reality as sacred

open to reality as it is…this vow, first introduced to me through Shambhala Path of the Warrior training seven years ago has finally fully landed in my bones.

how could i ever want anything other than this very moment?

i know the stretch of this question. and i know the truth of it.

this morning on the way to the trail with the dogs, i discovered company–a man and his two dogs, who also run wild. it was unwanted, not what i envisioned for my morning time. i was grumpy. and then, leaned in. i chose to walk the trails with my pups, in the way that worked given the circumstances. we took a shorter route and headed to the dog park. we had it to ourselves. as the dogs roamed, i sat with the rising sun. finding myself returning to an old meditation practice of rooting and connecting, it was glorious.

i felt so alive that we came home and i went for a run. it’s been a long time since i ran. it felt so good. it felt like home. i felt like home. the quiet that comes with runing is like no other quiet i’ve discovered–a stillness that accompanies the motion of my body. a counterbalance.

there is not anything to fix or solve. in the arms of Mother Life and Father Love, all is beautiful.

birth day

my youngest child turns thirteen years old today, on this blood moon lunar eclipse. i’ve always understood the milestones of my children’s lives to also be forms of initiation in my own. we are connected, so that when one of us shifts, so does the other. this truth is known in a particular way when you are mother, and when that child has formed within you, born of you, nursed at your breast…it’s a way of deep, embodied knowing.

today, there is grief, sadness. these feelings still surprise me on days of such celebration. and yet, the celebration marks change and so to welcome the grief and sadness opens up access to even more of the wellspring of joy and gratitude. there is clarity in who she is, and who she becoming individually and apart from me.

i am celebrating her life in this world and all the life that has lived her/us. the impermanence so tender and fresh–this life ever changing us, each moment so precious. she is my baby, always. and no more. this young woman with curves and a moon cycle; big, squinty-eyed grin that brightens the whole room; evolving style all her own; a phone with technologies to express her self to a big, wide world; growing devotion to music and song; her quiet, uncompromising nature, shaped by both fear and truth; compassion that runs deep, as does a willingness to serve.

my prayer for her is that she trust herself. that she honors her own inner knowing and practices her self-expression in ways that move her. that she opens herself to receive abundant love and gives it in return, growing and connecting herself into the web of life that already surrounds her and has been waiting for her. i want her to sing her song boldly and without apology, to offer her gifts to the world with a hunger that sets her on fire. i want her belly to ache from laughing and wailing and to know she is never, ever alone. i want her to know belonging, unconditionally. to feel the wings of her own freedom spread wide, with the wind beneath them lifting her up.

my prayer for my self–this mother-turning-crone–is to honor all i’ve given and received in raising my children. to know the gifts my children are to the world and the gifts our future ones will be. i want to faithfully assume a different place in the chain of life. my children are no longer children. i want to honor the mothering that raised us up–those who have gone before and my own. i want to celebrate my own learning to mother myself and the discovery of all the mothers within me. each child called forth a unique mother self: Kate birthed the fierce, disciplined, sacrificial, forgiving; Thomas cultivated the tender, soft, compassionate, trusting; Meg nourished unconditional love, clarity, devotion, patience. i want to fully encompass, embody all these elements as i move forward in motherhood with wisdom and love.

interestingly, as i step into a different season of motherhood, notice a deepening connection to myself as Mother. i feel more solidly a mother than ever before. like i am joining a communion of mothers, rooted and tall.

this morning, i got some dreamy 1:1 time with my girl on the trails. it was unplanned and divine. there were several messages that came to guide her on the path from the honey locust tree, the Osage Orange, a yellow-jacket hive, fallen leaves along a descending treck, and walking sticks that magically appeared exactly on time. the guidance centered around strength, protection, vision, courage. we collected some of these messages and brought them in for our altar.

then, i picked up my father and we went to vote together, coming back home to have lunch with the birthday girl.

i am Mother and mothered
in a devotional practice of mothering
my/our children, my/our dreams
in the birth/death/rebirth of
my self, my/our home, my/our world

wildroots

everyday we are alive is a day of birth. today is a soulful reminder of this.

