death, taxes, and carl jung

according to carl jung, the greater we increase the light, the greater we increase the shadow.

i wish i could phone-a-friend and dial up carl. i wanna conversation about this. about the dance between light and dark, between our liberation and our slavery.

when there is liberation, her sister slavery follows suit. an invitation to practice, an effort to counter-balance. will we fall back into old patterns, the old stories? or, will we remain steadfast in our new evolved version?

it’s a choice.

today, after a glorious Easter weekend full of new life and birth, there’s been opportunities to choose again: who will i be, now? and now? and now?

i ain’t surprised. and still…today was a doozy.

first, on what was turning out to be a grey and wintery day (with snow!), i got a call from my tax guy. we owed. BIG time.

this threatened to mess with months/years of growing into new relationship with money, work, and my own fiscal responsibility. to be more specific, my work the past months has been unpaid and i’ve recently launched a business. this has stretched and grown my family in our beliefs around abundance and resource and economies.

it’s times like this, when BAM! we get to put these beliefs to the test. and…as these things go, the day just kept rolling…one little test after another.

and on the day after Easter! just when i was riding like a cowgirl in my high horse. feelin’ so good and so accomplished and so evolved.

because i was/i am. and so, today came to root me. shake me. gift me…would i choose to receive it?

i did. i softened into the day. i rolled with it and drank soup and took a nap and listened to the rain and did my taxes and listened to trevor hall and did phone a friend! and emailed and cleaned and got still and did what i needed to do to stay rooted.

i’ve learned to take each moment of liberation and love and belonging and wholeness and to store them like seeds deep within myself, as touchstones. they are now mountains-turning islands. when days like today come, i return home and remember who i am.

there’s that saying that there are only two things are certain: taxes and death. but i know for a fact that ain’t all.

i know that shadows only come with light.

grateful for my shadows because only through intimacy with them, can i encounter my light.

passion

this holy week, my heart and mind has been on passion.

in Wisdom Jesus cynthia bourgeault writes of how Jesus’ sacramental life offers guidance in the journey of transformation. the Passion is one of these sacraments, including his suffering: the betrayal, arrest, persecution, and crucifixion.

so, i’ve been sitting with the sacrament of passion, wondering how it shows up in my life and what it has to teach me about liberation.

there’s been some reckoning with the term passion, noticing how far our common usage is from its original meaning of suffering. today, it’s mostly used to refer to as pleasure or excitement, with little to no reference to suffering or sacrifice.

this shift has left me wondering about what is missed when the role of suffering is excluded from transformation? in other words, what does suffering have to do with the way of love?

this was all stirring in me as i prepared for a facilitation on tuesday so i first turned to Jesus’ Farewell Discourses for inspiration. here, in John 13-17, he gathered the disciples for final instruction before his passion. he prepared them for what was coming. they didn’t really get it, which i find to be reassuring and revealing.

confusion is real in this journey. and why we need guides along the way…but that’s a post for another day.

anyway, there are three of these final instructions that i find are particularly helpful in understanding passion: Jesus the True Vine (John 15:1-17); The World’s Hatred (John 15: 18-John 16); and Sorrow Will Turn to Joy (John 16:16-24) (NSRV translation).

from Jesus the True Vine: “He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” (John 15:2). and “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11).

from The World’s Hatred: “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the word would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world–therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18). “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You are also to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15: 26-27).

and from Sorrow Will Turn Into Joy: “Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.” (John 16: 20-22).

my translation: life shows us from the very beginning of the reality of growing pains. and, we still forget. grief empties us and allows the spaciousness for new.

in his final guidance to his disciples, Jesus teaches that as we grow into the truth of who we are, we will naturally bump against socio-cultural conditioning; we’ll no longer fit into the boxes we’ve learned to fit into; we’ll outgrow relationships and jobs and positions and roles and beliefs. this growth will bring anger, grief, fear, and hatred. both internally (thanks, ego) and externally. and jesus tells us: it’s okay. this is why i’ve walked this path as i have…to show you the way. and then he goes on to say that he’s sending the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Truth) to them/us so that they/we might also be compelled to tell the truth; they/we have witnessed the way so they/we are now responsible for that knowing/witness.

our connection with the Divine en-courages truth to Self, which brings forth both pain and joy. as we stand in the humble truth of who we are, our hearts are shattered and enflamed. this world–our human conditions–allows for this passion and through that passion, our liberation. it is our choice. and many will choose otherwise.

the implications of our choice ripple from the individual to the family to the community to the nation; they cross generations from the beginning of time to time eternal. if we do not move through the suffering and allow it to transform us, then we will be stuck in that suffering; it will possess us and will spill out from us onto others.

