The work weeks passed in a blaze of productivity…but oh, the weekends. I had loads of overdue home and garden work, client work… no worries, I thought. I’d keep busy, call friends….
Little did I know…
Outside of the compulsive news-sharing, Facebook, of course, brought connection….lively connections with activists and news junkies across the nation and around the world. Many of us had never exchanged email addresses or phone numbers, because – why should we? We were in near-daily connection in FB-land or Messenger!
Until…..my contact list was just as inaccessible as the rest of my FB account. And I had simply vanished from their world without announcement or farewell.
Kind friends shared my news of deactivation with their overlapping friends lists. A couple of friends emailed in response. But that was all…and I realized with a jolt of humility that between the water-cooler convenience of Facebook, and our fast-rushing news stream, my Facebook friends may not have even noticed my absence. Even if they had, the velocity of the news feed and the busyness of their lives probably prevented their reaching out specially to a nonparticipant. I had become a rogue, a renegade. An outsider.
How I choose to pursue connections, what they will look like henceforth, is entirely up to me. And it is entirely probable that hundreds of Facebook connections might simply be lost.
That was when grief and loss finally broke through the energy that had carried me through the work weeks: at the thought that deep, profound friendships may have just vanished with my disappearance from the platform.
There is one group in particular – a group made up of poets and priestesses and psychologists, scientists, storytellers and mystics…we called ourselves a tribe. Early this year (2021), a dearly-beloved member, a storyteller, photographer, master gardener, potter, and force of nature in the form of a woman, who had become part of all of our off-Facebook lives in her travels, was diagnosed with an aggressive, inoperable cancer and entered her decline only a few months later. A group member went to stay with her as she prepared to move into hospice; a week later we all gathered on Facebook Live to hold vigil with her as she lay comatose, the end approaching. We sang to her, read poetry to her, prayed with her, told stories of our friendships with her…cried and were held by the circle in our shared love and grief. The Live session lasted, I think, more than two hours.
Bonnie Ann died in her sleep the next day.
Some time later, her brother sent me a bowl that she had made, a form so organic that it seems to have grown directly from the earth. It sits as an offering bowl on my altar in her memory.
Connections like those are the ones that matter on Facebook. Connections like those are the ones I can’t let go. And because the Tribe group on Facebook was, for most of us, our only point of contact, these contacts are lost to me now.
That needs to change. So…I’m going to jump through the reactivation hoops just to check in with the groups I loved, let them know I’m leaving and make plans with them to stay in touch….then download my contacts and data, delete my account, and leave.
Make it a proper leavetaking, not an involuntary banishment. Do it with honor and love, not AI aspersions and reactivity.
After a sleepless night and an overwhelmed, distracted day, I kept coming back to the question – why bother? Why go on putting out the energy to continue? Why keep on putting activities on the to-d0 list, slogging through them and checking them off? Why keep signing petitions and re-posting awareness-goosing news articles?
Why bother? Why not just stop, go to bed, pull the covers over my head, and forget it all?
I am asking this because I am tempted. On days like this when it seems the headlines add 100-lb lead weights to every thought, every turn brings a new obstacle and just moving across the room is like plowing through half-frozen molasses, it would be so easy. So WHY???
Law of Attraction believers would chirp perkily about “never a negative thought,” yada yada. I’m sure that makes and keeps them happy (maybe)…but right now I’m more of the mindset, having fled to the extent of my energy, to turn around, charge, and throttle the thing that’s chasing me. That keeps me doomscrolling through social media in off-moments, projecting my anxiety and depression onto external causes: climate deniers! Anti-maskers! MAGAites! He who will not be named! What could they possibly be thinking?!
Truth is – it’s all about avoiding “the feels.” Some to get away with getting what they can while the getting’s good, some to simply survive day to day in a nation lurching from one disaster to the next – whether it’s wine or video games or addictive news shows or social media or what have you, it’s a way of numbing out, not thinking, not feeling.
What’s chasing us? What are we running from?
I see the answer in my cats’ eyes when they come up and head-butt me in the midst of a doomscroll or reflexive share. I turn around and grumpily start to complain – the angst of the world is calling me! – and their eyes are wide and wise and guileless as they gaze at me and (of course) turn on the purr.
No judgment. No conditions. Just be-ing, pure presence, together. I turn away from the computer and pick them up; they knead my shoulders, nuzzle their head under my jaw; the purr reverberates against my ribcage, and suddenly I’m clinging to them, shaking with the sobs I’d earlier refused to admit or allow. And bless those cats, as I soak their fur they purr madly, then lick the tears off my face.
