Getting Real about Gifting

GIft Responsibly (1)As I write this “Jazz Loves Christmas” is playing on my boom box (care of CBC) and my daughter is drawing perspective boxes while our red lentil curry and rice simmer on the stove top.  We are enjoying a warm and festive evening, relishing the generosity of our 100+ year old home as it fulfills a life’s purpose of being both beautiful and functional, keeping its current inhabitants cozy and sheltered on a dark and freezing Saskatchewan night.  I love cracking the festive tunes early, mainly to stir the pot on old and cherished memories from my childhood, and to pass on the festive tradition of music to my own kids.  However, alongside this bliss simmers a knotted sensation in my stomach and angry tension in my heart. Christmas is also a time of year that brings me great grief and frustration, it is a time when our culture of consumerism casts its long shadow (no doubt Black Friday is aptly named).

Christmas is a season that aligns with Winter Solstice, a natural time to reflect on the bounty of what’s past, to express gratitude for our wealth, and to keep the spirit of abundance and generosity alive through sharing that wealth.  And certainly the trillion dollar industry that Christmas has become might lead one to believe we are practicing generosity and abundance, but the seedy underside is that we are doing it in a way that is first-world, human-centric, and ultimately informed by scarcity, greed and narcissism.

Now I’m not trying to ruin Christmas with a major baa-humbug, I’m in fact trying to help save the original spirit of Christmas, Winter Solstice and Santa.  The essence and spirit of the festive season is Abundance and Generosity, which has nothing to do with sweat-shop-child-labor made toys and toxic to human, animal, plant and earth alike plastics.  Abundance is informed by the perspective of gratitude for what is, but consumer-oriented marketing would rather you believe it has to do with continuously having and getting more.  Reaching for more, more, more is greed, and is the ultimate end goal of a hamster-wheel that capitalism aims to have us all trapped on.  And this is where the magic of the season can truly gift us freedom, in the form planting a simple thought: that scarcity and lust for more is a lie, and true abundance is realising the wealth that ALREADY exists.

To break free of the hamster wheel we need to clear our vision.  First, we need to take stalk of what we have, and realize the miracle that we truly are enough.  We have enough good qualities of character, we have enough skills and talents to contribute to our community, we have enough friends and family to not only survive with but actually thrive alongside. We have enough clothes, shoes, toys, food, vehicles and gadgets, and if need truly be, they likely are available more affordably second-hand, no need to mass produce more.  Lynne Twist in her book “The Soul of Money” articulates it with incredible clarity, that ultimately once we denounce the consumer-culture lie that we are not enough, we suddenly experience freedom and the truth of our personal power.  Once we take stock and appreciate the enoughness that we are, of our internal and external resources, we can save our money and life on this planet!!  Once we are free of the addiction of consumer goods for our fulfilment, true abundance will expand, because suddenly we actually don’t have to work as hard to pay off accruing debts, and all that time we would have spent racing around to buy all the “perfect”, plastic wrapped, and expensive gifts will be freed up to be spent with our kids, friends, and family, and in the glory of nature.  This is the truth of abundance that greed doesn’t want you to discover and flex.

What breaks my heart the most about the festive season is the excessive denial and culling of other-than-human life.  We are so focused on satisfying the never-satiable story of human desire for more- more toys, more processed foods, more gadgets and gizmos, more cars, more, more, more, that we have numbed ourselves of empathy and compassion for our other-than-human kin that not only need us to wake up from our excessive behaviors, but whom we need to continue life-worth-living on this planet.  The tree people, animal, rock, and water people.  These are our kin, our family in the great web of life, and currently we consume and reduce their lives to cheap trash that in turn pollutes and desecrates our shared home…its actually pretty depressing…baa-humbug I guess is necessary, the grief unavoidable.

BUT WAIT!  Don’t give up, there IS SO MUCH WE CAN DO!! We can practice Abundance, right now, by remembering that we hold the key.  It is human behavior that needs to shift, which is simply choices made each moment.  We can’t necessarily change the choices that others make (though policy could lead inspiring change!), but we can change our own.  We can also inspire others by helping them remember, having new conversations about abundance and enoughness, and by role-modeling what new behaviors look like.  Each and everyone of us can make a real difference.

Start by reflecting on habits versus values.  Do we really value supporting child-labor, unequal pay, toxic production, and pollution?  And if not!!!, then why do we invest in these practices with our purchase choices?  None of us want others to suffer, but sadly we’ve become habituated to looking the other way.  Taking stock of our core values- such as a win-win reality for everyone, peace on Earth, health and safety for both our own families and everyone else’s, clean water, a sustained planet and hope for the future, is a powerful step.  Then comes the getting real about whether our daily choices align with our values or not.  We can start to be the change with our choices, such as through our purchasing power and attitude expression this festive season.

