Joining to Help Mend the Hoop

Ultimately this is more than a Canadian struggle. It is a global struggle to protect the Earth against the cannibalizing “extraction” of oil, gas and minerals by mega-corporations. The Elder peoples, the Indigenous nations of the world who hold the sacredness of the Earth at the heart of their culture, are leading the way, but ultimately the survival of life on this planet depends on all peoples of all nations and races following their lead.
I would like to offer an open invitation here: Do you feel called to participate in an energy circle supporting the work of Idle No More – the protection of the land, the water, the People and all beings, the honoring of treaties and the preservation of sacred sites – not only in Canada but also around the world?

538461_10151177571980592_223848733_nI was reading Starhawk’s Truth or Dare this morning, feeling vast blocks of “Aha” falling into place, when I came upon this paragraph, and stopped short…

The ethics of immanence are based on the recognition that all is interconnected. When the earth lives in us, as we in her, our sense of self expands until we can no longer believe in our isolation. When we practice magic – the art of seeing the connections that run deeper than the visible surface – we know that no act is out of context. If we participate in a native American sweat lodge, we are obligated to aid their struggles for land and treaty rights and their battles against forced relocation. We have sunk a spirit root into the living soil of their community. They have fed us. But to be fed without feeding, to take without contributing, is not a road to power-from-within. We cannot grow in strength through being parasites. If we adopt ritual trappings without concern for the daily realities of those we learn from, we become spiritual fungi. But power-from-within derives from integrity, from our recognition of the context of every act, from a consistency between what we say, believe, and do.

It was not a new idea – my husband had been a Pipe-carrier and Sundancer, and supporting his Lakota spiritual family had been an accepted part of our life. But since his death, as I have been seeking my own path as a non-Native woman living in modern-day suburbia, incorporating the teachings that he and I had practiced, the implications have rippled outward…

At the last Sundance we attended, there was a strong presence of the American Indian Movement, reclaiming the ritual for the Lakota people and winnowing out the non-Native Dancers….as they reached the completion of their four-year commitment, it was understood that they would participate in other, mixed Dances. As a clearly non-Native supporter, I was in a minority. I remember one AIM Dancer asking me, not as a challenge but very seriously, “Who are your grandmothers and grandfathers? Where are your sacred sites?”

I could only respond hesitantly – while my known genealogy was Italian and Lithuanian Catholic, digging back into our cultural history revealed Baltic paganism and the ritual healing Graeco-Roman trance-dance tradition of tarantelle. While both traditions had gone underground, pressured first by Catholicism and then (in Lithuania) by Communism, I knew that my ancestors most certainly knew how to relate to the Earth as a sentient being, knew how to connect with the conscious energy in each living being. I could still feel that knowledge in my bones…but how could I honor that knowledge and both sides of my cultural heritage?

This bone-level instinct was what drew me to the Native traditions of this land…the cellular awareness of a time when all the peoples of the world danced in relationship with the living Earth. And today I continue to teeter at the lip of the divide between Then and Now as a family dissident, an outlier seeking a place of balance between the Earth-centered practices of my husband’s spiritual family, my ancestors and the current-day Teachers who inspire me, and the modern, materialist, commercialized, mainstream practices of this culture.

As I watch friends on similar paths, I am realizing that this chasm is one that each of us face at some point if we embark on any sort of journey toward consciousness…there is the attraction to cosmic oneness, to a sacred physical world, to “magic” perhaps, or to altered consciousness and mystical or shamanic practices.

But in this culture of smorgasbord spirituality, there’s no moral imperative to connect with the actual present-day cultures at the source of those mind-altering practices….at least, not until one connects with a teacher of integrity.

Then the awareness comes – that the knowledge in which we’ve been dabbling givewiselyarose through centuries of arduous tradition…and that the people who still practice those traditions have been decimated by massacre, poverty and disease, bereft of their land and natural wealth, and very nearly bereft of their culture and spiritual traditions. And that to honor those traditions requires that, in some way, we give back.

The divide between the cultures in which all was (is) sacred, and those in which nothing is sacred, has never been described so heart-wrenchingly as in the words of Oglala Lakota holy man Black Elk following the massacre at Wounded Knee, 122 years ago yesterday:

My people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream… the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.

