becky

becky; 8.4.21

sitting in the hot tub at the local rec center, the man next to me was chatting. as a woman climbed into the hot tub with us, he asked if she was okay and offered to help her. she proceeded in and then paused in front of him. with kind eyes and a soft yet firm tone, she asked if she could share something with him. he agreed.

she went on to share that as a woman with a disability, she had learned how to maneuver her body. comments like his were more about his unease with her than her. she let him know that his comments hurt.

he offered a bit of justification. she simply listened and then reiterated “that is more about you than me.”

the grace offered with her truth-telling was remarkable.

a bit later, there was an opportunity for me to thank her. i let her know i made it a practice to look for God and in that moment, that’s what i experienced. our eyes met. we paused for a moment in that knowing.

i asked her if i might take her photograph. she said yes.

i asked her name.

becky. i repeated it, taking it in.

i offered mine. she repeated it, taking it in.

and then, she asked if she might share a story about her grandmother. tears came.

she began, “as a little girl, my grandmother told me that God only makes perfect beings. each person has a wound, either inside or out. i was born with a disability. my wound is on the outside. God allowed that because it reveals to me the wounds that people carry inside.”

my wound is on the outside so that the wounds people carry inside can be seen.”

for a moment, silence that comes in after such truth is spoken.

then, “wasn’t that wise of her?”

i nodded with my whole body.

“what was your grandmother’s name?” i asked.

“bertha.”

“and she only completed sixth grade. isn’t that something? and she knew the Bible from front to back. the whole Bible.”

“yes.” i said. and then, “thank you. to you and to your grandmama, Bertha.”

forgiveness

it’s no coincidence that 2/3 of jesus’ sermons were on forgiveness…

…that bishop desmond tutu, in his life’s work around Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa centered forgiveness.

evolution requires it.

transformation demands it.

LOVE invokes it.

life has given me lessons on this so that i might know it–intellectually, in my heart, in my body.

life always gives what we need, what we ask for.

two recent examples to note:

on the church: amidst my evolving relationship with faith and how we build faith communities, there’s been ongoing wrestling with the institutional church and what happens as a result of the institutionalization of religion. life Jesus, i often feel compelled to turn up the tables in the temple, enraged and heartbroken by the discrepancy by who we claim to be and how we act. amidst my efforts to build bridges and reconcile, there is sly judgement and self-declarations of “well, i am not that,” ever-so-subtly excluding and othering. recent intimate and deep time with those who likely might fall victim to my judgements and exclusions gifted me with another truth: their way is also the way. rather than excluding, there was opening to including.

ken wilbur and spiral dynamics teaches that evolution transcends and includes.

to know this reality in an embodied way, in our own direct experience with life, is to feel lighter, softer, more free and expansive. no need to fix, cast aside, block…everything belongs.

i could soften with these faithful ones, even in the tension of the difference. i could see them more clearly because i could see me. and it was all good.

on family: in a recent visit with my mom, i shared some of my writing on ancestral stories. inspired by audre lorde’s “biomythography”, i’ve been in playful imagining with my ancestors, taking threads of historical fact and infusing my imagination into their stories. i wanted to share of these stories with my mom, especially those involving her adoptive and biological mothers, and a bit of what’s been written about her. as i read these aloud, daring to name the sharp points in these stories, there was this sense of softening, expanding. rather than slicing and dicing our stories up, what was offered in the practice of gathering all the pieces together was deeply moving. as i left that night, she hugged me saying that she felt she’d been waiting all her life for these stories.

me, too.

walking to my car, a deep well of grief opened up within me, grief of my grandmothers and my mother that had been blocked and stuck for generations; grief that wasn’t theirs but had been handed down to them, thwarting healing and movement and life. knowing i could not ride these waves of grief alone, i phoned an elder who could wisely guide me as i sank into the waters of this pain, welcoming it and the medicine it offered. in so doing, i met my younger self with new eyes and new appreciation as she was asking to release her grief, too so that she could be fully included in my evolving story. to see her/me, to embrace her/me…brought such peace.

