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Begin Again...Thoughts on Transformative Times


“Many of us are lost. We work too hard, our lives are too busy; we lose ourselves in consumption and distraction of all kinds and have become increasingly lost, lonely, or sick. We are no longer in touch with ourselves, our family, our ancestors, the Earth, or the wonders of life around us…this alienation is a kind of illness that has become a pandemic.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh, Love Letter to the Earth

Ana Mendieta (American, born Cuba, 1948 – 1985) Untitled: Silueta Series, Mexico, 1976

LOVE LETTER TO EARTH

Love Letter to the Earth (2013), Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us of our weaknesses and asks us to fall in love again with the Earth. To do so, he suggests building mindfulness into every moment of every day, every action, every thought. In particular, he asks us to awaken our relationship to Earth, and take refuge in her beauty and stability.

During this transformative time, we can gain great solace and strength from watching the beauty and abundance of the Earth flowering before our eyes. We can experience connection and belonging by listening to the leaves move and the clouds pass by. We can heal ourselves by connecting to the Earth and listening deeply.

My journey to listening deeply began a decade ago when I experienced my own personal epidemic. I was brought to my knees. Loss of my academic job after 15 years of study and striving, my ability to have children, my mother’s passing, and two major surgeries but a few years apart, and the death of my beloved pet/child of 16 years. It all left me broken in many places. I had lost hope. What I learned from all of that was the power of resilience. Because I was left without joy, without connection and without hope, I had to rebuild my trust. I learned how to Begin Again…simply and slowly, by walking humbly with two titanium legs on Mother Earth.

I have told this story many times to my students. It lives in my heart demonstrating our ability to gain from loss, as a possible way out of despair. Learning the language of my spirit has given me the strength and resilience to weather any storm, even a global pandemic that could at any moment eradicate my life or my loved ones. I learned to walk again, with courage and strength, with connection to my truth and my spirit by offering gratitude each day for my life. It is a living prayer...pausing to connect with Mother Earth, Father Sky, the Holy Water Spirit, trees, plants, animals, wind, rain, fire, whatever part of nature might be near. Very simply, each day. These safe, eternal elements taught me to Begin Again…

PRAYERS FOR OUT PLANET

At this time our planet is on pause. Amidst the collective pain and suffering of loss, the isolation, the turning inward, Earth stands wide open. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the Eagles have been soaring over my seaside neighborhood for weeks. First Nation’s people of this region believe the Eagle carries our prayers to heaven. It is time for those prayers to wrap our lives in healing energy, and for those powerful Eagle feathers to lift our hearts.

Clouds carry silver linings…my grandmother always said. And isn’t this a time for the elders to speak to us of sacred things that bring us all, each and every living thing, back into balance. I thing of Poet Laureate, Mary Oliver, our contemporary patron saint of nature ~

All afternoon, Sir,

Your ambassadors have been turning into lakes and rivers.

At first they were just clouds, like any other.

Then they swelled and swirled; then the hung very still; then they broke open. This is, I suppose, just one of the common miracles, a transformation, not a vision,

Not an answer, not a proof, but I put it

There, close against my heart, where the need is and it serves

The purpose. I go on, soaked through, my hair

Slicked back;

Like corn, or wheat, shining and useful

~ Mary Oliver – Clouds

Are we not of all things…large, small, vast, limited, flesh, blood, bone and earth? It is through the Earth that I have found my greatest strength, my enduring hope, my solace and my courage. I invite you to commit to discovering yours. Begin Again…

OUR FINEST HOUR

The disease that is sweeping our planet is a true call to action. We are rediscovering our vulnerability and our humanity. There is no denying that our lives are permanently changed, on every level. And why cannot this be our finest hour?

Amidst the genocide and destruction of World War II, Winston Churchill believed it was his generations finest hour. I believe this pandemic is ours. The urgency and sacrifices are called to make is just the beginning of bringing social justice and compassion to our politics. We are being asked to create deep change in the fabric of our society, of our lives and across the globe. We are being asked to Begin Again...

These are critical times where truth is twisted by lies and faith is lost or found on finding the smallest joy or blessing. The morning birdsong wakes us before dawn, children play hopscotch and draw with chalk on the streets, never met the neighbors who wave hello at last, quiet descends upon this planet. The levels of the Earth’s vibration, the air, water, noise pollution has dropped exponentially.

I can only hope that we will all carry the weight of these times forward into new ways of being…news ways of seeing, feeling and believing. It is our destiny to be here, as we are all meant to be part of the change that is unfolding. To “be here now” as great teacher Ram Dass has declared. His recent death and that of Mary Oliver, two elders that taught of the sacred nature of life and all beings, seems to coincide with the urgency of our social dismantling. Are we not on the verge of something very different? Are we not ready? Begin Again...