In a global sense, not only the hoop of the Lakota nation has been scattered, but the sacred hoop joining all nations in conscious Earth connection. The human and cultural genocide we have seen in North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia through recent centuries is a modern replay of the genocide that wiped out European indigenous traditions.

And the oppression continues……and with it the resistance.

Most immediate, of course, is the struggle of Idle No More, led by Chief Theresa Spence and supported by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people around the world as she hunger-strikes for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to honor Canadian treaties with its Indigenous nations against the expropriation of the land and waterways for resource extraction. Now in the 20th day of her fast, she has received no response from Harper.

Ultimately this is more than a Canadian struggle. It is a global struggle to protect the Earth against the cannibalizing “extraction” of oil, gas and minerals by mega-corporations. The Elder peoples, the Indigenous nations of the world who have held the sacredness of the Earth at the heart of their culture for millennia, are leading the way, but ultimately the survival of life on this planet depends on all peoples of all nations and races following their lead.

All of us, waking up out of our separation from creation and cosmos and rejoining the family of consciously connected beings.

All of us, helping to mend the Hoop of all Nations.

I have been posting news of Idle No More on this blog and on Facebook…and I would like to offer an open invitation here:

Do you feel called to participate in an energy circle supporting the work of Idle No More – the protection of the land, the water, the People and all beings, and the preservation of sacred sites – not only in Canada but also around the world?

If this speaks to you, whatever your spiritual tradition, and you would like to join your  intention with others through prayer, meditation, energy work, drumming, or ceremony at a set time every week, please add your voice in the Comments below:

  • your name
  • the day of the week that would work best for you
  • the way in which you would like to participate, and if you’re willing to connect with others locally to do so
  • your general location (if you’re willing to connect with others locally)

There are many prophecies that address this time in human history…but the one that speaks to me most just now is this, from the Anishnabe tradition:

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The Significance and Importance of Idle No More

Powerful, powerful essay on the ongoing oppression of Native peoples by North American governments, as shown most recently by the Harper administration’s non-response to Chief Theresa Spence’s ongoing hunger strike for her people.

Powerful, powerful essay on the ongoing oppression of Native peoples by North American governments, as shown most recently by the Harper administration’s non-response to Chief Theresa Spence’s ongoing hunger strike for her people.

Grandmother Tree

These photographs memorialize a grandmother tree, a tulip poplar that stood near the chapel of All Saints Convent in Catonsville, MD. She was taken down in January 2012 due to advanced decay; most of her wood has gone to warm the disadvantaged in Baltimore. The more spectacular pieces – I believe – were taken by a local artist to serve as playground props (yes, they were that big).

Her colors, patterns, and energy – days after the cutting – were still passionate…vibrant…fiercely present. I can envision that spirit bringing warmth and beauty to the places and people who benefit by her bequest.

Not for the Fearful

On my parents’ refrigerator in my childhood home, there is a magnet: “Old Age is Not for the Fearful.” For me it spoke to my mother’s years of survival despite the faltering of her heart, my father’s stalwart volunteering in the blistering engine room of a WWII Liberty Ship…the unflinching ways in which they remained vital well into their 80s.

On my parents’ refrigerator in my childhood home, there is a magnet: “Old Age is Not for the Fearful.” For me it spoke to my mother’s years of survival despite the faltering of her heart,  my father’s stalwart volunteering in the blistering engine room of a WWII Liberty Ship…the unflinching ways in which they remained  vital well into their 80s.

As I pass the half-century mark, witnessing ever more alarming headlines in the news, navigating stormy economic seas as a solopreneur while contemplating the depths of a profound, evolving career change, I am seeing new levels of meaning in that simple magnet.

Never mind old age being not for the fearful – living is not for the fearful! Simply maintaining the strength to continue walking on the earth each day, throwing back the covers and getting out of bed, choosing not to numb out with shopping, pharmaceuticals or narcotics, television or computer games………

Simply staying alive.  Finding a reason to choose life each day.

A day came when any conceivable  reason was evading me, and I wrote to Deena Metzger – with whom I’d spent a week-long Healers’ Intensive last summer, and who has remained a profound inspiration in her deep and compassionate understanding of the spiritual and material challenges faced by our species, all beings, and the planet today…and the healing work required in response.

“Knowing what you know, experiencing what you experience with your depth of empathic attunement, how do you not despair?” I asked.