roles + passion

in a time of falling apart and midwifing a new world, what if we channeled our desperate need to rely on defined roles and positions and trusted ourselves, knowing that we can not help but be called by our passions into right and essential work for the sake of our universe? it is who we are designed to be. It is precisely why we were born. 

i’m in community with many folks around questions about the future. yesterday, i was spinning a beautiful yarn with a priest. as we dreamed what was possible when we truly opened to what is and has always already been emerging–there was quite a bit of energy around roles. The role of “priest”, “deacon”, “lay leadership” served both as helpful containers to reimagining the structures and cultures that might cultivate new forms of “church” and they also began to constrain and constrict our imaginations. the priest was struggling with what becomes of “priesthood”. what role might “priest” serve in the future? there was a desperation to the inquiry, offering examples of ways in which priests could add value. a priest could do this…a priest could do that…while assuming what “priest” even means. 

i’ve come to know myself as priest, deacon, and lay leader. i’m not ordained by the church. i’ve been ordained by God. i do not necessarily want all these roles–and i’m learning to embrace them as parts of who i am. 

and so, as we joined together in heart-felt exploration, i could see so clearly that this friend could not ever not be PRIEST. it didn’t matter what the role was understood to be. he was, in that very moment, acting truly as himself and in so doing, he acting as priest in my felt experience. i refuse the temptation here to put language to what that meant to me in that context…i want to stay with the heart knowing. what has my interest now is not the evolution of these roles but the power that lies within us to know, apart from any external condition. when we follow our passion–as my friend and i were doing in this conversation–the truth of who we are and who we were ordained to be by God, emerges and shines forth despite ourselves. 

i recently heard brian swimme say that the unity of the world rests on the pursuit of passion. i know this to be true.

can we create the conditions within ourselves and our organizations/institutions to pursue our passions? where roles and positions fall away and the truth of who we are–individually, collectively–can shine forth? 

i believe we can. i know we can. i know many who are. 

i pointed this out to my friend in the midst of our conversation. we do not have to worry about what roles we might play in the future. the question is can we lean inwardly and listen to what Howard Thurman so beautifully names the “sound of the genuine”. it is guiding and showing us the way. 

incarnation

it occurred to me this morning on the trail that there have been two key lessons from my human journey that continue to serve my spiritual one. occupying this White body, i am learning about Power and unlearning conditioning around delusions of power. raised by my father in the south, i continue to learn about the wounds of masculinity and femininity in relationship to the Divine Masculine and Feminine.

our human conditions have much wisdom to offer in our journey on this earth. our human experiences are purposeful in growing us.

this season of advent, i’m excited to offer a series that explores this, drawing on the mystical and contemplative Christian tradition for insight and inspiration. we consider what it means to be spiritual beings having human experiences. Jesus came to teach us this, to show us the Way of Love and how to be wholly human. as we prepare for his birth, we will contemplate our own formation, together.

join me and my sister, Miriam McKenney Sunday evenings, 7-8:30pm from 11/27-12/18. reach out for the zoom link! all are welcome.

the hunt

i am a Hunter, from a long line of Hunters. many of us carry the name.

i am/we are on the hunt for truth–the scent of love, liberation, life.

it is suiting that bo, a hound dog mix, has found his way to our family. Spirit is so exact (a term i’ll always credit to Jojopahmaria Nsoroma for its perfection).

sunday, on the hunter’s full moon, i set out to the farm for some solo time with bo, just the two of us. it wasn’t planned that way, in fact, it was far from our plans. life often has something better cooked up for us than what we can imagine.

on the drive there, a coaching client reached out in struggle. there was pain. there was heartbreak. i was reminded of Chögyam Trungpa’s invitation in these times–to “lean into the sharp points”.

i asked her first, slowing her down: what hurts?

there are layers of hurt. some ours, some ancestral, some collective. we don’t always know what the hurt is. in many ways, it doesn’t even really matter. the question supports our relationship with the hurt. it opens up curiosity, room for possibility.

and then, this offer: stay with the hurt. this is not the time for analysis, diagnosis, learning. simply be with it. allow the hurt to have its way with you.