the night was one of naming and including and transcending, shedding light on the truth of it all and also how conditioned we are to block this process.

how much easier it is to follow the historical patterns of reform as exclusion/termination/genocide/oppression.

we cannot change what we do not love, without condition.

often, this feels impossible to accept.

fortunately, we have many who have shown us the way.

recently, i heard an interview the Lama Rod, speaking on his recent book “Love and Rage”. he spoke of love as including all. he made the point that he loves even racism–a very mind-blowing declaration–going on to remark of the understanding and compassion he has for what lies underneath the behavior, the why. as he spoke and gave testimony of how this shift has impacted both his interior and exterior worlds, i felt a loud YESSSS rise up.

this, after all, is the fundamental practice of nonviolence, beloved community, peace.

what if we could dare to fully open ourselves to see clearly what is before us, and rather than judging it and casting it aside, welcome it into a more expansive knowing?

what if we could utter, “yes…and there is more to the story.”

this

may i remember

this

the first rain drop, joined slowly by others

painting the sidewalk, drop by drop

first, gentle and sweet

and then powerfully pouring down upon me

a baptism

until we joined together in pounding out

life’s drumbeat

David Lurey, the perfect accompanist as my playlist cues up his song

May I Remember

and my boy phones his mama to offer a ride

noticing the downpour and knowing i was out in it

“where are you?” he said. “i’ll come get you.”

i am good, i say.

the tears mixing with the rain

in the beauty of it all.

i am good.

all is good.

may i remember

this.

descent

yesterday i listened to an interview with Robert MacFarlane, author of Underland. he spoke of the long history (6 million years!) of humans’ descent to landscapes “underneath” and hidden away–a universal, original longing to descend to the dark places for revelation: caves, tunnels, underground passages, underground railroads.

it’s interesting to consider how our interplay with outer landscapes reflects our inner landscapes…the body as bridge.

last weekend, a feminine wisdom retreat focusing on the chakras was timely after several days of illness. the retreat offered conditions in which not only to learn about the chakras but to activate and experience them–an embodied knowing. i was especially struck by the energy of the root chakra. there was something about the experience of the root chakra that revealed an inherent sense of belonging to the earth, to one another, to life. i realized how easy it is to forget, to feel a lack of belonging. i imagined myself seated upon the earth, root chakra connected and sourced by the earth’s energy as it flowed in me and through me and into the rest of the universe.

there was an embodied descent in this experience–a journey to soul that is distinct from the transcendant spiritual journey. it was divinely feminine, accessed in and through the body and opening to all of life.

i carried this energy with me throughout the week, my body awakening in new ways, listening for the lessons and wisdom it has for me as i interact in relationship with the world.

as a white-bodied woman, my descent offers medicine in the access of the wounds of what bell hooks names “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”. in other words: intergenerational trauma; racialized trauma; sin/separation from God.

bodies hold these wounds differently and all bodies do. in many bodies, the trauma is trapped, stuck. cutting life off and generating patterns of fear, scarcity, othering. i am capable of being present to this pain when i remain in my body. it is a challenge as their pain triggers mine, pulling me out of my body and straight into my head into the behaviors of fixing and solving. it’s a vicious cycle. when i stay present, there is more capacity to transform the pain rather than simply transferring it.

it strikes me that this lesson is arising (again) for me at this particular time. today is Juneteenth–the first recognized as a federal holiday–marking the emancipation of all enslaved persons in the U.S. i’m getting the message: there is a relationship between descent and freedom. and, this relationship has a lot to do with the body. to add another thread here to the yarning of this story: tomorrow is summer solstice, when the sun’s light shines upon the northern hemisphere creating the longest day of the year just before the descent into darkness once again.

in honor of summer solstice, i held Sanctuary today (a nature-based gathering + ceremony). on this day we were honoring the light, the weather was stormy and dark and provocative. as i prepared for Sanctuary this week, there was an energetic conversation between Juneteenth and Summer Solstice; the conversation was in my bones and marrow, bringing together African and European and Native lineages, weaving Lift Every Voice and Sing with John O-Donohue prayers and Starhawk readings. it felt like reconciliation. in my body. and this morning, sitting in circle for Sanctuary with the deer and the rain and candles and the ancestors…it was.