So, step one: anchor into our hearts and get clear on core values.

Step two: be honest about habits, and discern whether or not our life practices reflect our values.

Step three: commit ourselves to at least one empowering choice we can make to be the change, and then do it.

Step four: repeat step three until we’ve rid ourselves of the life-threatening addiction to over-consumption and mindless consumerism.

Step five: relish and celebrate the freedom and power that true abundance brings: the knowing that WE are ENOUGH, that WE have ENOUGH, and abide in the simplicity, liberty and ecstasy that true abundance as reflection and gratitude brings!

And, here are some ideas for festive season abundance-in-action:

  • After kicking the consumer addiction, enjoy all the space and time you have for spending time with those you love, being in nature, making and enjoying delicious meals, participating in community festivities, making snow angels, reading, etc.
  • If gifting is a part of your expression of abundance, then gift responsibly and informed by your core values.  If you value life on this planet and sustainability gift experiences like:
    • live theater,
    • a meal or treat out,
    • a trip to a local attraction (museum, science Center, escape room, art gallery, etc)
    • an experience at a local clay studio or other sustainable art making place,
    • gift music lessons or dance classes,
    • tickets to a sporting event, a live concert, or movie tickets,
    • gift a certificate for a massage or a local healing arts practitioner (!),
    • gift home-made coupons for things like a foot rub, a massage, a walk, breakfast in bed, coffee out, star gazing together,
    • gift a camping trip,
    • or locally made goodies that are packaged in recyclable materials and use natural ingredients,
    • There are so many awesome ways to gift without it costing the planet and our kin, human or otherwise.
  • Or, you can gift in the form of paying it forward, like social and environmental activism:
    • gift a donation to a human rights organization
    • to an environmental rights and protection agency: like Pachamama Alliance
    • donate to a local animal rescue or food bank charity
    • again, the options are endless.

If toys are your jam, gift second hand toys, I mean does Santa gift with all that packaging? Support fairtrade, environmental friendly toys, or make your own (my 7year old just made her own stuffed animal from scrape clothing material and cotton balls from supplement packaging). Creativity abounds!

Here’s to Peace on Earth and Good Will for All!

The Ancestors

The AncestorsHalloween approaches and many of us feel inspired to display pumpkins, think up ours or our kids’ next costumes, and decorate our homes with deadly gruesomes.  If you’re like my household, the kids (well, the younger lot) are ecstatic about the prospect of pillowcases full of candy and relish the opportunity to eat “brains, guts and eyeballs” for breakfast.  Perhaps due to the expression of abundance and the wide-eye glee of embodied sweetness I experienced during my childhood years, or perhaps the fact that I was actually baptised on a full moon at Halloween (the ancestors clearly have a good sense of humour), this festivity has always held a sweet spot in my heart.  However, as my years of parenting amidst the Halloween season amassed, I started to question certain practices, such as handing out pure-toxicity as a treat to unsuspecting youth (sugars is one thing, artificial flavor and coloring, wrapped in single-use plastic or wax paper is quite another).  However, these last few years my questioning has gone deeper, wondering about the passive demonizing of certain spiritual practices such as Paganism, and the simultaneous appropriation of one of their most potent festive seasons- Samhain.  Did you know that Halloween finds its roots in a Pagan tradition?  Did you know that Pagans are actually an assorted collection of indigenous peoples of Europe?  Where in our very politically correct Canadian culture, other then at Halloween, do we permit the practice of hatred and appropriation of indigenous culture?  Clearly no where, as it should be.  However, Halloween and the demonizing, commoditizing and appropriating of Pagan tradition is allowed.  Now, I’m by no means suggesting we should have it out with Halloween, rid ourselves of the costume wearing and abundance celebrating tradition, strip our homes of goblins and ghoulish decorations and empty our hearts of these celebrations.  Definitely not.  If you knock on my door Halloween night (and for basically the whole month leading up to it) you’ll see arms reaching from the crypt, witches flying on broomsticks, and jack-o’-lanterns galore.  But the energy and intention behind these practices are in celebration of an adored festive season, a remembering and reclamation of the spiritual practices of my ancestors, the indigenous Pagans, Gypsies and Celts of Europe.

