Today I start a 12 week journey of contemplation and creation. I am using Christine Valters Paintner's book "The Artist's Rule: Nurturing your creative soul with monastic wisdom" as my guide. My intention over the next few weeks is to continue to foster the creativity that has welled up inside me over the past year and align it with my deeper, truer self who is intimately intertwined with the divine....and by doing so explore even more what that means to me...to be intertwined with the divine and to create from that place.
This morning's period of contemplation has me rolling two phrases over in my being:
"behold I make all things new"
Obviously the "new" is the piece that connects the two. But there is the "revealing" versus "making." Creating a distinction between the two seems important to me as I very much live in a period of deep transformation in which it feels important to distinguish how much is being revealed - the veils falling away - and how much is being created - being shaped like clay at the potter's wheel.
The way that I feel this distinction in my life is by feeling into how engaged I may be co-creatively in the process. When things are revealed, I feel like a more passive participant who just needs to hold on to dear life when the mechanizations of reality are revealed. When there is a "making new" process happening it feels more like my deeper self's response to what has been revealed and this feels more co-creative. Yes, I may be clay being shaped by "defter hands than mine", but as the clay, I am still charged with the task of keeping some structure and form during the shaping process.
And what becomes my focus during this reshaping is critical. If I stay focused on wonder, awe, love, compassion it feels like my clay is more firm (yet pliable) in a way that can allow me to become a beautiful vase. But if I go into fear, confusion, anxiety I become a clumpy mess on the potter's wheel (sometimes this is necessary and even okay...we all have periods where we need to return to the beginning to be reshaped again).
This week I am also exploring the earth element through a contemplative art class and because I tend to shy away from structure and tend to be more attracted to flow, change, more mutable elements, I am playing with the mutability of form. Change is the only constant and so how we respond to, foster, actively participate in that change is central to our spiritual practice (and very relevant to "life in transition" which, well, hate to break it to you, but we never get out of...). My practice is how to love form and how to love the changes in form that take place on a daily basis in my life. How do I respond to these changes - to what is revealed by these changes or what is "made new" by these changes?
I look forward to sharing with you my explorations as I travel deeper into this spiritual and creative process/practice.
I wanted to share a personal account that was stirred up as part of an Ecosattva (like Bodhisattva for the suffering of the earth) course I am taking with One Earth Sangha, I hope it breaks your heart a little - in the profound way that Mary Oliver so gracefully names.
I left my career in the international non-profit sector when I burned out after spending 4 years living and working in Mumbai, India. When I think of my burnout, two big struggles I faced really stick out in my mind:
1) When I worked in Ghana I visited a slave port where they had a church built on top of quarters where they kept slaves calf-deep in their own filth while they waited to ship them off. I have a visceral stomach-turning reaction to this whenever I think of it. What is equally disturbing was my experience in India of this “ghostly slave ship” that still exists today. The community I worked with in Mumbai lives in filthy and polluted environments and recycles garbage, some of which is turned into plastic pellets that are then shipped to China and turned into things like our cellphone cases. We give someone a barely living wage and then stop calling the role they are allocated in our system “slavery”. We are so distanced from the realities of this when we make our everyday consumption choices. As gut wrenching as the image of a church on top of slave quarters is, it is more honest than the system we are ensconced in today. There is something direct to fight against and get angry and sick about. Today we don’t know and don’t see the hardship that lives behind our way of life.
2) Another huge emotional challenge for me in Mumbai was the extreme dichotomy of life there. I worked during the day in the slums and then in the evenings and on weekends was absorbed into a class of privilege due to my work position, the color of my skin and my educational background. I started to find huge divisions in myself that eventually became irreconcilable, leading to a mental breakdown. On one hand I was extremely intrigued by the ideas and potential found in the elite classes – I was more intellectually stimulated in Mumbai than even in my graduate program – but I had a hard time stomaching some of what I judged to be superficial and egoic aspects of that society. This was especially difficult, because I could not say “that is them” as I found these things to be in me – attitudes of entitlement and the hedonistic appreciation of privilege. What I found is that my internal struggle both cut me off from the population I was serving – out of guilt and shame – and from the social circle I was a part of – out of judgement, recrimination, and even self-hatred.
And so I broke down.
And in breaking down that logical and professional part of me had to give way to a more raw, real and direct experience of life.