James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree points to the very real tragedy that results. he equates the lynching tree with the cross and lays out the absolute Christian silence on the history of lynching in this nation. for him, the silence is evidence of the radical teachings of Jesus: even among those who proclaim to follow the life and teachings of Jesus, there has still been a willful denial to live these teachings to the degree that these same “Christians” re-enact the crucifixion of their own God.

he writes:

“The lynched black victim experienced the same fate as the crucified Christ and thus became the most potent symbol for understanding the true meaning of the salvation achieved through “God on the cross.” Nietsche was right: Christianity is a religion of slaves. God became a slave in Jesus and thereby liberated slaves from being determined by their social condition… 

The real scandal of the gospel is this: humanity’s salvation is revealed in the cross of the condemned criminal Jesus, and humanity’s salvation is available only through our solidarity with the crucified people in our midst. Faith that emerged out of the scandal of the cross is not a faith of intellectuals or elite of any sort. This is the faith of abused and scandalized people–the losers and the down and out. It was this faith that gave blacks the strength and courage to hope, “to keep on keeping on,” struggling against the odds, with what Paul Tillich called, “The courage to be.” …”

if we could get that freedom is not found by being a winner! or by fitting in or making nice. it’s not found in making others’ comfortable or by having all the answers. it is found when we listen to and act in our own truth.

i’m reminded of jesus in the garden of gethsamene. he’s talked the talk to the disciples and now it’s time for him to walk the walk. according to luke, he actually sweats blood as he reckons with the reality of his own teachings. meanwhile, the disciples are asleep. (revealing metaphor, no?!). ultimately, he surrenders to the truth and makes what i call the “choiceless choice”; his suffering subsides and peace comes in.

passion: to say yes to the fire within us and in doing so, allow all that comes from it’s burning, faithful to that burn. drawing close to its warmth.

grateful for all the firekeepers on this very Good Friday. for en-couraging my fire and for lighting our world. let us be the light in the darkness.

i used to be___ and now i am ___

a communal poem from tonight’s closing ceremony of the 40 Day Journey to Remembering Soul and Spirit. with a heart full of gratitude.

I used to put others before myself and now I’m making myself a priority.

I used to feel unworthy of deep connection and now I wait for alignment knowing the Divine knows better.

I used to take my blessings for granted. Now I awake grateful.

I used to allow fear and anxiety to control me and now I see it for what it is: a distraction to my Higher Self.

I used to be plus size and now I’m a regular.

I used to tethered and now I’m going to live untethered.

I used to want the silence and now I want the music and the laughter and the joy.

I used to not trust my years of living/lived experience and now I trust to lean into the wisdom that I’ve been blessed with.

I used to be attached to some of the positional power. Now, I feel free.

I used to claim my organization; now, I claim home.

I used to be a student and now I am a teacher. 

I used to be a teacher and now I am a student. 

I used to be a reflection and now I am source. 

I used to be lost and now I am found. 

I used to untethered and now I am rooted.

I used to be an ember and now I am a flame.

I used to be a stream and now I am an ocean.

I used to be a pebble and now I am a mountain.

I used to be mother earth’s worshipper. Now, I am her daughter. 

I used to be nature’s curator. Now, I am nature. 

I used to be afraid all of the time, but not I am learning to offer that to Spirit … to see where fear might also be an invitation.

I used to act from that fear, but now I am learning to move through it to love.

I used to think I needed to do and be big in the world, now I realize I already am, by the miracle of my birth.

I used to over analyze, judge, want or need the other to be different, now I see the work is within me.

I used to see the world as out there, now I see the world as in here.

I used to over consume and now I find surrender and find ease in the silence.

I used to hide and stay small, now I offer myself as a conduit to move through me.

I used to think I could do it alone, now I realize that I need you.

I used to think the Kingdom of God was out there; now I know it is in here

there’s no going back

there’s no going back. these were the words spoken from a woman in circle reckoning with the reality of life. they came as she shared the story of catching a glimpse of her aging body in the mirror of a dressing room as she tried on a swim suit–her body’s image revealing the changes that have come with living.

tears came on the wings of the words that followed: there’s no going back.