in the midst of the ritual, a family showed up to celebrate their uncle’s recent passing. raymond, now an ancestor. “they” became “we” as we shared the moment together. honoring our ancestors. honoring the moment. honoring the future ones.

when i remember to stay in and listen to my body, there are channels of energy that open up, and flow like rivers into oceans…suddenly and magically. what is the interior landscape blurs into the exterior and back again. the reconciliation i was experiencing internally was showing up externally and then cycled back.

there is an inward descent into ourselves that compels this sort of mutual connection, communion. i know that my focused intention and attention this week on my root chakra, on the underlands, on my body prepared me.

i’m reminded of a transformative experience of descent this time last year. just before Juneteenth, i was invited to journey to Maysville, Kentucky with my friend Quanita. Maysville holds a lot of history in the story of slavery and freedom in the U.S., home of both a slave auction site and waystations along the underground railroad. Quanita had been asked to come there to do some healing and reconciliation work for Juneteenth and wanted to go beforehand to get a feel of the place. as i prepared to make the trip with her–and in particular to visit the place of the auction site–i got clear that my responsibility was to stay with the embodied experiences of the white-bodied people who participated in that economic system. instead of turning my attention to the enslaved peoples who were bought and sold there (interestingly, easier to do), my job was to be present to the imagined (and real) bodies of the white slaveholders, the white women, the white children. on that earth, vibrating with the history of that place, i chose to open myself to what those white bodies came to know there, the stories they held.

descent into my body allowed my soul to access the past and the future, through the crack of that very present moment. reconciliation, embodied.

and now, a year later, i’m grateful for the reminder. to come back around to this knowing. full circle. widening circle.

today, on Juneteenth and summer solstice…

as we celebrate freedom and reckon with continued forms of enslavement

on the day the sun, at its zenith, radiates the longest day of light and turns to descend once again into the darkness,

i give thanks for:

the natural, evolutionary cycles of

descent that leads to transcendance and back again

darkness that leads to light and back again;

slavery that leads to freedom and back again;

the purpose in all of it,

and to be part of it.

pregnant

may: a month that signals new beginnings, new growth–a new season.

may is potent, full, pregnant.

the plan was to go camping for memorial day weekend. i imagined pitching a tent, sitting around the fire, star gazing. cicadas. doggos. marshmallows. by the time we reached the weekend–after meg’s elementary school graduation, michael’s last day of principalship + a surprise party, big work stuff, kate’s return home from camp training–there was no gas in the tank for any such thing. we delayed, wondering if the mojo might come. it didn’t. the weather helped us stay still, veg, and simply rest.

it was magnificent.

i took to the basement. i generally do not hang out there. this weekend, i did. it felt like a cocoon, a nest, a womb.

may 2021 marked many thresholds. personal, familial, communal, global. and growth is hard. it requires energy. it made sense that the basement was calling me, that we all were tired.

after the exhaustion came tenderness, angst, and resistance. maybe not quite that linear but the feelings were all there, blurred and messy and distinct.

i’m reminded of pregnancy–what it means to create life and give birth. during pregnancy, there is anticipation and build up. the birth is exhausting and there is need for recovery. and then, when the abstract turns real and you can see that sweet little face, there is a reality check. “you mean they just let us leave and go home?

it is hard to grow up.

there is a beautiful meditation by buddhist teacher ken mcleod that helps to capture this truth:

“you are standing on a wooden dock. it is old and falling apart. in front of you, the open expanse of the ocean extends to the horizon. below your feet is a boat, well stocked and fully equipped. you know it is, because you took care in preparing it. it is the only boat in the dock. the other moorings are empty, forgotten. you are not exactly sure how you came to be here, but you do know you cannot turn your back on the ocean. yet you hesitate to step into the boat. what stops you?