The mantra Lokha Samastah Sukninoh Bhavantu echoes in my mind as I walk the silver shores of the Puget Sound. “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.” This Sanskrit sloka or prayer, asks us to focus on oneness, the good of all, our interconnectedness with all things. In invocation for personal and collective peace.

When the Buddha obtained enlighenment after sitting 4o days under the Bodhi Tree, he touched the Earth and ask it to be his witness for the awakening that he had received.

Nature is within us and without us. It is the one true witness of our lives, from start to finish, in beauty Earth holds our hearts gently.

We all carry the Earth in our body, in our cells, in our DNA. We are the air we breath. Without it we perish. We are the water we drink. Without it we perish. We are made of earth and of star particles. We are aligned with the Earths seasonal rhythms. We are part of, not separate from, the cycles of the Sun and the Moon. We all live from the harvests. We sow. We reap.

Our society has literally gone viral. Affected…Effected…Infected. We all are included. Race, class, wealthy, poor, professional, laborer, craftsman, borders or not, does not change the potential of infections. We are all leveled. Familiar terrain for the last of the Holocaust survivors. Unprecedented for our X, Y, Z generations. Pema Chodron offers “we are so used to running from discomfort, and we’re so predictable. If we don’t like it, we strike out at someone or beat ourselves up. We want to have security and certainty of some kind when actually we have no ground to stand on…the next time there’s no ground to stand on, don’t consider it an obstacle. Consider it a remarkable stroke of luck.” (p. 117, When Things Fall Apart). Begin Again…

Is this not a call to action? Is this not the changing tides that can offer each of us, our families, our communities, our planet a renaissance? Are we ready to transform completely and let go of the brutality and the blindness?

Moments for becoming more mindful are everywhere. Awaken to the possibilities. Eyes wide Open….we have this amazing opportunity to open to the unknown, to embrace uncertainty, to live courageously, and recreate our worlds. To begin again reminds us of the sun that rises each day and the tireless task of returning to the starting point that each of us are being asked to make through out our lives. Season by season, sunrise to sunset to sunrise, the rhythms of new beginnings never waiver. May we all know this harmony in our lives.

Ana Mendieta's Silueta Series presents the living body in deep communion wth the earth. Her "earth-body" sculptures literally embody this interconnection, as well as the highlight the female (earth) body as a site for political protest, emphasizing the societal conditions of women throughout history, as well as the abuse of the earth. In the 1970s, Mendieta was one of many artists experimenting with the emerging genres of land art, body art, and performance art. In a 1981 artist statement, Mendieta said, "I have been carrying out a dialogue between the landscape and the female body (based on my own silhouette). I believe this has been a direct result of my having been torn from my homeland (Cuba) during my adolescence. I am overwhelmed by the feeling of having been cast from the womb (nature). My art is the way I re-establish the bonds that unite me to the universe. It is a return to the maternal source."

Is it possible, that imposed isolation causes us all to renew ourselves, our environments and our way of being?

The environmental impact of a global shelter in place is a marked reduction in air, water, and noise pollution. The planet is rebounding in significantly. The way I see it, we are all learning about simplicity; a painful and profound lesson in “being" rather than doing. Is it possible that we might all find that our new lives are more meaningful, rich with nuance and deeper connection to our families and to ourselves? Maybe that walk to the store becomes a pleasure and the quiet a necessity.

THE BIG "ASK"

These uncertain times call for us to be supple, lithe, quick-silver and resilient. We are being guided to unburden ourselves from materiality, all the "stuff" and to release ourselves from the pressure of perceived monetary success. If not, we will be forced too. We are being ask to break out of our ideological bunkers, to stand for good, for empathy, for peace. To choose differently how we create each day. We are being asked to notice the small things, the grass growing, our children learning, the complicated chaos of living differently. We are being asked to prioritize relationships rather than schedules. It is as if, we have been disconnected from our daily habits and rhythms so that we can truly connect to what is vital in each of us as the truth of our enduring human spirit. Supple, ready to pivot, we rise… and Begin Again…

Along with my new class series, Earth Medicine Yoga Flow and Seasonal Yoga Ceremonies, my goal is to help our planet and our people heal by raising awareness of the interconnectivity between our bodies, minds, spirit and the Earth's energies. I hope you will join me, read my blog, contribute your comments, take some classes. Each of us is vital in co-creating this new beginning.

May we all begin again...and walk in beauty~