The same thing happens when I push myself to leave the house to walk in the woods…an effort that’s become steadily rarer, and not just due to COVID. Where I’d once sought to tune in to the forest, I’ve shied away; the trees, the birds, the sun through the leaves, the roar of the river, have been too real, too present, they’ve blown through my defenses and left me weak-kneed with sobs, pressing myself against a tree for support – and feeling the presence of the tree, slow, calm, immovable, and comforting, unswayed by my inner storms.
The message comes through again and again: just let down the shields, allow the connection, the feelings, the tears, and Our Relations meet us halfway.
And as healing is received, healing partnerships can form.
Even now, when it seems the world is going up in smoke from the fires humans have set, worsening the Earth’s climatic fever, we are given the small opportunities to connect, again and again, small opportunities to open our hearts, tune in, open our intuition, and gain wisdom from a non-human perspective.
We are not alone. Despite everything, we are loved. The question is – can we open to join in partnership with our nonhuman relations to preserve life on the planet we share?
Along with just about everyone else I know, I have been moving through various stages of depression, anxiety, dread, horror, and grief as I witness the travesty of government, the utter destruction of anything remotely resembling democracy, a social safety net, or environmental protections, indicated by Congress and the evolving cabinet of the soon-to-be-inaugurated dictator-wannabe.
But lately something has happened that – while it hasn’t brought me to singing and dancing, it has allowed me to put my feet more firmly on the ground. take a deep breath, and put myself back together.
A couple of weeks ago, an old real-life nightmare returned after I’d thought it gone forever. It brought profound upset, fear, anger, outrage, and a raft of other emotions, all based on pure conjectures built on a chance 15-second encounter on the street. Trauma kicked in and – after digging deep into my own “Defense against the Dark Arts” toolbox and many others’ – I went through massive home purges and clearings, doing shadow-work and practicing Metta meditation and self-Reiki.
I didn’t know what was coming regarding that nightmare, but based on what I knew, it was likely not to be good. Another wise friend had told me “If you project XYZ negative possibilities, you are also responsible for finding the same number of positive possibilities. You simply don’t know why this has happened.”I tried hard, but past experience was getting the better – or worse – of my intentions.
Finally – exhausted by the what-ifs, the possibilities, the projections, and the near-paranoia of this close-t0-home circumstance on top of the drama on the national stage – I stood at my Reiki altar before the images of Tara and Mother Mary, and the words came to my mind, “Take refuge.” And – having run out of other options – I did. Envisioned a field of compassionate love, the arms of the Divine Mother, took a running mental leap and threw myself in.
The peace was immediate, and exquisite. It wasn’t that the genuine and potential horrors of the world – or the potential terrors of my immediate neighborhood – had ceased to be; I became aware that they were not all that existed. That – as Viktor Frankl had discovered in the Nazi concentration camps – the final freedom of one’s mind was still unbroken:
…everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.. ~~Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
I could choose my focus: fear and paralysis, certainty of helpless victimhood, outrage and striking-back – or I could focus on the human spirit taking large and small acts of compassion and love nearby, across the nation and around the world. I could focus on the goodness, beauty and creativity of Earth Mother and her endless adaptations of evolution. I could focus on the dark, and surrender to despair, or I could focus on the knowledge that there is a deeper balance.
This didn’t mean that I was going to disappear into never-read-the-newspaper/never-look-at-the-news/happy-happy perky never-a-negative-thought denial. It meant I could see the horrors, but deny them their power over me. I could choose my state of mind, I could choose my actions rather than reacting.
As I disengaged the emotional hooks of dread and helplessness, I remembered the words of the young warrior at Standing Rock: “The police and DAPL are trying to scare us, put us off our balance. Don’t let it disturb you. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? You’d go in spirit to see your relatives. Don’t let them shake your prayers. Stay in prayer, sister.” Take refuge in divine love and compassion.
At two-twenty one morning, after a week of horrific news from Standing Rock, Washington, Aleppo, ecosystems of the world, I was numbly clicking through Facebook posts so I didn’t have to go to bed, lie there staring at the ceiling, and possibly get waylaid by the despair that had been building in me since….I’m not sure when, probably since the brutal attacks started at Standing Rock.
The Facebook post wrote itself…and touched off a flood of support, empathy, and wisdom: 104 “likes,” 64 comments (some long-extended comments spanning hours or days) and one share…not to mention the personal connections made and deepened off the thread. Six days later, the “likes” and responses continue. I am astounded..at no time have I ever been so raw in my FB sharing; nor have any of my posts touched such a chord. Never have I been gifted with such solidarity, support and wisdom. I am awed, humbled, and deeply grateful for so many soul-connections, unknown until now.
As friends have been posting their own struggles with depression and despair since then, I’ve been tagging them on the post, so they could share in the wealth of solidarity…and finally realized that it would make far more sense to copy the post and comments (with their makers’ permission) here.