standing there on that dock with a fully loaded boat, we can see all that we will leave behind. and it is hard. even when we have been preparing all along.

rest is required with growth. and so is grief and letting go of the older story so that we can step into the new one. and step into the boat.

may, you were pregnant with possibility. thank you for giving birth.

june, thank you for making it real. thank you for revealing the boat, the ocean, and dock.

we cannot offer others what we do not have

in my current role with the Diocese of Southern Ohio serving as the Becoming Beloved Community Coordinator, i offered this reflection in a recent newsletter publication.

navigating times such as these call for growing our own capacities as diverse teams to respond wisely from a place of love rather than react from a place of wound and fear. this takes practice, intention, and patience. there is discomfort and JOY along the way. we experience our inherent connection and interdependence and that is… beloved community.

chaos + creation

last week was one of chaotic energy

with opportunities to notice the power of embodied creation–what it feels like to be human and in this body and join with the creative forces of the universe

the turbulent waters of our lives

stir us and in that stirring, an awakening

if we allow it

and if we are interested in life, then we come to know

living is to make friends with the waves of turbulence

learn to surf

ride the waves

as they crash down upon you and flail you about

and also gently cradle in you in the earth’s rhythms

your original lullaby.

in the moving waters of our life,

we can feel the impulse of our soul’s desire

when we care to notice it

and then we learn how the universe rises up to meet us there

as we ride the waves of life

in creation.

as often happens, a quote comes to mind just as i come to what feels like a closing. i love this. i imagine a conversation beginning. like i’m passing the talking piece. this time, to my teacher nietzsche. he picks up the piece and utters:

“one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”

and then, puts the piece back in the center.

wholeness

back in the day, when i worked for a social innovation firm focused on community-centered design, i found it so curious that in order to elevate “community voice” we invited and designated individuals to participate as “community members”. inherent in this practice is the assumption that there is difficulty/impossibility in showing up as whole individuals within systems and therefore, there needed to be a specific “role” for “community member” (as if everyone isn’t a community member!).

one project i recall that really highlighted this tendency (compulsion) to compartmentalize was one with Jobs and Family Services. the organization was in significant transition, compelled by both external and internal forces leaving the workforce weary and burned out and the customers disconnected and dissatisfied. the majority of JFS employees and managers had themselves once been on welfare–many of them still receiving benefits–and yet, despite creativity and connection, elevating these lived experiences within the context of the organization and in the network of relationships as they existed proved challenging, to say the least. it was if the lived experience that had likely inspired their vocation was slowly forgotten once they entered and occupied roles/positions within that system. operating within it, compelled a forgetting.

time and time again, i witnessed this to be the case. as we worked with diverse stakeholders trying to address inequity and injustice, we’d turn our attention “out there” to “those people”, neglecting our own lived experience, our own truths.

lately, i’ve again been struck by how powerful these forces are that compel this dis-memberment and how much intention/resourcing it takes to re-member. these forces are both internal to us and external. the engines of separation are, to use bell hooks’ term: “imperialist, capitalist, white supremacist patriarchy”,

and this shit is deep.

for example, in facilitating groups dedicated to liberation, there is a collective tendency to other “x group” who is doing abc while negating the fact that members of said group are among us—or, better yet–that i am a member of said group! this is a symptom of a sick and dying system where diversity and wholeness is not welcome and where feedback is blocked, the connective tissue decaying.

on the other hand, healthy ecosystems are rich in diversity and rely on constant feedback. for example, the human immune system depends on connectedness and feedback to determine what is healthy and what is not and how to respond accordingly. when the body is not receiving feedback in this way, it cannot support the larger human body system. this is when disease and ultimately death set in.

meg wheatley teaches that “to bring health to a system, connect it to more of itself…in order to change, the system needs to be learn more about itself from itself. the system needs processes to bring it together. “ i’ve always loved this and find it be wise guidance in this time of such significant change and transition in which there are strong tendencies to become more entrenched and disconnected.