Octavia Butler’s phrase, “God is change” immediately came to mind. to be human–to be alive–is to participate in this change. the dance of participation has a particular and changing rhythm that involves mutuality and relationship. there’s movement.

and to be a participant in life is to appreciate all that has come before–the things done and left undone. all has purpose.

thanks to imperial consciousness and inverted stories from westernized religion and culture, there are deeply entrenched stories of fall and redemption. we (humans) are cast as inherently bad, incapable of saving ourselves from sin so that Jesus came to save us. these stories of redemption are lies and are symptoms of pain not transformed, that have festered in the wounds generating shame/blame/guilt.

there is no course-correction needed. it is all necessary because it all brings us to this moment of choice.

there is no going back.

no need. no reason. it has all served and grown and moved us.

pain offers an intimate encounter with divine love. as we encounter this love, we get to choose: who are we, now? who do we want to be? do we consent to participating in the outpouring of love? consent connects us to a universal and eternal story, drawing us into active participation in the story of the cosmos.

and, we get to choose.

shortly following the circle, the woman wondered on Facebook if she’d experienced a “breakthrough” in that moment. in her accepting the pain of the reality that there is no going back.

in the preparation for holy week, i’m grateful for those who continue to show me the path of transformation: that our human suffering allows the experience of divine love, life, and liberation.

and the reminder of the power of choice.

inclusion

during this season of lent, i’ve been hosting a 40 Day Journey to Remembering Soul and Spirit, based on my recently published book, co-authored with Quanita Roberson. the journey is inspired by the Dagara Cosmological Wheel and the elements of fire, water, earth, mineral, and nature. this week has been Earth Week, perfectly aligning with the first week of Spring. i love the intermingling of these ancient wisdom traditions.

Spring Equinox (last Sunday) brought perfect balance between day/night; light/dark; masculine/feminine. i intended to publish a Weavings on that day, marking the turn of the season. the plan was to focus on the dawn goddesses Ostara and Ishtar and the themes of new life, rebirth, resurrection as symbolized by their association with the hare and the moon. against the Kentucky background of the longer and warmer days, blooming daffodils, and birdsong, it made sense to celebrate Spring in this way. 

wonderfully, life had other plans. 

it was as if the Equinox cued a redirect in my attention to bring balance in my own understanding and being, shifting my focus from the feminine goddess and birth to death, decay, and masculine deities. God Anubis grabbed my attention first. i’m not sure how he came into my awareness but he’s been very present this whole week, reappearing in podcasts, readings, conversations. the other guide has been one of my spirit animals, the turkey vulture. these two both devour decay, taking nourishment from the dead and leaving nothing to waste. together, they held my attention on the necessary role of decay and death in the cycle of life. 

it’s been a beautiful invitation in this time. 

just before Spring Equinox, my mother shared with me a heartfelt lamentation of despair in feeling useless. when she spoke of this, i knew it to be a gross lie, a symptom of our conditioning. with tears in my eyes, it came that it is literally impossible to be useless. inherent in our aliveness is worth. 

this is a radical truth. one our mother earth has showed us from the beginning of time. the story of evolution points to it. great religions and wisdom traditions teach it. and yet…there is perpetual forgetting. 

in recent weeks of the Living School, Fr. Richard Rohr has emphasized the core lesson of “Integration of the Negative” in the work of transformation and evolutionary spirituality. Ken Wilbur puts it in terms of “transcend and include”. in other words, evolution knows only inclusion of all. there is nothing wasted; all has purpose. love– without condition–transforms because it encompasses all in its ever-expansion. 

i’m guessing this is why forgiveness is the focus of ⅓ of Jesus’ teachings. to include all the parts–the good, the bad, the ugly–there has to be forgiveness. there’s some shit we have to deal with…and include in the next story. if we suppress it, deny and/or avoid it, turns out we end up reproducing and transferring it.

sigh.  

as I continue my work with the Episcopal Church around healing and reconciliation, it is so seductive to vear toward exclusion; to reactively resist; to point fingers and blame. the grooves in the universe (and in our own bones) around these impulses are deep! in the context of Christianity, I find these impulses so revealing and to provide such transformative possibility if we choose to practice our faith.