Let it stand as a testament to human connection in a time of growing isolation, a demonstration that even when we humans feel most alone, most direly isolated, we are not alone; others are sharing the struggle, suffering with us. We are all truly connected in this world, we all do share in the sufferings and delights of others at profound levels, whether we realize it or not.
I have (for obvious) reasons, posted only a select few of the comments; for each one here, there were many variations on “You’re not alone,” “I hear you,” “I’m struggling too” and “Standing with you,” many punctuated by heart icons. What a blessed festival of love.
Phila Hoopes December 14 at 2:22am ·
This has to stop. I am lying here on my sofa at 2:20 a.m., clinging to our sharing, our grieving here, each share a bearing-witness, each click a prayer. Dry-eyed, choked silent, feeling the knot of world-pain growing in my chest, in my throat: Aleppo, Standing Rock, Washington, the rainforests, the oceans, the…….all of it. Too much to begin to comprehend, too much to bear…and yet as a human with a heart I cannot shut it down and go to sleep; I cannot stop this vigil of solitary grieving, this silent, ongoing scream of desperate, directionless prayer that does nothing practical (or does it?).
This is the worst time, when the phone is running out of power and bed is beckoning my body, but I cannot think of letting go even this tenuous FB thread of connection to people who together are suffering the connection to the world’s pain and fighting the causes in such wee-hours ways as we can – a petition here, a letter there, a donation somewhere else, prayers and Reiki ongoing – does it make any difference at all? The demons set loose on the world would have us believe it does not – meanwhile trying to keep up the energy to do our own work of service for the world.
This is the time when I wish for a sweatlodge to wring the salt water and pain from pores and eyes while surrounded by others similarly releasing. To hear prayers from others echoing my own. To know that somewhere, somehow, this giveaway of heart makes a butterfly-flap of difference, shifts the balance even the tiniest fraction of a millimeter toward the light.
Comments Sucely Lucifera Hernandez<3It does. The Moon bears witness to our pain at the same time as she sheds light on it.
Casey van BronkhorstYou are far from alone. Let the thread of connection act as a very slow recharge cable, linking you back to us all with the faintest and most delicate of energies. You are heard. You are, softly, appreciated. Rest if you can; sleep if you must, but savor the hidden strength of that cable. …Run with us, if you’re too tired to stand. We pace in the earliest hours. We listen, though our ears are too weary to accept silence.…Grief is a needle and thread that stitches you back together after a phenomenal loss. Occasionally, as it does its work, it sticks you, catching you off guard. That’s part of its process, though, as each bit of pain is a healing moment but it may help keep your empathic talents in perspective at the moment when you feel like reaching out and grabbing someone’s pain from them.
Cate Raphael Send out that which you desire and turn it over. It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the drama and the emotion of it, it happens to me too. But then when I go into meditation and be very quiet and focused and send out what it is I wish to see in the world , I remember that it is all happening for a reason. The best thing we can do is to take care of our bodies and our spirits , so that we can raise the energy, raise the vibration in this crazy world filled with turmoil. You cannot control people places or things you can only send out the energy that you want to receive. That is how healing works. If you are unable to physically help then work on raising your own energy so you can help with the healing ! You are draining yourself, and that will not help anyone but it will hurt you.
Karen Starr So many of us are reeling at the state of the world at this moment. And it is hard to know where to focus and how to best be of use. Especially for empaths this is a very hard time indeed. However, I think we need to cultivate a calmness that allows us to move past the grief and outrage to find the wisdom to direct our action. So many beings are depending on us and we have more allies in the natural and spiritual world than we can possibly imagine. Each day, each hour there is only each of us doing our best to relieve some small part of the suffering around us as best we can. Sending you lots of love, Phila.
Christel Libiot I hear you sister and yes there is so much going on in the world, everywhere, at so many levels.. It seems the hope of “better” is so tenuous. And more than ever we need to show up and stand strong as the peaceful warriors that we are and come together to energize the emerging paradigm of Oneness and Right Relationship with All Our Relations, supporting a new establishment of a World that Works for Everyone. We have the power to do what is necessary. Let’s gather; let’s do it!
Sue A. Phillips I am there with you too. One day despair, the next day hope. I am working on standing in my loving warrior space – I get there for a little while, then I am overcome with a depth of sadness that has me running scared – retreating into my little one who can ignore reality for a while. I honor all sides of myself along this very difficult road. We must move out of FaceBook to the real world and start standing together- for support, yes, but more for the strength of our warriors standing in all of our collective glory to protect Mother Earth and our sisters and brothers . The hard part for me is how to start the process.