Her answer was a long time coming…a long time in which I continued reaching, stumbling, and hauling myself along, sometimes driven only by the sheer bullheaded conviction that this seemingly pointless struggle was, somehow, a self-birthing process. Maybe I was lodged in breech position and needed a turn of perspective to make the passage;  maybe I was – dared I hope? – stuck at the shoulders,  glimpsing the new life I sought but not yet able to emerge into it, needing one more heartbreaking “aha” to open up,  one more glorious, tearing, bug-eyed, bellowing push, one sudden slippery orgasmic rush to set me free, empowered and taking up my role  in the world.

Meanwhile it seemed there was little I could do beyond breathe, pray, and endure….trying to keep up the various aspects of my life in the best way I could.

Finally, Deena responded:  “Because I know that Spirit exists and that some of us are being guided and so we are doing what we are called to do and that has to be sufficient.  And because — I don’t want God to despair too. “

I have been contemplating her response for a month now: the assurance, the challenge (was I hearing the guidance and/or doing what I was called to do?), and – most mind-bendingly – the compassion for the Divine.

I’d heard them, all right, in my inner ear, the small senses of comfort, insight, the occasional nudges of direction, that came and passed almost too quickly to be caught. Did I seek them? Often. Did I listen? ….well….

And then there came, after a day of soul-searing headlines, the shift, in a wholly-unexpected download of insights….

The sun was just setting on a grey day. I was outside feeding my feral cat in a soft January drizzle, savoring the chilly-warm air while holding awareness of the climate change that caused it, tilting my face up to feel the raindrops while conscious of the Fukushima radiation they contained. Sensuously enjoying the moment while grieving the environmental catastrophe hidden within its  softness, loving and grieving the sleepy robins twittering in the bushes,  the dazed bee bumbling in search of a blossom, the pussywillows budding out of season. Aware that my own species, my own decisions, were hastening the beautiful death going on around me.

And suddenly they came, insights cascading like the rain – yes, we are slowly but surely ending this fragile beauty of life as we know it, and this is unimaginably grievous – and what hubris, to say that our species’ know-it-all arrogance is greater and more powerful than the planet, or the Divine process of ongoing creation!

The insights continued: we are among the family of embodied life forms of this planetary age; we are all mortal. There are elder species,  and there have been short-lived relations;  there have been mass extinctions before this, and there will be inconceivable life forms after this. Energy will take new shapes in matter; in the cosmic timeline, immanent Spirit is unendingly creative.  And that is the larger picture. But never for a minute think that this devalues the irretrievable preciousness of the creatures of this passing age, this  passing moment.

And the message came home: Never believe the mortality of  a physical body devalues our  individual role in the greater picture.  Every least choice we make, every step on our path, is a part of that cosmic awareness, for good or ill.  Each person, each being has a unique role to play as a physical embodiment of the Divine. The question is – how consciously do we choose to accept that connection and responsibility, with and for All That Is?

As the last light faded in the west, I stood there in the drizzle, raindrops streaming like tears down my upturned face, with all creation inviting me to step fearlessly into life.

Passage

Where have the words gone –
culture-encrusted
morphic hammers
nailing
consensual reality
over perception –
assigning meme, not meaning
to pure phenomenon

I sit in woodland
meditation silent
sucked – whoosh –
into a febrile vortex
Tumbled and mashed
in a transmuting maelstrom
of shamanic vision
ancestral mythos
childhood catechism
(cosmic vision/
creational dialogue
sweeping
out false dogma
in true heresy)
Subconsciously squishing
isolate microcosm
through an imaginal wormhole

Words have no place here
slippery acculturated
prisons of meaning
Crush them to Essence
surrender to formlessness
Dance with the nameless
dust of exploded stars
whirling to coalesce
into (inter)Being
(inter)Awareness
enLightenment

August 2011
(with thanks to Theodore Richards’ Cosmosophia for the inspiration)

Guest Post – The Mystery of Love

To honor the memory of my mother, Helen Joan Rizzo, this Mother’s Day, I am posting one of the many essays she wrote…this one was printed in the Catholic Review.