turning to lent: there would be no resurrection with the passion and death of Jesus. there would be no crucifixion as we know it with Judas or Peter or…the list goes on and on and one. they/we all play an essential role. and as if to really drive the point home, when Jesus returns through resurrection, his wounds remain. he is Jesus and something more–he is also Christ. he’s included the wound in his own transformation.

i heard Lynne Twist say the other day that the “pandemic is the morning sickness to the pregancy of our new species.” i know this to be true. we are in an evolutionary shift and all of us are participating in it, whether we are conscious of it or not. we get to choose how we want to participate! i want to participate in and with love. i want liberation. i want to transform pain and hand down more whole and liberating stories to my children and our future ones.

like Mother Earth, the turkey vulture leaves nothing to waste; the God Anubis devours decay for nourishment. there is nothing but life.

in the beginning of this Spring, i’m resting in this reality as i choose to participate with love. so, i’m asking myself, how can I too (like the turkey vulture and Anubis and Jesus and Mother Earth), practice radical inclusion–where all is included and all belong and all are essential in the ever-unfolding story of life.

quanita

i met quanita three and a half years ago, in august 2019. i’d just returned from a meditation retreat where the red rocks in New Mexico told me that my inescapable fear was fear of myself. she showed up to guide me as i leaned into this fear, learned from it, and grew into more of the fullness of who i am. she showed up to initiate me.

in meeting her, there was immediate trust. i’m grateful for this. this doesn’t mean it has been easy. it means that i’ve always known she can see things i don’t see; she has access to wisdom that i do not have.

i’m grateful that right away, i knew who she was to me, a teacher, a guide. there was never any question about this. this allowed me to lean in–not only into her, but most importantly, into me.

after our first meeting (the day after my return from the red rocks), i asked her to share some of the book she told me she been writing. she did, without question. i waited to then share, in return, my writing. i knew, already: what i had been writing was in direct conversation with her writing. we already knew one another. the book had been writing itself through us for…ever?? she later texted me simply, “i think you’re supposed to write this book with me.” i wrote back, “me, too.”

in recalling this, i still feel the fear rise up within me. (picture me here, shaking my fists at the heavens!!). how in the hell could i possibly find myself in this book about about the journey from slavery to freedom, written as a love letter to her African American community? how could i co-author this book with Quanita, a Black Shaman, the woman who boldly owns being “The Promise of Forgiveness and Reconciliation?” well, i didn’t know. we never do. this is path of surrender.

because i knew who she was, i could relax into myself. “relax” mistakenly implies this was an easy process…and yet, there was ease. there was ease because quanita loved me without condition. there was no expectation, no judgement. there was truth, and there was clarity. learning and living the distinction has allowed me to practice showing up as me, with confidence that this is all that is asked of us.

my job in contributing to and co-authoring the book wasn’t to know as much or be as wise or woke as Quanita. it was to be amy–as honestly, as courageously as i could be. as we wove together our pieces for the book and listened to what it wanted to be, we named our different stories the “wisdom walk” (hers) and “the warrior walk” (mine). the beauty in this for me was to experience that my walk was not inferior or less than or not as valuable as hers. she helped show me that where i am, who i am, is simply divine.

in this culture, we are taught to compete and try to measure up. we’re conditioned to believe that our worth is earned, proven. walking alongside quanita for the past three and a half years, i’ve learned otherwise. she has shown me that because we are all interdependent and bound up together, that we are divine as is. there are no conditions. she has helped me to know pain as the awakening to more of the whole, the revealing of this interconnectedness. it is not bad; it is not good. it is what it means to be connected. waking up to the pain is an invitation into more of that wholeness.

it ain’t easy. i get so mad at her! i get so mad at the truth. and i laugh and bless myself because i know that underneath my anger is grief which points to forgiveness which points to freedom. all of which is wrapped up in fear.

this week i was telling her about a work scenario and she called me out, telling me to stand my ground. telling me to be who i am in the world. shit.

those red rocks were right. there is such fear of myself. i’m reminded of marianne williamson’s piece here:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

christena cleveland’s new book, “god is a black woman” nails it. i haven’t read it. but i already know. at least i know a bit. of course quanita showed up to initiate me. of course she is the promise of forgiveness and reconciliation. of course, because who else but a dark-skinned Black woman born in Cincinnati, USA with exactly her story to heal the wounds of domination and to show us LOVE?