I love the Mary Oliver quote about breaking the heart open. This is very much what I still feel on a daily basis – a rawness of a heart that has been broken open. And I thought that this made me weak. I mourned that I no longer could be the analytical professional I had been, because from a heart level I could no longer see people as statistics and quantify personal impacts and objectives with objective precision.
And I share this with you because I am coming to a new realization about the power and strength of the emotional tenderness I feel. I got a glimpse of this yesterday as I participated in a Peace Pole dedication ceremony. When we were asked to share what we were bringing to the dedication, all I could bring was my tears. As someone who is used to being eloquent, it was deeply humbling to be so caught up in emotion that alI I could share with the community was my raw emotion. But I now see that those tears were a necessary and powerful element of the dedication ceremony. They took the discussion of peace out of the clouds and earthed it into the reality of our hearts.
When we hold our hearts wide open, while weaving in our analytical understanding, we partake in a yogic path of transformation... an evolution of ourselves as conscious beings and together as a conscious world. This is a yogic path that Thomas Merton wrote much about, and lived in a way that can be a guiding lamp. I feel this transformation in me viscerally as parts of my emotional body and mental body are transformed through this internal struggle to hold “the more”.
And if I am feeling uncomfortable I know I am on the right path. To me this feeling of discomfort means that I am on my growth edge. It also is part of the process of creating a “spiritual metabolism”, meaning that life can throw just about anything at me and with a good “spiritual metabolism” I could process it mind, body, heart, soul in the most compassionate and profound way for the highest good of all.
So let us all break our hearts wide open, and take the next step towards becoming the wildly compassionate beings I know we are!
I hope that it is okay for me to post such a long selection from a book on my blog (please let me know if you know of otherwise, so I can amend), however below is such a complete definition - and redefinition - of Spirituality that I could not bring myself to cut it down.
I have always defined my spirituality as my "fire" - it is that thing in me that motivates me to live and do and breathe and create in the world. I never thought that spirituality is actually HOW I deal with the fire in me to live, do, breathe and create. I love that Ronald Rolheiser takes spirituality out of the mystical and into the every day of how we choose to live our "one wild and precious life" to quote another wisdom figure, Mary Oliver.
Here is the excerpt:
"For many people, the term spirituality conjures up images of something paranormal, mystical, churchy, holy, pious, otherworldly, New Age, something on the fringes and something optional. Rarely is spirituality understood as referring to something vital and nonnegotiable lying at the heart of our lives.
This is a tragic misunderstanding. Spirituality is not something on the fringes, an option for those with a particular bent. None of us has a choice. Everyone has to have a spirituality and everyone does have one, either a life-giving one or a destructive one. No one has the luxury of choosing here because all of us are precisely fired into life with a certain madness that comes from the gods and we have to do something with that. We do not wake up in this world calm and serene, having the luxury of choosing to act or not act. We wake up crying, on fire with desire, with madness. What we do with that madness is our spirituality.
Hence, spirituality is not about serenely picking or rationally choosing certain spiritual activities like going to church, praying, or meditating, reading spiritual books, or setting off on some explicit spiritual quest. It is far more basic than that. Long before we do anything explicitly religious at all, we have to do something about the fire that burns within us. What we do with that fire, how we channel it, is our spirituality. Thus, we all have a spirituality whether we want one or not, whether we are religious or not. Spirituality is more about whether or not we can sleep at night than about whether or not we go to church. It is about being integrated or falling apart, about being within community or being lonely, about being in harmony with Mother Earth or being alienated from her. Irrespective of whether or not we let ourselves act in ways that leave us either healthy or unhealthy, loving or bitter. What shapes our actions is our spirituality." - Ronald Rolheiser in "The Holy Longing"
“Oh, don't take it so personally” - I cringe when I hear this statement. Many times this is used to invalidate someone's emotional reactions. In a world where we are rarely encouraged to really hold and interact with our emotions, this can be the opposite of what we actually need for our emotional development.
This statement is usually used to encourage more socially acceptable behavior that is deemed more “mature” in a society whose idea of maturity is one of control and perfection. But what if we redefined our idea of maturity...to a definition that is more mature?