 THE MYSTERY OF LOVE

All through our lives, our greatest need – our greatest hunger – our greatest pain – is our desire for love. Not the natural, definable emotion we are most familiar with – like that of children for parents, married people for spouses, lovers for beloveds or devoted fans for their heroes, but the soul’s mute ache for, recognition of, communication with, and response from someone who speaks our soul-language.

The human spirit wanders through life for the most part lost and alone. We are essentially aliens in an alien world. Our routine relationships with others provide little more than superficial contact on a material plane. Even our most intimate alliances with relatives and friends fail most often to meet the depth of sharing we yearn for.

A great hunger for a deeper love haunts us all our lives. On rare occasions, a kindred soul or a sublime intellectual or cultural experience or a deep spiritual insight (and, oddly, even sometimes the acceptance of unavoidable suffering) may sound a chord within us which we somehow sense as familiar in a transcendental way. While it may bring brief enrichment, we soon realize that the feeling is gone and we are lost and alone and hungry again.

The ability of families and friendships and marriages to endure is not because perfect love is discovered, but rather because the imperfection of human love is instinctively recognized, accepted and accommodated.

Our human vulnerability is often exposed by the strength of even imperfect love. This can be illustrated by our stoical ability to maintain composure under truly heroic circumstances as long as we are not undone by love. During periods of mourning, for instance, we can bear grim, unrelenting grief for long stretches, but only let a compassionate loved one appear newly on the scene and our stoicism dissolves in a poignant outburst of tears and love for the deceased. During illnesses, we can present an enviable bravado even while enduring severe pain. But in the open-armed presence of one who knows and loves us in spite of our weaknesses, our bravado diminishes and we become childlike again in our need to be held and comforted. However, we sense somehow that we cannot long expect this sort of comfort – that sooner or later we must face our pain or sorrow alone.

The striving for but always failing to achieve the strange, inexpressible yearning within us has long saddened humanity and particularly intrigued philosophers and poets. Keats, in his “Ode to a Nightingale,” described the agony of the world’s inadequacy: “Here where men sit and hear each other groan;…Where but to think is to be full of sorrow and leaden-eyed despairs.” Francis Thompson, in his “Hound of Heaven,” said “And now my heart is as a broken fount…Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever…From the dank thoughts that shiver…Upon the sighful branches of my mind.”

Still there seems to be embedded in the human spirit a strange magnetic phenomenon so profound that when or if something stirs the elusive memory, it hits us with such a shattering force that we can never forget the experience but we cannot reproduce it at will.

C.S. Lewis, in his book “Surprised by Joy,” described his first such experience by noting that for him “the memory…suddenly arose as if from a depth not of years but of centuries.” It was, he said, “a sensation of desire, but desire for what?” Before he could know that he desired, it was gone. “It had taken,” he wrote, “only a moment of time; and in a certain sense everything else that had ever happened to me was insignificant by comparison.”

Perhaps it is that when we are born, we come trailing a dim recollection of God’s eternal love, and He lets it remain deep within us. Then, suddenly, when we are searching silently for we know not what, it stirs again as a reminder that He, who knit us together, is the source of all love and truth and beauty. Further, while our desire for perfect love is never satisfied in this life, He does give us the wondrously comforting recognition that those dearest to us are actually individual facets of His own immense love, just as we all are.

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, “Love is a messenger from God saying that every human affection and every ecstasy of love is a spark from the great flame of love which is God.”

And from this, we can slowly come to perceive that what we are really enamored of is God Himself! We realize that He is the architect of the greatest geniuses of all time, and of the humblest saints – all that we find so appealing in our most cherished beloveds and most admired heroes is but a tiny glimmer of the supreme appeal of their Maker – and that He is the embodiment of all the loveable things we love in others.

The happiest ending to any love story, then, is the deepening mutual closeness of two people to the Source of all love – a closeness the world cannot match. The profoundest, truest fulfillment of all our human attachments can only be found in God, the hub of the wheel of eternal love.

###

Letter to My Son, the Energy Engineer

Dear Bear,

It’s Easter Sunday and I have the windows open to let in the sunshine, warm breezes, and the sound of a squirrel squalling in the Chinese Elm in the front yard. The ceiling fan – powered by electricity that your employer distributes to my house – is humming softly.

This is a watershed day.

Last night you responded to a video I posted on Facebook – Dr. Helen Caldicott’s assessment of the scope of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in the light of 25-year data from Chernobyl. To put it mildly, a frightening video….and I’m not sure you actually saw the whole thing. I know I found it hard to watch.