and as grateful as i am for quanita in my life, i’m equally as grateful to my inner knowing. she showed up because i asked to know myself. i asked to love myself.

today’s medicine

in my story-weaving way, i found myself this morning following the thread of brigid. i lit a fire. and sat with her in the wayfinding of threads in me that are both ancient and new.

this is my labor, now. to go inward and pay attention to what is arising in me. draw close to it and allow it. as i move through life–carrying those threads through my day. there are many messages in our westernized ways that tell us this is not enough. that it doesn’t matter. that this form of labor isn’t valuable.

i know otherwise. there’s evidence.

somehow, as weaving goes, the thread of bear found me. mama bear joined me by the fire, with brigid. the mama bear has been an animal spirit lately, in this time of hibernation and so i was glad to feel her protective presence this morning. she inspired me to google “brigid and bear”.

damnnnnn.

intuition is magic. how we know things we don’t even know we know!

there is a long folklore and myth associated with brigid and the bear that go way back. bear, an ancient symbol of regeneration, birth, renewal, sacrifice, and ritual. jude lally’s blog post brought to light for me a lot here, pointing to archeological and linguistic evidence of bear as birth goddess spanning 6000 years ago with bear cults and totems and spiritual practices.

Brighid and the Rowan Tree by Yuri Leitch

what’s clear as i sit here by my fire is that i’m not alone. going inward, turns me inside out. it connects me to the collective of who i am/who we are.

turns out, i ain’t the only fair skinned woman who feels a sacred relationship with brigid and bear and fire. of course it was no accident that brigid brought me to bear. and that something deep inside me knew.

mmmmm. drinking in the bear medicine and my own knowing.

and…to pull in another thread…

i’m actually writing this during what was intended to be an international ceremonial call with water spirit people. in preparing to facilitate the call, i’ve been presencing .. today’s call took shape with only my sister quanita and i present, allowing me to be with water in a different and intimate way.

which brings together brigid, fire, bear, with the water… what are the lessons? what are the gifts of now?

i’m reminded of a recent conversation i listened to with peter levine and thomas hubl about trauma and spirituality. peter told a story about a lesson he received from albert einstein. it was direct and personal. (and yes, einstein is an ancestor. this wasn’t a factor in the story and that’s another story altogether!) the story went that peter asked albert for help in understanding how trauma transfers across generations as energy. as a healer, peter wanted to know how trauma behaves and moves.

albert showed him. he took peter to the edge of water and held up a stick with pebbles laid across it. he picked up the stick and tipped it, spilling the pebbles into the water. each pebble generated a wave and the waves spread out in concentric circles further and further, with the waves eventually merging into one another. energy is like this, he told peter. it flows across generations. all the energy that has ever been is here, now. all our ancestors, live in us. and when the energy gets blocked–when the waves catch one another–that flow gets blocked. this blockage is an ego point or as peter named it, a trauma point.

so, i’m sitting with brigid, the fire, the bear, and the water today. and i’m asking myself, where is the flow of life blocked in me? blocked in my lineages? where do i experience blockage in the flow of life–in relationship with others? in the world?

photograph by Alma Snortum-Phelps

and as the peter levine and thomas hubl conversation amplifed, those trauma points or blockages are invitations for healing:

“when you’re able to open enough, the wave is able to reconstitute itself and move on.” 

peter levine

i want to open, to reconstitute, to move. i want to participate in the flow of life, to join in the evolutionary impulse that is now. i want to bring forth the gifts of my lineage and contribute to the story of who we are becoming.

and so, here i am. allowing myself to feel. to experience these labor pangs.

the death of my aunt has brought to surface some of these trauma points in my lineage. the waves have moved me, stirring up patterns in my lineage that are asking to be disrupted and healed. patterns that live uniquely in the bodies of white women–mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, granddaughters, grandmothers. patterns that determine worth and value and legitimacy in ways that lead to shame, blame, and guilt. patterns that establish condition and expectation that constrain love and life and liberation. patterns that separate and lead to decay, death, disease. i want to feel these patterns so that i know them. and can choose otherwise.

brigid, as she stands with me and in me at this life threshold supports me as i bear witness to all of this, bringing forth these threads into the weaving of a cloak of forgiveness and compassion. i’m grateful for how much more i can see, standing here with her. i’m grateful for how much more i can see of who we are, who i am.