For instance, in Pagan spirituality it was understood that the veil between this and the otherworld was thinner during Hallows Eve and Samhain. This meant two things: 1. it was a rich opportunity for connecting with the wisdom of the ancestors, to remember them and celebrate the gifts they continuously give their living descendants; and 2. as the veil thinned for ancestral communion, it also thinned for unquieted spiritual beings, ones you likely would not like hanging around your home. To celebrate the ancestors, treats were gifted to children as a way of paying the gifts of life forward, honoring the love-in-action power of our ancestors, and celebrating the newest descendants (the children) as the sweetness of life they are. Some believed children were reincarnated ancestors and thus Samhain was a season for remembering the ancestors and our full circle connection with them. On the other hand, safety measures were engaged to avoid mingling with unsavory spirits. Children and adults wore costumes on Hallows Eve, depicting menacing, otherworldly or gruesome beings as a means of keeping unquieted company at bay. Another protective measure was making your home uninviting and scary, ensuring wandering and lost spirits would not feel drawn or welcome to take up residence in your abode. Understanding the root of these still-current traditions helps us honor them and be empowered by them, instead of mindlessly desecrating them and the indigenous peoples who practiced them.

The witch of course carries the heaviest cultural burden of all. Ralph Metzner (American-German Psychologist), in his book “The Well of Remembrance”, speaks to the etymology of the word witch. He shows its lineal association with the English *wit, *wise, *wisdom, rooting back into the German *weit, *wait, and *wit, and its even further back to it’s Indo-European ancestor of *weid (which carries the slanderous associations we find with the word *weird). A weid woman, a wit woman, a wise woman was a witch- the indigenous European Pagan’s shaman, healer and elder. It wasn’t enough that she and her associates were tortured, burned and hatefully destroyed in the not-so-distant past, but to this day their legacy is haunted by continued mindless demonization of their practices.

Appropriately, we aren’t tolerating hatred towards other indigenous cultures, but why does the buck stop at the treatment of European indigenous people, and especially towards their sacred Samhain customs and their wise elders the Witches?

My hopes is that with mindfulness, awareness and intention Halloween can become an opportunity for collective remembering and celebration of our cultural diversity; and, perhaps it also becomes a personal opportunity for those who descend from indigenous Europeans to remember their ancestors’ traditions and reclaim them. Being of European descent does not imply that we MUST practice our ancestors’ spiritual traditions, but no matter who we are our times call us to live with integrity, and at the very least respect cultural, ethnic, and spiritual diversity.

Peace and Blessings for your Hallows Eve, Samhain and Halloween celebrations.

Knowing the Oak and the Acorn

oak tree

This Sept 30th is Orange Shirt Day, where we remember and grieve the atrocious familial and cultural trauma, disrespect and violence enacted against the Indigenous Peoples of Canada by both government and religious authorities.  Children were systematically taken from their families, placed in substandard residential schools, and brutally stripped of their language, spirituality, and cultural identity.  This is not my story to tell, but it is a story that I must remember.  I remember and grieve because I want to be a good neighbor, I want to listen to and respond compassionately to our indigenous community.  I remember and grieve because I believe in restorative justice, in reconciliation and healing.  I also remember because as shameful as it feels to acknowledge, I know my ancestors were either directly or indirectly involved in this national history of violence and have benefited from the annihilation enacted.  Since the time of colonization and European settlement here, my bloodline has prospered and experienced rich opportunities in ways that the Indigenous Peoples’ have not.  Our collective history of injustice and the present state of imbalance between ethnic groups makes it clear that we need to and are responsible for making things right.  Our Mother Earth and her story of ecology teaches us the truth of our interdependence and inter-connectivity, cultural and otherwise.  We are in this life and with this land TOGETHER.

As someone who aspires to be a responsible and honorable community member it has always felt obvious and natural to me to respect and respond compassionately to the suffering of the indigenous community.  However, in the last few years, as I’ve dug deeper into my ancestral stories and lineage, I’ve come to experience new inspiration for a healthy response to their process of recovery: empathy.  Empathy is informed by one’s capacity to feel someone else’s feelings.  Some people are blessed (or cursed depending on whether this capacity feeds or depletes you) with these natural and intuitive sensitivities and can easily tune into the feelings of others.  However, for some people empathy is developed, often through direct experience of similar life events.  I like to think of empathy as being able to speak the same language.  For some people, unless they’ve experienced a similar event, let’s say of loss or trauma, they are unable to hear the language of suffering someone else is expressing.  Whereas, direct experience of a similar event can open our hearts to hearing the grief song sung by another soul.  Sometimes we start to hear and understand the language of someone’s grief and without skilled awareness choose to practice sympathy in place of empathy.  Sympathy is when we feel with someone but where we could choose to shine the light of our awareness on their feelings we instead focus on our own.  Here’s an example, say someone is telling you a sad story, and aside from noticing their physical, emotional, and psychological cues of their grief, you suddenly notice that your heart too is feeling heavy and sad, and that your eyes are starting to wet at the creases.  If you chose to practice sympathy you might respond by saying: “Oh geez, I feel so sad as you tell me that story.  That’s such a hard story for me to hear”.  Whereas, with empathy you might instead say: “Oh friend, that is hard; it sounds like you’re feel really heavy and sad right now.”.  Practicing empathy helps us connect to others, whereas sympathy helps us connect more to ourselves.  There is not a right or wrong way of being, and there is a skilled place for both sympathy and empathy.  However, if our intention is to be a support and caring person for someone in pain, then practicing empathy is our vehicle of choice.