today, someone shared this reflection of a recent circle gathering that invited this sort of connecting and re-membering: “I felt that we were becoming a live body of Christ through these interactions..allowed me to work wisely. The sensory nerves were bringing back intelligence to the body where the body is hurt. A living body, a community that can actually work together.”

here’s the kicker: this kind of aliveness and health is true both for the whole of the systems and its parts. because each of the parts are whole in and of themselves. and those parts/wholes contribute to a larger whole. there is reciprocity and mutuality. truly, our liberation is bound up with one another’s because we are one another.

paying attention to what it takes to create and sustain healthy systems, ida b wells comes to mind. she said: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” there is a vigilance, a discipline, an intention in staying healthy and alive. it takes some effort to be “in the system and not of the system”–in other words, to not be determined/defined by it. to remember who we are.

we need one another to become our own unique genius. and our unique genius is exactly what the system is waiting for…what the universe is waiting for.

LOVE THE EARTH

by meg (11 years old) for earth day

the earth weighted down and hurting with our trash

Stop!

We need to stop killing animals and polluting the ocean. About 30,000 sharks are getting killed an hour not even a year and that’s our fault. When birds feed, they have help from the sharks attracting fish to the surface so sharks and birds feed on the fish so if sharks die, birds die with them. About 2 million fish are killed by a human in one year. Not by their normal predators–by US. We are the predators and they are our prey. One way people can do something is by stop fishing with fishing nets like we are now. Just stop. Fishing nets make up about 47% of pollution in oceans. Some environmental websites for saving the earth talk about plastics straws and that is only .003% of the plastic pollution! Some of the sites aren’t even answering the easiest questions like “why don’t you talk about fishing nets?” To find more information about this topic, go watch a show called “Seaspiracy”. It gives all kinds of information. The estimate for oceans being emptied is in 2048 so in 19 years there will be no animals in oceans if we don’t do anything. Tell your friends, stop fishing.

Stop eating fish.

Love the ocean.

Love the earth.

re-source

a week ago i slipped away for a few quiet days in nature with my family. we found a new-to-us-place tucked in between huge stone formations in the hills of kentucky, near a lake. it was beautiful and remote…

and needed.

isn’t it always? i think of the days and weeks leading up to that time away and how much the anticipation of it meant to our sanity. my sanity.

a question i’ve been living into for a while now is “what do i choose to resource now?” i’ve appreciated this question as it positions me in my choice and invites me to think about all the resources available to me: time, energy/attention, money.

it occurred to me in those days leading up to our time away that i am a resource, when i make that choice. i show up with presence and power. and this insight helped me as i prepared to step away from the day-to-day busyness for a bit, understanding that to be a resource, rest and restoration mattered. (cue audre lorde here).

and…damn, i struggled with letting go of stuff. it was ridiculous how hard it was to relax. i was sort of screaming to myself, “you goin’ to relax. have fun, dammit!”. why does that never work?

that first day, i had a very vivid dream of a grandmother with a continuous message of “re-source“. her voice was provocative and commanding, simply repeating that word over and over: “re-source”. and the message i got was that resource is to “re-source”, the pre-fix “re-” meaning “to turn back” to “source”.

i’ve carried this mantra with me this week, paying attention to every signal to turn back to source. anger, grief, joy, wonder have all served as signals, calling me back to source so that i can show up with presence and power, as a resource.

anger was a friend that visited a lot this week. she showed up as fire in my belly and a race in my heart. i wanted to act out, throw up the deuces, hang up the phone, walk out, rage at the machine. and instead of reacting from that place, i turned to feel the grief and longing underneath? and then i did what i could to meet that need + longing, mostly simply acknowledging the feeling.

this practice drew me closer to divine source. and when i was there–in that presence and power–everything shifted. conversations dropped deeper, reactions slowed to responses, truth came in.

one of my favorite quotes (by howard thurman) comes to mind: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

in the practice of re-sourcing, everything comes alive.

what a gift this week, in the midst of what can so easily feel like such senseless death and destruction–to find and experience such life and creation, to find Source.