this labor matters. this labor–like that of the mama bear–is quiet and hidden away in the darkness of cave and winter. and this labor matters. this labor births new life, new worlds.

photograph by jessica weiller

i am a pebble and the waves that i generate extend as far back as the beginning of time and extend as far out as beyond eternity.

i’m birthing and stretching

and allowing life to move through me, in the flow of ever widening circles. 

i matter.

being here and now, matters.

threshold

today is imbolc (and uncommonly, the chinese lunar year). it feels timely. a mix of both new beginnings and threshold. a rite of passage.

first, i’ll say this: over the past couple of years with the vision of wild roots, i’ve turned my attention to the rhythms of the natural world; with this practice, there has been such gifts of wisdom and knowing. mother earth, the wisest teacher.

last night, as my sister tamika and i held a new moon fire + water alumni circle and this piece from john o’donohue came in, poignantly articulating this:

“The earth is our origin and destination. The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves into the rhythms of the human heart. The earth is not outside us; it is within: the clay from where the tree of the body grows. When we emerge from our offices, rooms and houses, we enter our natural element. We are children of the earth: people to whom the outdoors is home. Nothing can separate us from the vigour and vibrancy of this inheritance. In contrast to our frenetic, saturated lives, the earth offers a calming stillness. Movement and growth in nature takes time. The patience of nature enjoys the ease of trust and hope. There is something in our clay nature that needs to continually experience this ancient, outer ease of the world. It helps us remember who we are and why we are here.”

― John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

and here, in this particular moment of life, this time of threshold marked by both imbolc and the chinese lunar year offers a helpful lens in my meaning-making. in making sense of all that is shifting both internally and externally. i’m grateful for this.

it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds of life. and i believe we are spiritual beings having human experiences. so, to remember there is meaning beyond the weeds, matters.

all this to say, some shit has been going down in the weeds. i’m in between major contracts at the moment and so in terms of work, there is uncertainty. i chose this. i want this. and it’s still…uncertain. my companion dog, hannah girl has been on the edge of life/death (for years?!) in raw form the past couple of months; she’s stretching my capacities for uncertainty and grief (and knowing and joy!). my father’s beloved sister, my aunt died suddenly last week, shifting the landscape of our family and our ancestral stories. my baby boy is finishing his last semester of high school…

basically, there’s a been a lot of life/death. against the backdrop of a lot of life/death.

and so, given all that’s been moving, it helps for me to receive mother earth’s signal of threshold time. to root here, now.

imbolc–also known as st brigid’s day–marks the midpoint between winter solstice and spring equinox. it was a pagan festival associated with the goddess brigid who was later christianized as st brigid.

“Brigid’s Fire: An Offering” by joanna powell colbert

i love brigid. she belongs to me and i to her. i’ve been enjoying john p. newell’s writing on her in Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul. i like this bit on her as symbolic of threshold: “Legend has it that Brigid was born just before sunrise, in the twilight of early morning, in that time governed neither by the sun’s light or the moon’s light, but by the two lights, the twi-light. It is also said that her mother gave birth to her neither within the house nor outside, but at the threshold of the dwelling. So her birth signals that she will be associated with the meeting place between opposites, the night and the day, the sun and the moon, the within and the without. She occupies the liminal space between two worlds. She stands at the doorway or meeting place between the so-called opposite dimensions of life, which have been torn apart from each other.”

threshold time is holy. it is a time of sacred waiting. it is not meant to be easy. it calls for reverence, patience, willingness, and surrender (yes, the tension of willingness and surrender make for a wild dance!). it is a time of in-between, where the new life being born has not yet taken its own form and yet the old form is falling away.

i think of my experiences in natural childbirth and the “ring of fire”. my midwives had not told me about this experience before my son was making his way out of my body into the world, as his own self. just as i felt my body would explode into a thousand pieces, i heard my midwife’s guidance: “you are experiencing the ring of fire. allow it–your body knows how to do this. just let go.”

and then…”push!”

how do we let go and push at the same time?!

i do not know. and i do. this is not my first rodeo. i’ve birthed life and lives before.

and so, here am i. channeling brigid’s guidance. and mother’s earth support.

and i know i am not alone.

in this threshold time. this rite of passage.

which brings me back to fire. brigid is a fire goddess. she is said to have been born with a flame on her head, a mark of shamans, seer. beloved as St. Brigid, her sacred flame was kept by her women for over a thousand years, extinguished during the Reformation. it was relit in the 1970s and has been burning ever since, kept alive by the Brigadine Sisters of Kildare.