lessons of the descent have been central in my training as a Hunter. western culture has conditioned us to fear the descent: it is hell; there is darkness; it is unknown. and for this, we have suffered. we turn away from the hurt with fear, from fear. we masterfully create walls, lies, compartments and take refuge there, in small worlds that exclude parts of our story, parts of ourselves.

this is a trauma reaction. it is both what has kept us alive and also what entropies. the time comes when this refuge is too constricting, when the lies no longer hold up, when the walls serve up an encounter with ourselves that reveals an ache, compelling us to either take on the fetal position or to spread our wings and glimpse beyond those walls.

the descent.

as a Hunter on the hunt for truth, i honor the importance of the descent. in a time of such collective awakening, i’m drawn to the power of the descent and also see trauma’s genius in seducing us instead into patterns of avoidance and denial–often through distraction and busyness. sensing this push and pull (to and away from truth) is a gift of unlearning whiteness and the devotion to turning inward and growing intimate with my fear, my pain; this conditioning has trained me well in my hunting. i honor the wounds for the medicine they offer, in time. i know truth resides there/here.

descent feels like a balance to the over-emphasized journey of ascent, a spiritual and mystical path that is a vital part of healing and transformation and yet, without growth in equal measure in descent, can result in spiritual bypassing, another form of avoidance and denial. the roots and the branches grow in balance.

bo and i arrive at the farm. we are Hunters on the hunt who have journeyed here in ceremony, to honor Life. to call it a farm feels somewhat ridiculous. the land is completely wild, barren. the earth feels naked, exposed, wanting. farm is an invocation for who we will grow into, together.

after some time in the pond, bo and i along with a newly aquainted neighbor-friend, german shepherd, make our way down to the dry creek bed. sycamore and autumn olives and cedar meet us along the way. ravens fly overhead, making quite a raucous. the brush is thick and the sky is blue. i am keenly aware of this track as a descent, in awe of Spirit’s exact teaching. here in this place, at this time, i was being offered an experience of the very journey i’d been honoring. and so we go. there is a spot at the depths of the incline that invites me to sit. alongside a wall of limestone and near a fallen sycamore, with wild roots unearthed, i stay. for a while. listening to the raven and the unfamiliar sounds of this place, listening to my heart.

listening to my heart.

giving thanks for my own intimacy with the descent, my relationship with the wounds, the evidence of the medicine those wounds promise. there is peace.

then, the shepherd and hound begin ferociously growling. gathered at my feet, their relaxation turns quickly to high alert. i could not see or smell or hear or feel or sense what they could. terror reached her long and crooked fingers around my neck and choked me.

i turned to bo, my first time doing so in this way of seeking support. let’s go, boy. he knew precisely what i meant and led us out, turning back periodically to check on me. i followed right behind him, my heart–just moments before so peaceful–now beating so loudly.

i am Hunter and i am hunted.

three minutes later and we ascended the hill and arrived at the first landing of wide open earth. the sun greeted us as we moved out from the canopy of trees. the dogs and i did a happy dance as we felt the relief of the landscape that offered absolute visibility, where all was exposed. mystery receded.

we did ceremony under the hunter’s full moon. we offered gifts to the land, to the earth, to the water, to the fire. we drummed. we chanted. we prayed. we sat.

i am a Hunter. i come from a long line of Hunters.

to be guided by grandmother moon and mother earth in the remembrance of who i am/we are with teachings on the nature of the hunt…for this and more i am grateful.

seeds

i’ve just arrived home from celebrating the consecration of my dear friend, Phyllis Spiegel as Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Utah. it was truly a consecration, literally meaning “with-the sacred”.

sacred and sacramental: an outward expression of what already is. to make holy/ wholly. honoring reality by making explicit what was already implicit. Phyllis had already been ordained by God as Bishop and this ceremony simply evidenced that truth.

just over a year ago, Phyllis invited another friend, Jane and I to join her on a pilgrimage to Red River Gorge. the three of us were what felt like a crossroads in our lives, discerning the next step in our soul and spirit journey. Phyllis is a believer in the cloud of witnesses and there was a strong sense that each of us needed the others to listen and discern.