David Alan TynerPhila, your witness is heard, your sharing felt, your deep compassion appreciated, yet most significantly your hope is kindled and enfolded. We who are letting ourselves be sensitive to this often overwhelming life, must find some way not to be crushed by its weight and expanse. Thich Nhat Hanh has helped me take Andrew Boyd’s challenge to somehow find a solution and to become it, piece by peace.
….”The second aspect of true love is karuna, the intention and capacity to relieve and transform suffering and lighten sorrows. Karuna is usually translated as “compassion,” but that is not exactly correct. “Compassion” is composed of com (“together with”) and passion (“to suffer”). But we do not need to suffer to remove suffering from another person. Doctors, for instance, can relieve their patients’ suffering without experiencing the same disease in themselves. If we suffer too much, we may be crushed and unable to help. Still, until we find a better word, let us use “compassion” to translate karuna.” http://andrewboyd.com/the-agony-of-being-connected-to…/
….“Oh well, blankets for land is a bargain indeed, And the blankets were those Uncle Sam had collected From smallpox-diseased dying soldiers that day. And the tribes were wiped out and the history books censored”
~ Buffy Sainte-Marie
…. A close friend just mentioned obliquely who knew of Buffy Sainte-Marie, the lyricist for Donovan’s “Universal Soldier” ? And I burst into tears remembering her as the one who told my near empty younger slate of the story of blankets, that forever changed my life and perception of First People’s struggles, being beyond any misery I could ever imagine. Still trying … many decades later.
Carol Sheppard I understand and share in the mania of love, and worry, and needing to make even a flicker of a difference when all the forces seem to be saying that it is futile, with so many hands reaching toward fleeting connection and community that only faith says might make contact and matter. This is such a dark and difficult time and I pray to the spirits that somehow so much suffering may eased. Hard as it is we must hang on and do the work of loving fiercely and fully, especially when there is no evidence that it makes a difference. It is necessary to be the ones that do so, especially now. Sending you love and blessings ♡♡♡
Kerrith McKechnie I am with you. I think there are countless beings with us. We must be still so we can know our strengths and do what we must do. One tiny step at a time, but it IS a step, and we ARE together.
George Moore I’ve changed my prayer intention from putting an end to all of what is going on to allowing it all to ramp up to the point that finally tips the scale and creates worldwide peaceful resistance and economic revolution. By being peaceful resistors in the faces of militarized corporations, like the Water Protectors are doing, we can affect peaceful change. By not buying anything from the multi billion dollar corporations and buying locally from small businesses that only sell what is produced in your home country we peacefully cut the supply of green blood to the greed ridden billionaires and put them out of business. These actions will change the entire world. This is what I pray for, meditate on, and ask everyone to join me in.
On Saturday, October 15, everyone in the camp met for Pipe ceremony preceding a direct action at the pipeline construction site. This account is based on my memory; no notes were taken. I’ve made every effort to remain faithful to the messages conveyed, but these are paraphrases, not direct quotes.
The call came while the eastern sky was still dark: Wake up, water protectors! Wake up, water warriors! Hoka hey – it’s time to get up! We have been sleeping for more than 500 years. This is the time to stand up and protect our land for coming generations! We are the seventh generation, this is the seventh fire, now is the time for us to stand up at Standing Rock! They want to portray us as savages – it is time to show them that we are protecting the water and land not only for our people but for all people and for all of life. The world is looking at you! It’s time to get up and remember that!”
Lakota Elder Guy Dull Knife of Pine Ridge, SD, was rousing the people for Pipe ceremony at the South Gate, riding through the camp with microphone in hand, his voice resounding in the still, cold air. Wondering how to find the South Gate – perhaps follow the drums that were now echoing some distance away? – I rolled out of my sleeping bag, hastily changed clothes and maneuvered out of my tiny tent with flashlight in hand. Fortunately I encountered one of the women I’d met in the kitchen earlier, and together we followed the rutted dirt roads through the camp – how far? Half a mile? More? – to a fire beside one of the gated driveways opening onto Rt. 1806. Shadowy forms of people circled the fire; several elders were sitting beside it. There was no other sign of activity; the summoning voice was still distant.
This Pipe ceremony for the entire camp was to precede a triple action at the pipeline construction site – that was all I knew. We waited in chilly silence until the voice and sound of drums grew louder, and two trucks approached: Guy Dull Knife as ceremonial leader and his assistants. Sage was sent around to smudge the people as the singers honored the four directions, the Great Mystery, and Mother Earth; Pipe carriers were called to the center to prepare their ceremonial pipes as the canupa-filling song was sung. And as the Pipes were taken around the circle for the hundreds of people, Dull Knife spoke of the sacred intent and protocol of the action that was about to take place.