This was your response:

I believe that nuclear power needs to be EXTREMELY tightly regulated, but mom, you have to realize that most of europe, and many other areas are primarily powered by nuclear energy. As an environmentalist I would think that you would understand – the only alternative forms of energy generation that are even remotely environmentally friendly are solar, water, and wind – all of which have problems with consistency. If we were completely powered by these methods there would be periods of time where we had no power whatsoever. Clearly governments are understating the dangers of nuclear waste to the public, but to say that nuclear power should be discarded because it has risks is just as questionable…

I’ve been sitting for hours with this, trying to work out a response that comes from my heart and presents data that you’ll understand as a engineer.  With the  black/white, either/or, us/them perspective that’s becoming the rule in this society,  Earth-based environmentalists often paint Big Energy as the greedy, rapacious, planet-destroying enemy….just as Big Energy paints environmental advocates as eco-terrorists, potential if not actual.

Bear-bear, I know you’re not going to work every day with plans to destroy the planet. Your job is keeping the lights on, so to speak…literally, at times, in the BG&E storm center! You and I have been through enough tough discussions that I know you’re reaching out to come to a shared, complex, understanding of a complex issue…and that means a lot to me.

If you’ve read my posts and poems on this blog at all, you know I’m painfully aware that we’re all the problem…it’s not a matter for simple finger-pointing. Sure, I’ve chosen 100% wind energy through WGES…and the house is still heated by oil, so my hands are not clean.

On your side, I know that, given the sources of the energy your company provides – in 2009, at least, 33.6% was nuclear (according to the BG&E website) – they’re likely to minimize the risks of nuclear power and not encourage employees to inform themselves further. In terms of job and income security, it’s perhaps safer for you not to question the company line too closely or to look at too much of the opposing data.

But I also know the fierce integrity of my son, who looks at all sides of an issue and makes up his own mind based on the information he has…so here’s some of the data that’s being supplied about nuclear energy post-Fukushima, not by anti-nuclear advocates or environmentalists, but by people in the field, and by international investment advisors.

UBS AG international wealth management analysts concluded in a report released earlier this month – “We believe the Fukushima accident was the most serious ever for the credibility of nuclear power.” In a nation as technologically advanced as Japan, one would think that steps would have been taken to avert such a disaster – and the plant did indeed withstand the quake, as Dr. Caldicott said in the video. What caused the disaster was not the quake, but the tsunami.

As Fukushima is many orders of magnitude greater than Chernobyl, the health impact globally is near-incalculable – the figures on Chernobyl-related cancers alone are just coming out, not to mention assessments of the post-disaster environmental impact after a quarter century.

Horrific as it is, Bear, the ongoing meltdown at Fukushima (and the years projected until full control of the situation is achieved – years in which radiation will continue to be released into the air and water of the planet) is the real-life unfolding of just one of the nuclear disasters that are quite reasonably possible.

For one thing, nuclear power plants around the world are aging. According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Energy Information Association – “higher capacity utilization rates have been reported for many existing nuclear facilities, and it is anticipated that most of the older nuclear power plants in the OECD countries and non-OECD Eurasia will be granted extensions to their operating lives.”

Even if you leave deterioration due to age out of the equation, however, the quake at Fukushima was not an isolated risk. In the U.S. alone,  according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, “each year, at the typical nuclear reactor in the U.S., there’s a 1 in 74,176 chance of an earthquake strong enough to cause damage to the reactor’s core, which could expose the public to radiation. No tsunami required. That’s 10 times more likely than you winning $10,000 by buying a single ticket in the Powerball multistate lottery, where the chance is 1 in 723,145.’  Multiply the damage from one nuclear disaster by the number of reactors at risk and…well, you can do the math.

The truth is, Bear – as Dr. Caldicott pointed out – that the risks associated with nuclear power stand fair to leave this planet uninhabitable, not only for future generations, but for our own. That’s not an acceptable risk for any gamble.

While nuclear power is certainly a primary source of power in Europe (I would question whether it’s the primary source, based on the data I’ve found), the Fukushima disaster is prompting a worldwide step back. Just in the past few weeks, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland, for example, have moved to ban nuclear energy.