the day after we returned from that trip, she learned of the Diocese of Utah’s call. we’d return to those rocks two additional times over the next several months, supporting and bearing witness to Phyllis’ journey and in nurturing our own. in these soul journeys, it is never just one of us to whom we are attending; the interdependence cultivates our own individuality–a mutual and reciprocal exchange of giving/receiving.

we each hold essential seeds for one another’s dreams, for one another. the magic then, when a dream is realized is just that: the dream is not just the individual’s. it is a manifestation of our collective, authentic participation in an unfolding that is beyond our imagination. in these moments of witness, we are both humbled in our smallness and emboldened in our essentiality. we belong to one another; we are one another. Phyllis was not the only one consecrated on Saturday. we all were.

i write this on the eve of autumnal equinox, the beginning of the Celtic Year of the Soul. i had plans for this day, this Year of the Soul. i’ve been calling it The Journey Home. i imagined it being a series of gatherings across Kentucky for women creatives and dreamers on the equinoxes and solstices to journey inward and in relationship with the land and creation. before offering to others, i decided to make the journey personally this year…

…and as life would have it, the journey isn’t quite what i imagined. it is much more. tomorrow, after years of holding the seeds of our dream to be stewards of land in our homeland of Kentucky, we are closing on our property. we are officially birthing Wild Roots Farm.

this vision is not mine/ours alone. many have held the vision with us, offering essential seeds to its manifestation…and will continue to do so, undoubtedly. it’s already happening.

so, today on this eve of autumnal equinox, i give thanks for the dream seeds that we each carry, in heart and soul.

we truly are magical, together.

writing my way…

sometimes i come here with a clear message. sometimes it is to follow and work out threads of story and to make meaning of life. sometimes it is to simply be with myself.

now is one of those times.

i’m reminded of a favorite quote by sportswriter Red Smith : “there’s nothing at all to writing. all you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” 

it’s not always painful. it can be cathartic. it can feel holy.

i have nothing to say…there are no words for now.

there are a lot of feelings. mostly, rage. and some grief. fury.

it’s not mine. and it’s in me. i’ve learned to tell the difference. and i’ve also learned it doesn’t matter–and in fact, is impossible–to figure out and analyze. i’m also learning the power of being with the feelings. they are here with purpose.

i recall meg wheatley’s teaching to acknowledge strong emotions: “there is sadness.”

in our world now, to slow down to feel much less name our strong emotions feels revolutionary.

because it is.

and i’m realizing that i’m here, i suppose, to utter aloud: “there is sadness. there is grief. there is rage. there is fury…and there is confusion.”

and it’s ok. it is what it is to be human.

an anniversary with Truth

seven years ago today, i resigned my job at the University of Cincinnati where i had worked for thirteen years. my resignation came in response to institutional bullshit and dishonesty that i refused to participate in any longer. the decision was part protest and part self-preservation. i chose the truth. i chose my Self.

i remember hearing about how a body is completely changed in seven years, each cell different. whether this is actually true biologically, on this day i find the story deeply resonant.

in the seven years since i chose Truth, i’ve learned and grown and stand here now, a wholly different woman. it’s been a journey to grow in relationship with the Truth.

Truth. as an eighteen year old college student, my desire to seek the truth led me to declare a philosophy major, pouring over and writing and studying theories of truth. it led me to the scholarship of women’s studies and the practice of feminist activism, seeking and fighting for the truth often hidden away by dominant, oppressive narratives/structures. it called me to train as a counselor and trauma healer, working with the dark and hidden truths that wound and hurt, and offer healing and medicine.

and i’ve also hidden and disconnected and denied and lied–to others, and most of all, to myself.

as i’ve grown in courage to be with the Truth–the good, the bad, the ugly–the truth has revealed itself to me as love, liberation, and protection.