This was an action of prayer and love, he reminded the people: we were in ceremony and should act accordingly, with dignity and restraint; the water protectors must stay in prayer. He understood that the young men, seeing the abuses of the police and DAPL mercenaries, could get angry, but this was a place to keep emotions in check, to hold oneself accountable to the people. If a water warrior did get angry and begin to swear and act out, a security person from the people would step in to stop him, and that would reflect badly, that the people were not in unity and prayer. The eyes of the world were on the water protectors, people from all over the world, even movie stars, were coming to stand and be arrested with them.
I could hear a wry smile in Dull Knife’s booming voice: are there any movie stars here? Come and stand with us!
His tone shifted: He knew that there were spies for DAPL and the police and the feds among us. He invited them to come along and see that the water protectors were not savages, but that they were protecting the water that the families and children of the police and DAPL also needed to drink. We cannot drink oil, the water must be protected, the water is life! In fact, he invited them to come and stand with the water protectors, be arrested alongside them!
The Pipes were coming to the completion of the ceremony. As their carriers performed the closing portions of the ritual, Dull Knife began calling out the logistics: move quickly to your cars, buddy up, we leave in five minutes for the sites! People were striding in all directions – which way had we come? Where was my campsite and car? And was I prepared to go and risk being arrested? I made a guess as to the direction from which we’d come and started walking, soul-searching all the way, heart pounding as I thought of the increased militarization of the forces that surely would meet the water protectors.
By the time I found my tent and car, the decision had been made for me; the cars were gone and the camp was relatively quiet. Wondering what I should do now, I made my way up to the central drum circle, and found a cluster of women at the speaker’s tent, preparing for a ceremony. One of them smiled and asked if I would like to take part in a water ceremony by the river. I hesitated – was this a part of the action? The elder woman in ceremonial regalia – Bea Jackson, Ojibwe medicine woman – smiled. “It’s all part of the action,” she said. Her assistant clarified: this was a separate ceremony, to be held away from the front line, at the Cannonball River.
I learned later that Bea’s elders had given her this ceremony to share with the people of Standing Rock and beyond, that it was a blessing for the water, to give it healing properties for the people and all beings. It was based on a three-line chant of love, gratitude and respect for the water, sung as the water was poured into sacred copper vessels and offered to the Mystery and the Earth. Then, as the water-carriers made their way down to the river, chanting, each person they encountered was given a small amount of the healing water to drink, At the river, each woman would have an opportunity to offer a little of the remaining water to the river with a prayer, followed by a pinch of tobacco carrying her prayers for the protection of the waters. Every day the water would be blessed and shared with the people and with the river, drawing them ever closer in a sacred bond.
After a few men of the camp helped us up the steep hill from the riverbank, Bea thanked the women who had taken part in the ceremony: if we were interested in learning more, she said, she would offer further teachings in the afternoon, followed by a special women’s ceremony in the evening.
Reblogging this powerful and important channeled message from Earth Mother, transmitted by my longtime friend, Gaia mystic and author Mare Cromwell… she provides a little of her story and her many credentials at the beginning, then starts to deliver the message at 4:12.
Just a few of her key points:
CALM DOWN. Too many of us are getting pulled into the drama of these times. Our collective subconscious feeds an energy grid encircling the planet; some of our actions feed Earth Mother; most don’t. So – yes, feel the emotions, process them, and release them; don’t numb them out or get stuck in them or lash out in anger and hatred at others.
ENERGY FEEDS ENERGY. Hatred and anger build more hatred and anger. There are positive energies pouring into the planet – Cosmic Christ energy, Buddha energy. Pray, send positive energies into the grid. Create prayer circles, do ceremony – the Earth needs this all the time now.
CHAOS IS OVERWHELMING. And it is necessary; a new world is coming in. Native peoples have predicted this. Don’t feed the chaos with reactionary drama. Negative energies are served by our unconsciousness, numbness, reactivity…their time is limited and they are fighting hard to hang on.
WE EACH HAVE A CHOICE: To get sucked into the drama, or not. Facebook is a prime example of the addictive cacophony, the energy hooks us immediately when we login and too many of us are venting there. Step away from the computer, go outside, stand barefoot on the Earth and give our angst to Mother; she is hardwired to heal.
MOTHER LOVES US. More than anything, she wants us to know this. Mother loves us and wants to help and heal us. And she asks us to be present with her, listen to her, love her back.
There’s much more – much more – in this long message, and I urge you – please listen to it all. This is the real deal, and it’s important for all of us to hear it.
