting for women. This must mean that there are a lot of women out there who believe themselves and other women to be inferior to men.

So, when Dr. Kendi, confesses to feeling pain and shame around his own beliefs expressed in his high school speech, having been tarnished by systemic racism, it eases my own guilt and shame when I ask myself why it has taken me so long to do this important work. When I realize that by internalizing patriarchal dogma, I have oppressed myself, it allows me to relate to those whose lives are directly impacted by white supremacy (even though I can never know how it feels to be black or brown). What I can know and understand is that it is never too late for any of us to rise into the light of truth, and change our programming.

When my friend asked me not to be silent, she also asked me, “Why do they hate us?” The answer that arrived was basic psychology. What bothers us about others is often a reflection of ourselves.

How heartbreaking it is to witness such hatred and to realize that those capable of such belief and behavior must truly loathe themselves in order to view any being in such a dehumanized way. The malignant system that has been in place since my friend’s ancestors were stolen from their homeland, has programmed people to fear what they imagine to be different. I have no doubt that the true fear is based in the belief that if white people become the minority (which will happen), they might be treated the way they have treated others.

In my eyes, the best way to avoid that outcome would be to start treating others with equity, fairness, and loving kindness. We don’t have to believe and behave the way our ancestors did. They were lied to, as well. If we feel defensive when we are confronted with these difficult questions about how we are affected by racism and how our words and behaviors affect others, that is likely the rise of shame within. Shame is the most destructive emotion there is, so the best way to face it when it appears, is not to shake a finger at it, but to hold it close and to love it back into a place of forgiveness and compassion. Then, keep going.

Maybe these immortal words of a beloved Science Fiction writer have surfaced to invite me to stand with the discomfort of this evolutionary and revolutionary moment – in the in-between of our unbecoming and our becoming. If the black crayon and the white crayon make the color grey when combined, perhaps the message and metaphor is that we are all ‘grey’ on the inside. As Jane Elliott says, “There is only one race – the human race.”

I am Grey. I stand before the racist structure to which I have been ignorant and complicit, and aim my intentions toward supporting the creation of a foundation for justice and equity. We are Grey. We stand before false beliefs about ourselves and others and reveal the truth of our oneness. I am Grey. I shed the shame and insecurity that once kept me in silence. We are Grey. We don the robes of forgiveness, understanding, and new beginnings.

Now is the time to break the scepter of white supremacy, take the time to unpack everything within us that was planted with poison and toss it onto the burn pile, and then reconvene to form a more perfect Union.

I saw this statement on a sign at one of the Black Lives Matter protests, and it moved me deeply. “I’m sorry I’m late. I had a lot to learn.” I am still learning, and really, I suppose I am actually UNLEARNING. I am unpacking everything this society has taught me, and I am deciding what needs to go.

If I got anything wrong in this post, I hope you will forgive me. I promise not to be silent. I promise not to give up on myself, for I know I can do better… and change must begin with each of us going into our own chrysalis of reflection, so that we may be transformed.

When we emerge into the light of love, our new perspective will deliver us into a new world. Thank you for walking this path with me. I love you more.