I have always been someone whose been sensitive to the world around me, to the emotions and thoughts of others.  Although my sensitivity has at times been a challenge for me, it has ultimately served as a strength, especially in light of the vocation I have chosen.  However, my sensitivity has not stopped at tuning into the inner world of other humans, it has also made me available to the consciousness and needs of the Earth and my other-than-human kin around me.  Reconciling my sensitivity to the wilder world has been much harder won than that to humans, and it has been this journey of personal reconciliation that has deepened my empathy for the losses the indigenous community of Canada have experienced and still do.  In order to understand my gifts of sensitivity I needed to better understand who I am, and this remembering of the self inevitably led to knowing where and WHO I come from, who my ancestors are and what land I am indigenous to.

My ancestry is rich and varied, and much of it lost to me, but some of it can be remembered.  I descend from the indigenous Nordic, Celtic and Hellenistic peoples of what is now referred to as Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Spain, Scandinavia, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy and Greece…and maybe Turkey and/or Egypt 😉.  I descend from the indigenous peoples of those lands, and also from the colonizers: the tribes of Indo-Europeans who invaded them from the east.   The most commonly shared cultural trait of my indigenous European ancestors was what is referred to as paganism: earth-based spirituality and traditions.  Like the indigenous peoples of Canada, prior to colonization my ancestors also lived in harmonious relationship with Mother Earth, with their animal, plant and elemental kin.  Their sacred sites were stone circles; rivers and lakes; mountain tops and caves; and the sacred groves of oak, yew, and European cedar.  Remembering my ancestry, the sacred oak groves, and our painful encounter with colonization has catalyzed a deeper empathy in me for the indigenous people of Canada.  Reclaiming the history of my bloodline has taught me that both cultures share a past story where ancestors were poisoned by those who believed in cultural supremacy.  Some of my ancestors too were stripped of their mother-tongue, earth-based languages, spirituality and cultural identity, it just happened so long ago that we’ve nearly forgotten about it…I know I had.

Similar life experience is not necessary for practicing empathy, but it can deepen one’s sense of connection and care, of responsibility.  Today is Orange Shirt Day and regardless of whether we can relate to the traumas experienced by the indigenous peoples of Canada or not, it is a day for us to remember our nation’s unjust past, and to take responsibility for restorative justice.  Every child and every one has the right to cultural freedom.  The teachings of interdependence, reciprocity and connectivity, seen in earth-based, animistic cultures that all humans descend from (at some point in their ancestry) and more strongly in the greater-life affirming teachings of Mother Earth and our ecology remind us that ‘Variety is the spice of life’. Diversity informs relationship and reciprocity, which leads to creativity and sustainability.  We are all in this together, and our differences (cultural and otherwise) not only keeps things interesting, but literally keeps us alive, and allows the creative story of evolution and life on this planet to continue in a good way.

Here’s to remembering the history and ancestors of this place, to remembering the history and ancestors of the places we all come from, and to using our stories and remembering as means for making things right.

Peace

Hera: Transmuting our Story of Victimhood

Send us your best photos of nature!(also published by awarehousebooks.com)

The story of Hera we generally hear is of a shrew: that of an “argumentative, nagging, and ill tempered” Goddess.  Not only that, but in Greek mythology she is portrayed as vindictive and vengeful, a victimized personality whose need for fidelity is continuously violated by her husband’s infidelity.  Hera’s mythologies include countless examples of her taking her pain out on the other woman, Goddesses and mortals whom Zeus has either seduced or raped.  The reader often feels aghast by her ruthless and violent ways, appropriately analysing her actions as cowardly, misdirected, and down right mean, especially when she punishes those who’ve already been violated.  The sad truth that aspects of Hera’s myths serve to highlight the pattern of victim blaming that still exists in modern-day society is an important one to understand and grow beyond; however, exploring that aspect of Hera’s myths is beyond the scope and intention of this blog.  Calling on the support and wisdom of Hestia, Goddess of the Sacred Hoop, I’d like to offer a focus on how Hera, as an archetype that lives in all of us, expresses an essential medicine that can help us move beyond our inherited stories of victimhood and into a wavelength of mutual empowerment, and the practice is called commitment to love, aka The Sacred Marriage. 