Other energy sources are gaining attention as a result: according to the UBS AG report, “Natural gas producers OAO Gazprom and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. are among companies set to benefit as countries shift away from nuclear power.” So I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that in Maryland, BG&E may be gearing up in that direction also…or that we will be seeing both an increase in fracking for natural gas, and fracking disasters such as the recent one in Pennsylvania.

As you say, Bear, “the only alternative forms of energy generation that are even remotely environmentally friendly are solar, water, and wind, all of which have problems with consistency.”

You’re right in saying that if we went 100% to clean energy sources today, there would be periods without any energy.  The technology, not to mention the infrastructure,  to support a 100% switch doesn’t exist. The problem, however, is that instead of ramping-up research and development of such technology (as we were briefly), this country’s government appears to be pushing for new ways to expand extraction of fossil fuels and production of nuclear energy.   Earlier this month Republican-led bills passed to continue and expand offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans. Not too long ago the headlines in the news were on tar sands extraction in Utah; just a few weeks ago I was seeing stories on uranium mining in the Grand Canyon.

As global energy consumption demand – and the demand for an American-style standard of living – continues to grow, regulation and oversight of fossil fuel producers is likely to dwindle (truth be told, it already is dwindling, witness Deepwater Horizon) with environmental impact increasing exponentially. And the U. S. is  leading the world in a race of regression.

Bear, you and I both know that the picture isn’t good. Sure, swapping lightbulbs, turning off lights, cutting consumption, etc. etc., helps, but in the end, deeper solutions are necessary, both for consumers and providers. Our choices today, on both sides of the fence, have unimaginable consequences, today and in the long term.

Yes, your company does have renewable energy initiatives. I am hoping that my boy, the engineer, has an opportunity to move into one of these…

…and no matter what, I’m proud of you, I love you, and I hope we keep talking…..

Mom

Welcome to the Real World

I knew of a physicist at the University of Chicago who was rather crazy, like some scientists, and the idea of the insolidity, the instability of the physical world, impressed him so much that he used to go around in enormous padded slippers for fear he should fall through the floor.

— Alan Watts, Nothingness

Most people would laugh at such a scientist. But as new science steadily addresses realities far beyond the reach of our so-called “common” sense –  I find myself wondering about the craziness of those padded slippers.

After all, what would you do if the theoretical science that formed the framework for your world view suddenly turned out to be visibly, tangibly verified by your everyday sensory experience? If, for example, instead of seeing a floor,  you saw a million swirling points of energy?

I suspect you might be just a little….well, freaked out.

Indigenous cultures have taught such concepts for millennia – for example, that we are all energy beings, and that we are all connected – but despite popular movies like What the Bleep and corroborating data from institutes such as HeartMath Research Center, modern society has a great deal of difficulty accepting the empirical reality of such concepts.

We’re deeply conditioned by our secular-materialist culture to believe that we are isolated individuals, that the boundaries of our minds do not extend past our skulls, that a solid floor is a solid floor, that…well, you get the idea. Even if we  subscribe to the belief that we are all connected, and that we can communicate energetically, a core of skepticism  may linger: without direct personal experience, how can we be sure? And we file the quantum concepts away in an agnostic cubbyhole.

For example, I’ve always held the belief that all beings, from stones to trees, from viruses to gorillas, from crickets to skunks, from krill to whales – and oh yes, also including humans – are sentient, thinking and feeling in their own unique way. These beliefs are woven into indigenous faith and practice around the world, in shamanic cultures from the Amazonian rainforest to the Siberian steppes.  And they’re core beliefs that I’ve held, and tried to act upon, since long before the days of my husband’s deep involvement in Traditional Native American practices.

But it wasn’t till this past weekend, when I was out following the guidance of a coach/nature mystic, that I received a firsthand experience of exactly what these beliefs mean in real life, outside the heady realm of cherished certitude. And I’ll admit – I was mind-boggled.

I was walking a path on sacred land near my home, and intentionally stopped to connect sensorially and at heart level with two trees along the way, as I’d been taught in the first class.  Connecting with each tree individually, I received very different impressions of personalities and attitudes toward humankind (or rather, human(un)kind in one case…passing two-leggeds had not been kind to that Standing One).

I responded politely to the input those trees were giving, and then stepped a little further down the path…and had the mind-boggling sense that every tree in the park was aware of me and assessing me – my intent, my attitude, my reasons for connecting and communicating with their two siblings.