By Tuesday of Experience Week, our little group had gained somewhat of a feel for the grounds of Cluny Hill and Findhorn Park. It was time for our focalizers Craig and Pat to introduce us to the wider bioregion. We piled into the shuttle bus and rode past fields of grazing sheep, through glorious birch, holly and spruce forest, to the Findhorn River. We parked at a trailhead above the spectacular crags of Randolph’s Leap … a spot that clairvoyant/metaphysician R. Ogilvie Crombie (“ROC” for short), a guiding light for the growing community, had identified as particularly powerful and watched over by benevolent nature spirits. Here, Craig and Pat invited us to find a spot, settle in, and meditate, consciously reaching out to the awarenesses of the wood.
With some minimal experience of communicating with nature spirits, I was praying hard for connection here. With all my senses awake, I chose a trail that sloped gently downhill, reaching for the tingle that would tell me I’d found the right spot. Singing a Libana chant as invocationas I walked, I felt into the energy of the wood: where was the best place for me to seek connection?
And there it was: a dropoff past a towering Scottish Pine, past ferns and bracken to a sandbar below. Warned by Craig and Pat of the river’s potential for flash floods, I didn’t want to go close to the water…but where to sit? Perching precariously on an outcropping of the slope, I looked to the exposed roots of the Pine, and saw that they intertwined with the roots of a neighboring Beech to form a natural nest. Feeling like a child climbing a jungle gym, surprised at my own temerity (and blessing the deep treads of my galoshes), I clambered over and hauled myself up and in.
The roots on which I rested were covered in moss, swathed in ferns and lilies growing in the dirt accumulated over countless floods. Facing the river, the trees stood proudly on their exposed, mossy roots like Louisiana Cypresses, with their hidden path-side roots no doubt holding up the hill. I couldn’t imagine the force of floods that would sweep away earth this high – easily 25 feet up from the riverbank. But the trees stood strong, their roots and branches intertwined, evergreen and deciduous.
I settled my tush, crossed legs to meditate. Just in front of me a Beech root snaked lithely over a Pine root, both disappearing down into the hillside. I felt the trees embracing in a long partnership. You are at a bridging place, a connection point, I heard in my mind. That is your work: helping to build connections between humans and the natural world. It was the beginning of a long conversation: my trepidation was met with reassurance and guidance; affirmation that despite my self-doubts I had a job to do; even floundering as I have been, a good start had been made, my good intentions were recognized. I sang, laughed, cried…felt a flood of love and connection with these Standing Beings and the micro-ecosystem they supported.
We had 90 minutes in which to do our walk, meditation, and return. I don’t know how long I sat there, cradled; it seemed far longer. As the conversation drew to its end, I saw a discarded juice box half-hidden, caught in the roots of the Beech. It summed up the culture from which I’d come: disconnected from the natural world, focused on immediate gratification, careless of the cost or consequences of its consumption. Yes, exactly, came the response. I wanted to remove it, as a token of service in gratitude, but I could see it wouldn’t be easy – the box was well lodged, out of reach and slightly down the hill, outside my nest. I looked and found a pointed stick ready to hand, and with diligent poking, maneuvering, and prayers for balance, I edged it out and up to my hand. Yes!
With that, it was time to go. I offered my gratitude to the trees, and asking their help in getting back to the path, found roots fanning upward like a ready-made flight of steps. A short scramble and I was on level ground, bowing to the trees, the river, the spirits of the land, and walking back to the meeting point with the juice box in my hand.
The second turning point of the Findhorn visit opened a part of me that I had thought unreachable…a part I’d feared for years as a monster intent on destroying my life.
There was the rush of arrival and meeting other Experience Week participants …the check-ins, the introductions, getting-acquainted exercises, and talks…and under it all, the looming question: where would we each perform our Love In Action (service periods)?
(In the early days of the Findhorn Foundation, when spiritual pioneers Eileen and Peter Caddy, their three sons, and their friend Dorothy Maclean were surviving on meager means in a trailer on Findhorn Park, they supplemented their diet with what they could grow in gardens literally built on the sand of the Moray Firth dunes…gardens that flourished beyond all possibility, thanks to Dorothy’s communication with the nature spirits, Eileen’s direct transmissions from Spirit, and Peter’s hard work.
As word spread about their impossible harvests (including famous 40-lb cabbages), they received a flood of eager visitors seeking to experience a community based on spiritual principles. With some visitors less willing to help out than others, Peter laid down a firm rule: every resident and visitor who was capable would contribute work as “Love in Action” toward the physical development and maintenance of the community. This rule continues today, and Experience Week includes four periods of service, either in Cluny Hill or in the Findhorn Park. Where you perform your Love in Action is determined not by assignment but by “attunement” – a meditation to match participants’ inner call to the needs of the community.)
Sunday morning, as I dressed after showering, I felt a weight on my chest, seemingly compressing my lungs till every breath was a focused effort as I told my body, No. You are not going to do this. This is not allowed. When I get home I’ll go to the doctor, but right now you are not going to do this. My heart is fine, my EKGs are fine, I’m not going to break up this week. I was getting light-headed and the sensation was not stopping…finally, I lay down, breathing deeply and calling on every spirit-helper I could think of. Slowly, the sensation passed and I joined our group for the introductory tour of Findhorn Park and its blossoming new development.