The concept of the Sacred Marriage and mutual empowerment has been increasingly explored in each of these Goddess blogs.  Without a doubt, it is the end I’ve had in mind from the outset, and thus it has bled its way colorfully into each of my creative pieces.  But how specifically does Hera inform this vision of mutuality?  Hera, along with Demeter and Aphrodite express the three central points of the Great She.  Where Demeter represents the She that is manifest, the Is of being (Is-is…Isis), and Aphrodite the great stir that is attraction and alchemical transformation, Hera represents the power of partnership, the necessity and reality of polarity and complimentary duality.  The difference between a Hera refracted through a patriarchal lens, versus liberated in free consciousness, is that in the first frame we get the portrait of a vengeful shrew, and in the second the ecstatic lover for immaculate co-creation to be and become.  Hera’s potency reflects the same qualities engendered to Mother Mary, the archetypal wedded-Feminine who co-creates immaculately with God.  The fact that we frequently misunderstand the archetype of Mary is of the same reason we misrepresent Hera; both Goddesses are portrayed through the purview of patriarchy.

What feels disappointing about the Greek Hera myths is the way they set the feminine up to fulfill the self-serving belief system of the ideology filtering the story (“the hand who holds the pen writes history”- Collette, 2018 movie).  Patriarchy is premised on the belief that the masculine is dominant by design, and Greek mythology is set up to affirm this.  Two of the three central aspects of the feminine, in Greek mythology, are the “vulnerable goddesses [who] were victimized… [and who] showed psychiatric symptoms” (p. 135).  We can see this reinforced in stories where Hera acts out her anger and pain “irrationally”, taking her unruly emotion out on the other woman.  These stories and their consequences are in harm-ony with the frequent and harm-ful judgement that having a uterus means your inclined to emotional excess and instability (including the risk of hysteria, which was once the main rational for removing a woman’s uterus: hysteria-ectomy).  However, is it fair to expect either of the polarities, be it the Feminine or Masculine, to behave well and healthy in a diseased paradigm?  And this is just what a patriarchy is, an expression of imbalance.  In almost all Greek myths neither Gods nor Goddesses behave optimally, and so perhaps we should interpret these myths for what they truly are: cautionary tales whose wisdom provide insight on how NOT to be, as well as the consequences of agreeing to an imbalanced paradigm to start with.

So, if we choose to interpret these tales as cautionary, how do we take positive action to create the outcome we desire?  Firstly, we need to accept, feel, discern, and honor the feelings these stories manifest in us.  Then, from this living awareness we can become conscientious objectors, say “No” to the diseased paradigm, and set our intention to open our consciousness to the new stories, mythologies and ways of being that honor the Sacred Marriage: balance and respect between the complimentary opposites, and thus mutual empowerment.  There’s also a good chance we will need to be the change and live with purpose to co-create an entirely new mythology based on these core values.  At the end and beginning of the day, we will need to choose to stand firmly in our resolve to grow beyond the power over/under, aggressor/victim model that the imbalanced system (be it a patriarchy or matriarchy) set us up for.

Hera, as a Goddess of marriage, carries with her a healing remedy: the medicine of Love & Commitment.  The essence of marriage is an agreement between beings who commit to love.  Erich Fromm in his book “The Art of Loving” states: “Love is a decision, it is a judgement, it is a promise.  If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever”.  In talking about marriage and love, I am by no means predominantly referring to the “I Do’s” stories; I’m also talking about the commitment to loving our selves, our personal commitment to love the life and time we’ve been giving.  I’m talking about the commitment to love this planet, and humanity, nature, and all our relations.  Fromm goes on to say: “The main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism”.  For me, this echoes the definition of love offered by Dr. Marshal Rosenberg, author of Living Nonviolent Communication.  He offers that “Love is not denying ourselves and doing for others; rather, it is honestly expressing whatever our feelings and needs are and empathically receiving the other person’s feelings and needs” (my emphasis).  A commitment to love means a commitment to seeing and feeling our own needs, but not at the cost of other’s by being complacent, self-centered and wedded to righteous indignation.  A commitment to love means agreeing to co-create a win-win reality, believing that coherence is possible, and remembering that Love is the true center of the universe.  Though we each are a precious part of this Love and Universe, so is everything and everyone else.  We are unique but of equal value.  This is the essence of why we need to transmute our story of aggressor and victim, because the truth is if you lose, so do I.  The only way to win is if all our relations abide in peace, if we commit to love within and between us.

 

May all beings be happy,

May all beings be safe,

May all beings be peaceful,

May all beings be free.