Truth has been a LOUD theme the past several weeks.

the saturday after hannah died, i was to depart for alburquerque, new mexico for the first in-person teaching with the Living School. i had been preparing and the timing of hannah’s death felt very much connected. i thought at the time that hannah died on thursday to clearly release me for the pilgrimage.

that was true. just not in the way i imagined.

in the wee hours of that saturday morning, with a heavy and grieving heart, i boarded my flight. grief had emptied me and i recognized that i no longer cared about the week in alburquerque or the faculty’s teachings or any of it. i only hurt for hannah. turns out, the plane arrived in chicago and then announced that due to weather we’d be turning around to return to cincinnati. (as i often say, you can’t make this shit up!). as we made the trip back, i realized the relief that came with the reality of coming home. and then, the reality that home was where i wanted to be. and then, the remembrance of the core teaching of the Living School that our very life is the primary sacred text. and then, the truth of how attached i’d become to the idea of being in alburquerque with my teachers and how the idea of being in the Living School was actually pulling me away from The Living School, from my present life. and then finally, the question of whether i was actually going to get off the plane and after all of the planning/preparing/waiting, choose Truth. would i, could i, be with Truth?

i did. because while i know it is actually a choice–God gave us free will and we can’t screw it up–there are also consequences that come with our choices. i know the cost of denying the Truth, of looking the other way. i came home, took to the bed in grief and relished being among my beloveds during such a tender time.

turns out, the theme of the Living School teaching that week was Prophecy, the practice of listening for, opening to, and acting on the Truth. even more, on being the Truth. also, on grief as a portal to access Truth. (i’ll say it again: you cannot make this shit up!).

Truth. i am not talking about facts. Truth is more than this. i am talking about a knowing, wisdom. and also a journey in becoming faithful to our particular way of knowing.

last weekend, Quanita and i hosted a Feminine Wisdom Retreat drawing on the wisdom of Jamie Sams’ 13 Original Clan Mothers. the Clan Mothers are connected to each lunar cycle, offering a unique teaching on Truth. the ancient wisdom focuses on the Journey of Truth as the Journey of Transformation and includes teachings on How to Listen to the Truth; How to Honor the Truth; How to Accept the Truth; How to See the Truth; How to Hear the Truth; How to Speak the Truth; How to Love the Truth; How to Serve the Truth; How to Live the Truth; How to Work with the Truth; How to Walk the Truth; How to be Grateful for the Truth; How to Be the Truth.

today, on this seven year anniversary of my stand for truth, i can heartfully say i know the meaning of Jesus’ wisdom in John 8:31-23: “the truth will set you free.”

twisting and spinning and dodging and hiding so to not fully face the Truth is to turn away from life and living. it is to choose death and dying.

the Truth ain’t easy. it includes both shadow and light, parts that tempt shame and blame and guilt. and yet, when we can be with Truth, the sting of it dissipates. as James Finley so beautifully put it, “when love touches suffering, suffering becomes mercy.” love…because to be with truth both requires love and also bears love.

Truth asks of us to open ourselves to the in-flow and out-flow of an ever-present love that at times feels like a soft ember and at other times rages like a blazing fire.

in these seven years of healing and learning and practice, i’ve learned to be in relationship with Truth, to trust and respect my own unique truth and allow more and more space for other truths to join with that knowing. i’ve grown in my appreciation for grief and her movement and allowance for more of the story: the presence of others’ truths and for parts of my own that were still unconscious to me. i’ve grown in my practice of truth-telling not as a self-righteous act or a slap in the face or as an imposed threat with accompanying expectations but as a sacred act of integrity, alignment with the Divine, a sacrament to Self.

i’ve experienced Truth as protection, liberation, love. and on this, my anniversary with Truth, i renew my vow with her.

with a deep bow,

~a

the mama’s heart

home, the morning after returning from co-hosting Feminine Wisdom retreat as much in the inner home swirls and finds it new arrangement, the external home does so, too.

so much big life stuff: Kate returns from New Hampshire weeks of being in her joy, coming home to face Hannah’s absence and Bo’s presence. Thomas going to college today, moving out this afternoon with excitement and loads of energy for this next step and life change. Michael, welcoming his teachers and staff today in his new role as principal at Reading. our land, now under contract with the seeds of our closely held vision sprouting. our grief for Hannah rising up in yet another wave as our family passes through this threshold: Meg sharing her dreams of her; Thomas expressing how much he wishes she was here to see him off, as she did for him when he began pre-school. and me, aware of all of it. my mama’s heart so full, breaking open as it does.