After supper came the Attunement. We were offered a choice of Cluny Kitchen, Dining Room, Home Care (housekeeping); Park Kitchen, Dining Room, Home Care, and Cullerne Garden – the large, CSA-like farm that supplies most of the community’s vegetables, year-round (did I mention that the Findhorn Foundation is located on the same latitude as Alaska and Moscow, with a three-month growing season?).
There was no question in my mind of where I should be: the Garden. This, after all, was the reason I’d come for a two-week visit: to immerse in the organic/semi-permaculture gardens, be as useful as I could, learn as much as possible, and bring home a new understanding of co-creating with nature. There was simply no other option.
When we all emerged from the brief Attunement meditation, I headed immediately over to the corner marked “Cullerne”………with three-quarters of the rest of our group. The other areas received only a bare sprinkling.
Clearly some negotiation was needed…and was done, gently at first and then with quiet intensity: this was not about our personal needs or wants, but the needs of the community as a whole. We would have free time in which we could experience the gardens, if we chose. One by one, people moved to other areas. I stayed rooted, with four others: this was also about the need to give to my community at home! Finally, I realized: I was here for two weeks; there would be another opportunity to serve in the garden; I didn’t need to be rigid. After a brief inner check-in, using my necklace as a pendulum, I moved to Park Home Care.
Meeting with the Home Care group in the Nest next morning, we had another choice: cleaning and blessing the sanctuaries and Library, or scrubbing and Hoovering (vacuuming) the Community Center? Once again I consulted the pendulum, and went off with Susan, a Danish energy-healer and former therapist, to the sanctuaries, intent on freshening up and affirming their powerful positive energy.
We came to the Main Sanctuary and began our work. I’d thought initially that it needed to be done in silence, with utter focus and intent, but Susan drew me out with questions about my life and background, and to my surprise I found myself telling her the experience of the morning before. She gazed at me a moment, and asked, “Would you allow me to listen to your heart?” I nodded and she placed her hand on my chest.
“There is a voice here that says ‘I don’t want to be here,’ not here at Findhorn, but on this planet,” she said after a pause. I caught my breath: she was directly quoting the words I perennially heard from my inner child. “You don’t need to worry – she’s not going to cause a heart attack,” Susan continued. “But she’s wounded and afraid, and she desperately needs love. She’s trying to get your attention in the only way she knows how.”
I was staring at her, thinking of my experience on Arthur’s Seat – the forgotten hiking shoes and the terrifying vertigo and acrophobia that forced me to step back, embrace my limitations,and choose a gentler path, examining with childlike curiosity the plants along the way. Was my forgetting really an accident? I remembered other unaccountable choices that had led to risky or physically or socially self-destructive situations, and how I’d reflexively fought and judged them, had been tempted to despair, believing that something within would forever sabotage me, perhaps one day fatally…..
“She wants you not to fear her, but to accept and love her unconditionally. Treat her as you would treat any scared, hurt child,” Susan said. She paused, closed her eyes for a moment. “I’ve given her healing energy, but the rest is up to you. She’s living in fear; you need to surround her with love. Set aside the fear in your mind and replace it with love.”
Tears were running down my cheeks now, thinking of my mother’s closely-constrained existence and the tightly-structured do’s and don’ts of my childhood… how after 20 years of rebellious growth and leadership, supported by my husband, I’d withdrawn into a spiral of isolation after his passing, fighting fear, paralyzing inertia, and self-sabotage with every attempt to break the pattern.
I nodded, remembering the experience on the beach at Nairn. seeing my hostess transcend the cold of the Moray Firth with conscious loving connection to the earth, sea and sky. Feeling the playful lick of the waves around my galoshes as I moved past fear of the frigid water to make my own loving connection. Realizing that despite my best control-freak efforts, this Love In Action attunement had brought me exactly what I needed.
Finally I gathered myself and thanked Susan from the heart. We continued the cleaning, I tapping into the accumulated energy of 50+ years of community meditation in this spot, and remembering the reading from Eileen Caddy that had closed the morning’s meditation:
Expect your every need to be met, expect the answer to every problem, expect abundance on every level, expect to grow spiritually. You are not living by human laws. Expect miracles and see them take place.
“…And over there is the Power Point,” said our co-focalizer Pat, waving her hand toward the forest beyond the Cluny parking lot. Dropping that provocative comment with no further explanation, she went on to point out the laundry, the Boutique, the downstairs 24-hour shower, and other necessities. But that brief mention left me determined: when we had some free time to explore, the Power Point would be destination #1.