Real maturity requires a deeper reflection process when difficult emotions or interpersonal dynamics arise. We must learn to “see through” the immediacy of the situation to what lies beyond, but also remain firmly engaged with what is, how we are feeling about it, and how it is showing up very personally in our lives.
This mature way of being connects to the Truth of the statement “it is not personal”, but still requires us to take the situation very personally – which is actually a gift, our personal “way into” working with the particular issue that has arisen.
We are in an age where we are waking up to the reality that we are a product of generations of inherited thought and behavior patterns that are part of larger collective archetypes in a “collective consciousness” that influences our personal conscious experience. This unitive consciousness is partially held in our natural and social environment and as both become more disturbed in the modern world, we find ourselves experiencing more of the extremes that exist there.
It is my belief that this is why we have so many more “bipolar” diagnoses – we are experiencing the extremes of the psyche in much more profound ways than in the past. The “veils” to the collective and sub- conscious are being tossed aside as our collective ship becomes more rocky.
This is where we can see that things are really not personal. Someone's reaction to us and our reaction to them and our combined reaction to the dynamics that arise – these things are a part of a much deeper programming that has a lot of history and much larger forces behind it – many of which are subconscious.
But if we stay at the level of “oh this is the injured divine feminine showing up,” or “this is our collective mother separation wound” then we miss the cream – our personal experience of this larger injury is actually our window to addressing that much deeper issue not only in our own psyche, but on behalf of the collective consciousness as well. The work that we do is a gift to larger society and future generations – as well as liberates past generations that were mired in these dynamics.
This is Rumi's “untying the knots.” Our generations of patterning and current social conditioning can be considered the “knots” that tie up our True Being. And somehow by seeing how interwoven our personal experience is with the collective experience, when we do the work to really deeply look at the things that personally tie us up, we help facilitate larger collective shifts.
And we see the various wisdom traditions recognizing this process and dynamic. Richard Rohr has re-interpreted the Christian idea of "sin" to be the false thoughts and behaviors that keep us from behaving in a way that is True to our True Self. In this way the "sins of the father" are really born by the son as we bare the burden of generations of false understanding. And the Christian idea that death is a result of sin is actually speaking to the necessary death of the false self that is caught up in these knots.
The work of untying these knots is about naming and witnessing the Truth for ourselves and holding that understanding with compassion for the sticky situation we find ourselves in. We create change by simply being with this situation with compassionate equanimity – radical heart-felt acceptance of what is.
The most powerful shifts are the really subtle ones – a shift that no one notices, but everyone feels. This is an allowance for each to be as they are, but with an awareness that this is all falsely constructed and there is a larger potential. This awareness provides a bit of breathing room. It provides a sacred space for knot untying to take place all on its own. You may have felt this with a trusted friend or healer who provided you with an accepting presence rather than giving you advice. If we say “oh yeah, I'm feeling – you are feeling too – and what we are feeling is huge – but also totally understandable” – in that mutual understanding something else is created without even creating anything tangible.
This is hard for our society to see as change. It doesn't immediately look different on the outside. It doesn't have a particular agenda, action, activity or timeline that can be measured. It might even be viewed as complacency. However, it is much more active than complacency. It is an internal shift – a posture or stance that one can feel on the inside. It usually leads to tangible shifts – like slowing down and localizing your activities and consumption. It allows for shifts in others that may never be associated with you or shifts in you that were gifts from others. It allows for us to take responsibility, but also share that responsibility in an empowering way. It is the real process of creating a new paradigm - something authentic for us to collectively entrain to which is real social change.
All of these words to say “its not personal, but take it really personally and then let it unfold.”
that is all that is asked;
seems like a simple instruction
for such a tall order
to be in the face of
these things take a different kind of talent
this requires a rawness
most do not want to feel;
it requires a dedication to authenticity
our social constructs have constructed barriers against;
we find we have to take sledgehammers to walls
that have been built unconsciously
admittedly built as a survival instinct
in a world that makes love
we add to these conditions with our checklists
of what we want to achieve
of what we want to experience
for who we want to love,
thinking that these things will somehow
give us a better life
we don't see how this restricts
life becomes effort to achieve
some item on all those lists
and we actually forget
to actually be
in the moment
with this breath
with this beautiful person
that stands before us
or even as us
There is a lifetime of mystery, wonder,
adventure and creation here
but this place too often gets passed by
for that place
when will you dive more deeply into
and trade all of that effort
for more of this existence;
an acceptance of what is now
that is not apathetic
but rather insightful
and comes directly from the here
from the now
*original poem by Summer Starr, July 2015
This video from Harvard University's Natural Sciences lectures demonstrations site and to me is a great example of how humans can intentionally create resonance using natural laws. They specially engineered this pendulum to allow for the patterns you see to emerge. The key is our effort and intention...nature provides the outline and also the vehicle for the rest to unfold if we learn to listen and cooperate with her.