calling on the mothers and Great Mother for support. last night, as I lay waiting for sleep that never really came, i invoked them. be with me. show me. hold me.

i felt my grandmother near me like i did as a child when i’d sleep with her. her smell of baby powder, her hair net, her long, flannel nightgown and her snoring. we’d giggle and giggle at her “cutting logs” all night. i lay there, feeling the comfort of her presence, the embrace of her grandmothering. it had been so long since that memory sensation of her had been with me like this. and Hannah. my grief for her swelling up and drawing me to her, feeling her close and showing me: here’s how you take and hold it all. here’s how you remain present, each moment drinking in all of reality with love. the good, the bad, the ugly dissolving in and through love into love. all of life fermenting us, growing us. raising us.

She is raising us.

I am raising us.

We are rising.

knowing what we know

when i was eighteen years old, i witnessed my beloved cat, Suzie get hit by a truck and killed. i’d been calling her from across the street to come home. she hadn’t listened. i turned away from her to go back inside when i heard a truck coming down the street. panicked–knowing our pattern and that she’d likely begun to follow me, since i was no longer paying attention–i turned back around just in time to see her heading into the truck’s direct path. panic overtook me and i began screaming at her: turn back! run faster! stop! utter confusion and horror. and then, death. it was horrible.

how do we trust ourselves and one another to know what we know?

this morning, my girl Rosie was asking for a walk. she’s been through a lot of change with the loss of her companion Hannah and then the new addition of Bo. our constellation of family has wholly shifted and she’s feeling it. because i love her so, i’m paying attention. as I do, i’m noticing the deeply ingrained compulsions to spring into protection, comfort, coddling mode. there are times these compulsions make good sense: Bo plowing over her in his rowdy play; her refusal to eat; her pitiful eyes gazing into our hurting hearts.

it is here, in that exact moment when the compulsion to intervene returns me to the memory of Suzie’s death. despite what we know (as in, i actually knew she would be hit by that truck), we cannot know what the other knows. maybe, if i hadn’t screamed hysterically, she would have heard more clearly her own instincts and moved out of the way.

back to the walk this morning. i didn’t want to go. i had other plans. i tried to hand off her request to one of the kids. they fussed saying the dogs had already been out. “why do we have take them again?” it was not something i could explain. it was a felt sense and i wanted it be offered from joy and love, not resentment. so i dropped the plans and off we went. Rosie, Bo, and me.

walks, i’m learning are her favorite time with him. she is most at ease and most free to be herself in this time of transition.

we arrived at our favorite hillside, a completely open meadow where she always tugs at the leash to be released so that she can RUN. it always drove Hannah crazy and she also loved it. they’d play wildly, doing mad laps around the entire park. it’s always been total joy. since Hannah died, Rosie hasn’t tugged; she hasn’t found her wild; there’s been no interest in running. today, when we approached the hillside, i sat down with Bo. i told her to, GO. i unleashed her. and said it again. GO. Bo and i sat; we waited.

slowly she headed down the hill and found a puddle and laid there.

we continued to wait. Bo, so sweet and patient, with an unexplainable understanding of precisely what was happening.

we waited. we stayed. we waited. for a long time.

Bo and I slowly made our way down to her. she continued to simply lie there. oh, grief. she was in it and she needed to be alone, still. in that place.

Bo began to get excited to see her as we grew closer and then tasted the moment and stilled.

Rosie got up, turned for home, and led us along the path. she was different. we all knew it.

how do we trust ourselves and one another to know what we know?

as we came up the path, there she was: Mama Deer. standing with poise and power, staring straight at us. it was like she’d been waiting for us.

Hannah.

Rosie, still off leash headed for her, chasing her. just then, a car began toward her and i could anticipate just what i anticipated 30 years ago with Suzie. terror. my heart skipped, my breath caught.

i called her name, in more of a prayer this time. i respect Rosie’s knowing and have learned the painful lessons of intervening based on the lack of faith–lack of respect–of an other.

Rosie figured it out. prancing, head high, we headed home.

Mama Deer watching us, on her hillside. proud.

my heart, pounding with tears of grief and grace flowing. Bo, happily bounding alongside.

how do we trust ourselves and one another to know what we know?