It only took a passing mention at dinner to discover that five women in our group had felt equally compelled to see the Power Point. Despite the cold drizzle, we bundled up and sallied out across the parking lot, past the heart-shaped wisteria espalier and under the freestanding arch, with its path leading up the hill.
This was just a getting-acquainted trip for us, exploring our environment. The five of us laughed and joked about Woman Power, being unafraid – even eager – to encounter the nature spirits of the spot (or even the great god Pan himself!), but an undercurrent of awareness ran through our carrying-on: this expedition was calling forth a wild-woman face that we each carried hidden. Our backgrounds were varied, international – Welsh, Spanish, Dutch, German, and American – and each of us was aware at bone level that past the budding arch, with its wind chime like a doorbell, lay genuine earth mysteries that transcended our individual cultures.
Instinctively, each of us gently touched the wind chime to ring as we passed beneath the arch. I was reminded of the Shuar community of Ecuador, who painted their faces before going into the rainforest to tell the spirits that they came humbly in peace.
The graveled path arced uphill, turning sharp left around a growth of trees and bushes to reveal two circles, set like an anteroom and sanctuary. My heartbeat quickened at the still air, the echoing song of sleepy birds, the feeling of expectancy.
Instinctively we walked the first circle clockwise, past the Garden of Release and its fragrant flowering bushes. The flagstone path led on to the second circle, outlined in white stones, with a bench facing a simple altar to the Feminine beneath a young Scottish Pine. Silently we gathered in a meditative semicircle and offered an intention for the coming week, then one by one laid an impromptu offering – a feather, a stone, a fallen blossom – on the altar.
We recessed out in silence, feeling as if we had already accessed a Power Point, knowing that the actual destination still lay ahead. Our footsteps muffled by damp leaves, we followed the path as it spiraled uphill. “The path is a beginning of ritual in itself,” one of the women whispered, and I agreed. Like walking the turns of a labyrinth, this wide spiral was leading us inwardly deeper even as we moved higher, glimpsing the roofs of Cluny below us through the trees and the mountains far beyond.
Around and around, walking, walking…there were shortcut trails directly to the top of the hill at intervals, and a couple of the women broke off to follow these, but the deepening feeling of ritual held three of us on the path. Finally we came to the summit, a clearing of holly, birch, flowering bushes and a simple altar of stones. “Love is the answer, Love over all,” said one woman in a hushed voice. Standing there, I felt the connection of earth, trees, sky, the Deep Feminine connection between us five. Smiling impishly at the rest of us, one woman howled at the nearly-full moon somewhere beyond the clouds, and we all joined in, embracing our wild Oneness with divinity.
Walking down, unwinding the spiral, I felt the ritual energy slowly releasing. Women began to talk again, one speaking of similar experiences at other earth sanctuaries, another sharing her worries as a Catholic experiencing things far outside church dogma. I stopped to admire a clump of lichen on the path, and another woman noticed a bee, somnolent from the cold, huddled on the path next to it. Carefully, reverently, we picked it up and placed it in the grasses to the side of the path. Down and down we circled, all five of us, till the path swung wide on the downhill stretch to the arch and wind chime.
After a brief discussion, the other women went on to explore another trail. My feet were still hurting from traipsing the mountain and streets of Edinburgh; I went in to rest and take in the evening’s experience.
It was only in my second week at Findhorn that I learned of the significance of the Power Point: its place among seven sacred hills in the vicinity; its association with the Divine Feminine; the significance of the trees that populated its slopes. But we had been introduced that night, and our impromptu sisterhood had tasted its mystery, and that was an experience to cherish.
Blues night…Dar Williams on Spotify as I de-clutter the kitchen fordonation runs tomorrow. Maybe it’s the rain, maybe it’s the last of Mom and Dad’s odds and ends on the front porch of the old house to go to the dump…fraying carpets, ancient air conditioners, mattresses…the last push of transition.
My son’s old bedroom is packed with stored energy, memory-weighted artifacts to sort, keep, donate or gift. I look at these things and see them as Mom displayed them, hear her reading her writing to me for feedback, see Dad jerry-rigging his unique creations from bits and snips…
I look at the boxes stacked around the dining room, feel a heavy lump of grief in my chest. The past is a vortex that could pull me in; where is the razor’s edge of integration versus submersion; how do I reclaim my forgotten past, discover my parents’ lost history, honor remembrance and retool legacy, while gaining a perspective on a lifetime’s conscience-driven role of family misfit, a grasp on the work of today and the demands of tomorrow?
OK. Start with simple things. Open up space, open up clarity and energy. Open up time to grieve and let go. Listen to the inner guidance on what each piece wants to offer to me or to unknown others.