Resonance Repatterning is a psychological and energetic healing modality designed by Chloe Faith Wordsworth to help reinforce positive thought and energy patterns as well as identify unhelpful patterns in your conscious and unconscious being and shift those patterns through simple mind-body-spirit integration activities.
It is based on the premise that if we identify the areas of our selves that are ready to shift to new ways of being, then all we need is intention and a small energetic push in the right direction to create a system-wide shift towards resonating with that new way of being. This does not mean that you will all of the sudden become that new way of being – this requires effort and mindfulness on your part – however, it means that the energetic patterns or roadblocks to this journey will be shifted to allow new potentials to unfold. Many times this works on areas of more subconscious trauma during birth, childhood or even ancestral patterns that live in your DNA – stuff that is no longer useful in your unfolding to your full potential.
As a practitioner, my job is to help us extract information about what is ready to shift during a session. I do this by following a sequence of questions and relevant statements. This sequence is unique every session and is developed by accessing information in your energy field through simple muscle checking techniques. Much of the process is also guided through questions and brainstorming with you that help you bring consciousness to your own personal life experience. Most sessions begin with either a problem you would like to work on or an intention you would like to set for yourself. Sessions can be uplifting as well as emotional, so I ask individuals to participate only if they are willing and ready to be with themselves and me in a very “real” way.
Different practitioners have different focuses for their practice and my focus is really built off of my own personal work with the modality as well as vision for the larger healing of the world. I speak a lot of “personal unfolding” on my website and to me we are at a critical time in world history where we are emerging from an era of unconsciousness due to social and economic systems that have distorted our ways of being in the world. We have become isolated from our connection to the earth, each other and our truest self in ways that are alarming.
But with this challenge, there is also great opportunity. We have access to information, materials and ways of communicating in unprecedented ways. There is huge potential for creativity, if we can work through our individual and collective wounds and wake up to this potential. And what we find in the process is that our “wounds” actually deepen and inform this potential in beautiful ways – we bring a new level of understanding to the work we do, the relationships we form, and the way we interact with the earth.
My goal is to support you as you work through this process of “becoming” so that the fruits of who you are can be shared with the world. And I do so as a friend who is also walking the path to healing and wholeness along side you. I am very much in my own unfolding process...it will joyfully always be so! But the strength of this is that I can very much relate and understand, even if my life experience is different from yours, that we are all on some journey of unfolding into our potential.
I feel your pain
in my stomach
deep in my womb
at the center of the cave
of my heart
day after day
we toil to pay for
generation after generation
hell we're mad
and sometimes it feels like
this world is spun
out of this thread
of mindless pain
woven into unsympathetic
so how do we untangle and reweave
given our sick and poor
look closer and you'll see
the glitter of some small potential
a hope sometimes so ridiculous
its mere existence shows
the existence of something deeper
and so we go deeper
into the mind
into All That Is
And somehow feeling the pain
is both the way out
and the way in
to a deeper way
of living as a prayer
for the dying
*original poem by Summer Starr, July 2015
"Lovers cannot make their moments of oceanic oneness happen. They can, however, freely choose to assume an inner stance that offers the least resistance to being overtaken yet one more time by the graced event of oceanic oneness in the love that sustains them day by day. A poet cannot make poetry happen. But a poet can freely choose to assume the inner stance that offers the least resistance to the graced event of poetry pouring out onto the blank page. Those committed to healing cannot make healing happen. But they can freely choose to asume the inner stance that offers the least resistance in which the gift of healing occurs."
-- From James Finley's writing titled "Turning to Thomas Merton As Our Guide in Contemplative Living" as part of the work celebrating his centennial "We Are Already One."
Wild Lotus Living is me, Summer Starr. Here I share my personal musings and resources on my own path of unfolding