 

Love and Peace,

Jenelle Finch

The Mother Force: what can Gaia and Uranus teach us about Right Relationship?

fruitlovers.comIn our last blog we focused on Hestia as an intentional and safe gateway for encountering God and Goddess forces.  As such, I’d like to begin this installment by calling on Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth Fire, to make sacred our encounter with Gaia and her creation myth, the beginning of Greek mythology.

At this point in our blog series, some of you may be wondering “why focusing solely on the Greek Mythos?”.  To be sure, there are countless other Goddess archetypes and mythologies we could explore and learn from.   What inspires my choice is Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, as I recently completed a 10-week online course with her via the Shift Network, and read her book: “Goddesses in Everywoman” (available at Aware House Books).  Through her work I’ve come to understand a major healing potential we, modern-day seekers, can glean from Greek mythology: to learn about and work through our current patriarchal reality in order to reinstate right relationship between the masculine and feminine within and all around.  Like the Greek Goddesses, many of the systems and patterns we grow and live through are informed by masculine dominion over the feminine.  Although I personally long to evolve beyond this lop-sided expression of reality, I also appreciate that by-passing this reality and the process work surrounding it is a dead-end illusion.  The only true way out is through, and as such my hope is that these Goddess blogs will support our facing the dragon on our doorstep, in order to heal from it and release its dominion over our psyches.  Remember, lived-experience is paramount to personal growth, so use these myths and their archetypes to notice how they show up in and affect your life… and specifically in power struggles.  Pay attention to how and where the wisdom and lessons offered by the archetypal forces can shine light on ways to reclaim a power-with attitude, transmute harm and/or hurt that lingers from previous wounds, and most importantly show you a way to move forward and create a love-filled and wisdom-informed life/love story.

In today’s blog we explore one of the great She myths of the Greek mythos, the birth place of all Gods and Goddess to follow.  Within such a legend we may uncover the original germination of our personal and collective dragon, the patriarchy.  I hope it’s obvious by now, that in suggesting we face our demons, I’m not pointing us towards slaying them.  “Slaying” is the reactionary pathology that lies at the heart of all unnecessary suffering and violence in our world and is the attitude I’m hoping we can collectively evolve from.  Slaying is the prerogative of the hero, the champion whose quest is to seek out and destroy the dragon, snake, devil, gorgon, monster or demon alike.  These conquer myths highlight an original wound and mistreatment of what can be summed up as the feminine, specifically Her dark side.  That wild, beastly, instinctive, sensual, sexual, chaotic, untameable force that scares the bee-gees-us out of the part of our psyches that longs for power, control, and dominion has led to the misjudgment and ruthless violence towards the feminine.  Misunderstanding the yin, death, negative, animal, and earthly side of life, perceiving it as debase, wrong, or evil has resulted in millennia of harmful attitude and action towards what is essential and fundamental for reality, creation, and transformation to continue and prosper.  This pathological attitude is reflected in all myths and legends where the personified form of this dark feminine force, which is typically casted as a dragon, snake, gorgon, or other greatly feared beast, is hunted down and slayed by none other than the hero.  These myths point to our past and present power-over/under, patriarchal predicaments, where we find individuals, communities or societies consistently seeking harmful dominion over the feminine principal.

The truth that is often too hard for a control-oriented ego to bear is that the same life-giving mother is not only a womb, but also a tomb.  The dark side of the mother, the side that supports death and breakdown is no less loving than the light side that supports birth and becoming.  Love knows when it’s time for summer and when winter is essential.  Motherly love does not love one of her children more than another but accepts and welcomes both to the banquet of life.  Individuals and cultures where left-brain approaches, control, and linear perspectives are overly emphasized struggle to develop right relationship with this holistic nature of the feminine.  And this is where the medicine of the heroine is so poignant.  The heroine’s core attitude is one of surrender and acceptance; the heroine wins by relinquishing the false-god of complete control, and is thus able to accept, engage and integrate the birth-life-death rhythm of Mother Nature.  This holistic perspective enables each part of the heroine’s life story and experiences to be valued, revered and more conscientiously related to, even Loved.  Each season of the year, each member of the ecosystem, whether parasite or lion, play an essential role in creating new possibilities, complexities, and beauty afforded by change.  The heroine reminds us that we are here to evolve beyond a “slay it” attitude and can teach us a healthier way to relate to the Great Mother.