Have you ever stood at a podium in front of a thousand psychics, all of them “reading” you? That’s roughly how this felt. I’d read old folk tales of people wandering into a forest and experiencing the spirit of the wood, panicking and fleeing – I’d never been able to understand such a reaction; forests had always felt like sanctuaries for me.

Now, however, I could understand. While the gaze of these uncountable trees was in no way hostile, it was wary, cautious, penetrating, evaluative…and overwhelming. I responded to the unspoken questions – “Who are you and what are you doing here? What do you want with us?” by explaining that I was a beginner trying to learn the right way of being in relationship with nonhuman beings, and asked them to ease up a little – they were scaring me! And they did. The contact broke, the sense of intense attention faded;  I could breathe again, and continued on my way.

I have been sitting with the aftershocks of that experience for the past week. Even though I’d hugged and talked (privately) to trees for years, even though I’d experienced individual trees as sentient beings in class as well as in the two conversations before the encounter with the entire forest, even though I’d had every reason to expect such a response from the forest as a whole,  the experience of trees en masse, as a crowd of individual personalities, was beyond any of my imaginings.

I remembered the response my husband used to give to such experiences: “Welcome to the Real World”....that is,  however much I believed in interbeing, the interconnection and sentience of all things, I couldn’t know this as reality until I stepped past my conditioning to experience it directly.

And the implications were staggering….

Imagine living in a world where energetic communication not just with other humans, but with every other being was not only possible, but also acknowledged fact…not a fantastical delusion to be treated with antipsychotic drugs, but the foundation of uncountable indigenous cultures. We know this to be the truth…and yet this real-world daily communication has been dismissed by this “enlightened” culture as pagan superstition.

Imagine living in a world in which plants, animals and humans consciously coexist in a delicate dance of balance that leaves their environment largely intact for millennia. We know that this also is true – it shows up in one account after another of intact indigenous cultures, even today.

Just sit with those images for a moment. Imagine being a consciously participating element of a living, communicating, mutually supportive environment, gaining wisdom from every other element.

Now picture our world, with humans isolated from all other beings by an assumption of superiority and dominion, exploiting or eradicating those other beings while we debate their level of sentience and dismiss what knowledge cannot be gleaned by instrumentation and metrics.

Is it any wonder that this culture is crazed and soul-starved? And what is there to be done about it?

I have only just completed my second lesson of the apprenticeship, so I am hardly the one to advise wholesale solutions. However, the old childhood rule for crossing the street does come to mind:

Stop.  Stop assuming, stop numbing out, stop objectifying…

Look. Try looking at everything around  you as a sentient being. What would it be like to get the perspective of an oak…a deer grazing in your garden…a polluted river?

Listen.  Next time you’re about to prune a tree, for example, tell the tree politely what you’re planning to do and why, then ask permission. And wait to see what you hear or sense inwardly.

If nothing else, ask – what if? Even if you already believe that we are all related and all beings are sentient in their own unique way, what if these trees, for example, are not simply standing passively in the earth, waiting to serve the purposes of humans, but are observing and participating in their environment in ways we can’t even imagine – and quite capable of communicating their perspective?

You may be familiar with the Gaia theory of a conscious, self-regulating planet. For many of us it ties in with the Earth-centered values we have carried for many years. Now take it a step further: what if that theory describes not only a living system of interacting organic and inorganic elements, but also a living system of interacting individual consciousnesses – consciousnesses with which we can communicate and interact to heal the wounds this world has suffered?

What if?

 

Deep questions for a bright morning

Pondering questions springing from a disconcerting conversation last night (trying to phrase these in the most open-ended manner possible):

  • Does the overlap between  new theories of quantum science and ancient metaphysical and shamanic principles  lead you to a perspective focused on personal desires, intention and goals, and/or to a mystical experience of awe, wonder, relatedness?
  • What point on the spectrum of and/or resonates as a personal place of balance?
  • What is the impact of that point on personal consciousness and action? On others, human and nonhuman? On the planet?
  • How does this experience shape personal choices regarding responsibility and action?

Comments, thoughts, insights invited!

(As a p.s. – Thank you, Angela Blueskies, for your beautiful and profound meditation on these questions! )