and, as i was reminded of the ring of fire experienced in childbirth, fire as an element is brought to mind–one of new life, truth, essence. fire connects us to the ancestral and spiritual realm, burning off everything that stands in the way. i’m reminded that john the baptist said there are two baptisms: one of water and one of the holy spirit, fire.

marking this threshold time with fire feels right. feels true.

i’ve had candles burning on my altar for my aunt and for a friend’s sister who also died. and for the spark of the divine that is radiating within me. tonight, i’ll honor this fire as ritual, holding me in this threshold and carrying me beyond the weeds of my life to the cosmic story of who we are becoming.

hibernation, grief, and the feminine

i’ve been deep in winter’s hibernation, practicing a different way of knowing, a different way of being. i’ve been moving slowly. allowing myself to be in a new rhythm, resting and still and quiet. this isn’t to say that it always looks like this from the outside. there are times when i’m buzzing like a bee, twirling like a tornado, this manic movement serving to balance the inward energy of utter stillness. it is always a dance.

maybe there will be some writing around why this season of hibernation. for now, wanting to share some of what i’m learning, pulling a few threads of stories i’ve been carrying, into the weaving of this one:

there has been grief. grief as both verb and noun. both exercise/activity and a state of being and resting place–even as sister. this experience of grief as sister has my attention. it signals the feminine.

the feminine, rising. the feminine is energy principle that generates knowing from an embodied place, rooted in matter, relationship, sensory experience. this principle is not only present in female bodies–it is alive in all of creation. the degree to which it is accessed and awakened depends on both internal and external conditions; thanks to patriarchy, it has been subjugated, particularly in western cultures. now, it is rising to counterbalance and reorder. it’s rising in me and i’m noticing it rising in family, organizational, institutional, societal, planetary systems.

mother bears give birth in hibernation. it is a time of rest and stillness and birth. their lessons in this season teach me as i channel their protective energies of what is being birthed in and through me, now.

kenosis. at the heart of the Christian faith is the importance of incarnation. and kenosis. kenosis (or the emptying out) allows for incarnation (the fulfillment of the Divine). grief plays a key role in that kenosis. she moves what is blocking, what no longer serves.

body as sacred text. in the Celtic tradition, there are two forms of wisdom: the big book of life and the little book of holy scripture. the big book is read through the body. as menopause grips me, this awareness has been…juicy and steamy and moving.

breath. the breath continues to teach, creating spaciousness and connecting form with spirit. returning to her as continuous waves of inhale and exhale, drawing my attention back into my body. helping me in re-membering.

sinking. hibernation takes time. it requires preparation. it calls for patience and willingness. there is much temptation to come out too soon, to distract ourselves, to return to business-as-usual. staying, sinking…this is the work of hibernation. to stay with it, trusting that this too is transformation. even when it doesn’t look like this from the outside.

expansion

for the first time since i wrote it in 2011, i read my dissertation recently. a solid decade stood between my now-self and my then-self; so much learning and living in the in-between–so much changed and so much still the same.

it felt good and timely to return to my research. i did so because i’m still in the same questions, really: what does change and transformation ask of us? how do we bring forth that transformative change? what kinds of relationships and conditions are needed to cultivate and sustain transformation?

the title of my dissertation was reform from within: an ecological analysis of institutionalized feminism. at the time, i was looking at how reform is generated from within a system and the challenges and opportunities inherent in these efforts. i was working in a campus-based women’s center and the research offered an opportunity to examine this issue with my friends and colleagues as we were all positioned to do just that–create institutional change within the institution that was also paying our checks.

a decade later, what i am now finding to be true as i re-encounter these questions around transformation and reform from within?

much of the dissertation research still resonates–the theoretical orientation, the methodology, the findings. i found myself reading it and being like, “damn, girl. yesss.” the emphasis on critical consciousness, relationship, third space—yes, yes, yes. and here, i gotta say a word about third space because it’s just so juicy.

third space represents the state of being or space that transcends socially constructed dualistic systems of meaning where one can be both/and and more rather than existing in either/or paradigms. some of my most beloved teachers (Collins, hooks, Anzaldua) draw on third space theory in speaking of their social positions and point to this reality as promising and essential to transform. there is wisdom offered from those who necessarily straddle two, opposing worlds or socio-political positions–wisdom that opens a doorway into a whole new way of being.