So how do we apply the heroine’s attitude to the patriarchy?  If each part belongs, am I suggesting we need to learn how to conscientiously relate to and even Love the patriarchy?  Believe it or not, I am!  But here me out.  For starters, to understand what I’m suggesting, we must first have a clear definition of Love.  I am not implying a naïve, passive, or immature version of love.  The type of love I’m referring to is True Love, Love that is both wise and compassionate.  Wisdom without compassion becomes stone-cold, heartless action; and compassion without wisdom becomes bleeding-heart martyrdom.  The heroine’s quest is to learn how to wisely Love the hero, the dragon, and the ego self.  The heroine’s quest is to surrender to the reality that each archetype and character belongs, and following on the heels of acceptance, learn how to wisely relate to, work with and integrate each force.  As heroines, we’re not here to kill off that which challenges us, we’re here instead to shift our perspective and relationship with it.  A quote from Carlos Castenada comes to mind: “A warrior doesn’t see life as good things and bad things, a warrior sees things as challenges, simple.”.  Our challenge is to “meet each other in a field beyond all notion of right and wrong” (Rumi), and to simply take the encounter as a challenge.  The warrior of conquest sees these challenges as opportunities to prove his/her ranking, the warrior of Love sees the challenges as opportunities to become whole (whole is synonymous with heal) and evolved (evolve, evol ve, love ev).  To better understand what I’m suggesting, let’s look at the Greek creation myth of Gaia.

In the beginning, there was chaos.  Within chaos was a mess of matter and space, and a complete lack of order.  And since “lack is the essence of need.  Out of that original need came the mother force, Gaia.” (Treasure of Greek Mythology, by Donna Jo Napoli).  Gaia was an attracting, orderly force.  She brought things together, she created order and rhythm, allowing a place for everything, including that of other Gods and Goddesses.  Uranus took form and chose dominion over the Heavens; Pontus reigned over the seas.  Gaia watched as nature took on a life of its own and experienced love.  Gaia longed for a lover of her own and considered her options.  She felt attraction to both Pontus and Uranus, but where Pontus seemed ragging and unsettled to her, Uranus appeared calm and soothing.  She chose Uranus, and between them they had 12 children, the Titans.  One might assume this would have brought as much joy to Uranus as it did to Gaia, but sadly Uranus experienced his children as a threat.  Their strength and charisma suggested they might surpass his dominion one day, and so he recoiled from them.  Nonetheless, he continued to create new life with Gaia, but as was inevitable, his fear poisoned each successive brood.  First it was the one-eyed cyclops, whose unsightliness, size and power further affirmed Uranus’s fear of his offspring.  Still, he continued to create new life, and the even larger, many-handed ones were born.  Finally, Uranus could bear his fear no longer, and swiftly he caged all his children deep within the body of their mother, Gaia, causing both her and the grown children great pain and suffering.  Although Gaia loved her husband, she knew she had to take a stand against this mistreatment and monstrous behavior.   She rallied the support of Cronus (Saturn), one of her eldest and strongest adult-children, and devised a plan to dethrone and dis-empower Uranus for good.

This first myth shines light on a root cause of power over/under attitudes.  At the heart of most power struggles is fear, and a desire for control.  When faced with fear, as Uranus was, how can we make a healthier choice?  Clearly his fear was a self-fulfilling prophecy, creating and exaggerating the very outcome he wished to avoid.  What I find most fascinating is that Uranus, as an archetype, symbolizes evolution (read up about Uranus Return to learn more about this archetypal force).  It seems insanity that Uranus ever hoped his offspring would fail to surpass him, as the very notion of evolution implies increasing complexity and a movement beyond that which came before.  Uranus’ resistance to the inevitable is a classic example of how resistance creates unnecessary suffering (pain + resistance= suffering, Dr. Rick Hanson).   As warriors of Love, we can be compassionate towards Uranus (and the Uranus-part within our own psyches) who naïvely longs to remain in control and be dominant; however, unlike Uranus, we need to enlist wisdom alongside compassion, and learn to relate to this power hungry part of ourselves in a way that considers not just our selves, but also the need other/s.   We can feel compassionately, and choose our actions wisely, and this True Love approach frees us from the harmful outcomes of otherwise wrong-doing in relationship.  What’s wonderful about this, is that since Uranus IS the evolutionary archetype, we can see that his mythology is in truth designed to inspire US to evolve beyond the limits of his-story.  Uranus failed to pause and check his fear-based reactions.  Assuming righteous authority, he acted out his fear and harmed not only his children and his lover, but also himself.  His-story makes clear that fear, inspired by ego-centered, power-over desire is unhealthy, and grandfather Sky/Heaven/Uranus shares with us his-story so that we can evolve beyond it!