and… i’m writing on this as i work out what feels disorienting about my returning to my research, now. how have i changed? what is this new lens through which i now read this data? these questions matter not because of an abstract theoretical interest but because i literally find myself in these questions now–grappling with how to evolve and transform in relationship, especially in the context of organizational and institution given my current work focus with the Episcopal Church.

i think the biggest change since my dissertation is the wisdom i’ve gained around the role of the self. at the time of my research, my focus on relationship was between entities–two people, two organizations, between a person and the organization. now, that focus has shifted to focus more on the relationship within the self. i used to think of reform from within as about an agent of change within a larger system working to create change. now, i think of it more as about creating the conditions within to allow for right relationship.

first, a bit on the shift to conditions within: my teacher, meg wheatley offers that the “health of the self determines the health of the self-organizing”. this wisdom is also reflected in the piece around “the outer reflects the inner”. and all great spiritual teachers and wisdom traditions guide us in our inner work, reconciling our own personal selves and stories as we grow into our more full and whole versions of self. only then, when we can love and welcome our full selves, can we love and welcome others. for me, when it comes to leadership–individual, organizational, communal–this piece is an essential piece to that puzzle. a devotion to some sort of personal practice around self-love and compassion.

on right relationship: i’ve learned a lot about relationship and community in this past decade. interestingly, while much of my research focused on these, i didn’t really say a lot about what these mean or what they ask for/offer. this stands out for me now because i’ve learned that there are different kinds of relationships and particular ones that generate transformation + growth. i mean here right relationship–a connection based in wholeness and diversity and reciprocity and mutuality. right relationship is rooted in the reality of interdependence and the knowing that we are both individuals and bound up together.

it cannot be taken for granted that relationship and community will necessarily offer this sort of right relationship.

in fact, given our conditioning around worth and supremacy (shout out to White Supremacy/Patriarchy/Capitalism), there is a lot of unlearning that is required. and part of the unlearning is to experience an other way. this is where it gets tough because you can’t offer an other way unless you know it–and not in an intellectual way of knowing, but a messy, lived + embodied way of knowing that stays in your bones.

those committed to growing our systems, must also be willing to grow themselves. and growth requires relationship and community and…guides who have the embodied knowing. this point raises an additional nuance to my research: the need for guides/leaders. guides who have done their own personal healing and reconciliation work have the capacity to hold space for others to do the same. those who know and live third space can then wisely invite others into it.

returning to third space here is helpful. it names a particular quality of space that builds on the commonly used and general concept of “holding space”. third space invokes an active occupation of both/and and more. third space disrupts the roles and positions and categories we hold (internally and externally). third space breaks down ways in which we other and cracks open possibilities to include and transcend these, together. third space opens ourselves to the reality of ubuntu; our inherent interdependence; the truth that we belong to each other. third space creates the conditions so that i might see myself in you, you in me, and to taste the truth that we are each essential participants in the unfolding story of our cosmos.

practicing third space is to include all and transcend; it is the both/and and more. ken wilbur’s integral theory and spiral dynamics clarifies that this is the constant and brilliant evolutionary dance of the universe. in other words, this is how evolution works. life/love incorporates all the stuff–the good, the bad, the ugly–in life’s unfolding. everything really belongs.

to fully participate in this dance of evolution is excruciating (think labor pains, death to the false self, dark night of the soul!). a recent example comes to mind:

last week, i participated in our diocesan convention, during which time there were elections, voting on budgets and resolutions, business matters to attend to. a gathering themed, “Proclaiming the Dream” with little energy or focus on dreaming outside of some very disconnected threads offered by our team. there was an striking experience of the established church up against the new and emerging; the contrast was honestly, disorienting. anger and frustration helped signal that something wasn’t sitting right with me as I began to point fingers at “those people”, creating comfortable stories of “us/them”. so, i embraced the event as a contemplative exercise to be with the both/and and more–to occupy third space.

i found that this practice helped to keep myself in the story, in relationship to all, opening up an expanded experience of myself, church, the institution.

a decade after writing my dissertation, it’s good to know the learning has continued, deepening in an embodied way. it’s good to know that i draw on this learning everyday as i show up to my own growth and transformation and as i offer that in service to and love for others. it is good to know expansiveness and to be expanded.