So, if a lop-sided history doesn’t work, would it be safe to assume a lop-sided her-story might?  Although at times the pendulum does need to swing, and sometimes far, in the opposite direction in order to establish balance, I’d like to suggest we’ve learned enough from our fore-bearers to evolve beyond their lop-sided stories, and intentionally shift towards creating a third, more holistic way.  The family history that follows on the heels of Gaia and Uranus’s story clearly outlines that until we seek out the root cause of our attitude pathology of dominion, history or herstory will simply repeat themselves.  As the Greek Gods and Goddess family tree continues, we find the story of Cronus, whose fear of being overcome by his offspring inspires him to swallow them.  Clearly the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, when the lineage of suffering continues with Zeus, who, after overcoming his father Cronus, he sadly models after his ancestors when, shortly after claiming the almighty throne on Olympus, he marries Metis and a first sign that she is with child, he not only devises a plan to swallow the baby, but swallows the mother to evade being surpassed by his children…

I think this last tale points to exactly where we are at in our collective evolution, on this planet.  Patriarchy and male-dominance over the feminine sees us swallowing the planet, our mother earth, by over consuming her resources, possibly to the point of making void her potential to continue her creation stories.  Ancient Greek mythology provides a reflecting pool for us to see clearly the misery we’re currently imparting with wrong relationship attitude and behavior towards the feminine.  At the heart of this dis-ease is our over developed left-brain and its exaggerated fear towards the Mother Force, especially that aspect of Her that promises death alongside Her gift of life.  Modern medicine and its fanatical obsession with death as the enemy is a poignant example of our lop-sided approach to the birth-life-death reality.  The question for us all to sit with is how can we face our fear of death?  Can we find a way to be compassionate and loving towards the feelings death engenders (such as fear, sadness, aversion, and grief), and then choose to enlist wisdom as skillful means to integrate, respect and deeply honor death?  Death and all the dark aspects of the feminine are as essential and foundational to the great love story and web of life as the light.  It’s up to us to find a heroinic way to be with and wisely face that which we perceive as demonic and terrifying on our very doorsteps.  To find a way to accept, integrate, and then eventually evolve alongside the challenges that face us.

The truth is, in all Greek mythology we barely hear tale or rhyme about the essential divine masculine and/or divine feminine, let alone what right relationship between them looks and feels like.  These stories are generally told in a broken reality, a patriarchy, where there exists a poisonous power imbalance between the masculine and feminine forces.  As hinted to in the first creation myth of Gaia and Uranus, we need to enlist these stories as inspiration for our evolution.  These stories can help us trace our ancestral and archetypal histories and come to see clearly where the seeds of fear and desire for control took hold.  We can then use this awareness, and the feeling-tone of it, to trace this root pathology within our own psyches, and learn to discern where it tempts us to foil our personal vision for a sustainable and loving right relationship.  Although strengthening the feminine within and outside of ourselves is essential to re-establishing balance, I believe attempting to conjure a her-story, one that finds the feminine dominant and/or valued above the masculine is simply more of the same hurt, just a different flavor.  Healing means to become whole, which means we need to integrate the foundational aspects and their complexity, the good, the bad and the ugly, in order to not only survive, but thrive and co-create a better story.  And, in concert with the myth of Psyche and Eros, and the medicine of the heroine’s quest, I believe True Love’s healing will prevail as each of us discover, uncover, recover and then fully express our unique Soul’s story, our individuals “my-story”…our mysteries.

Hestia: The Goddess that Intentionally Makes Sacred

Untitled design (1)

All the Goddesses are inspiringly interesting, but there is something about Hestia that stands her apart from the rest.  In Greek mythology, Hestia is generally recounted as an un-personified Goddess.  Aside from two stories, Hestia is not defined or chiseled by human characteristics; she is instead expressed as an essential flame at the center of a round hearth.  Considering that symbology and characteristics associated with a Goddess tell us something about her specific medicine and power, what then does Hestia, eldest of the Olympians teach us with the Hearth Fire?

To better understand the power of Hestia, lets start by unpacking one of her “personified” myths, the story is of her beginning.  Hestia, first born to Rhea and Kronos, was the first victim of her father’s fear-driven madness.  Immediately after the birth of his children, one by one, Kronos would swallow them in a vain attempt to evade his prophesied doom (that one of his sons would usurp him).  Not only the first swallowed, Hestia was also the last rescued from the dank, intestinal confines.  She was also the only of her siblings who faced the dark digestive tract alone.   This shines light on Hestia’s first teaching, the power of solitude and surrender.  During this time of quiet and lonely incubation, Hestia experienced firsthand the hidden potential of internment and darkness, none other than the restorative and inspiring gifts of solitude.   In order to realize the gift of solitude, Hestia had to practice surrender.  This Hestian medicine is echoed in the Psyche myth (further articulated in the previous Goddess blog: Psyche and the Heroine’s Quest) and is also coherent with the energy of the Hanged Man, of the Tarot deck.  Hestia does not rage against her binds, nor panic or writhe in the noose of constriction.  Instead, her wisdom is to assume a holding pattern, to choose the hold as a meditative embrace; an opportunity to nestle in as a soul hatchling.  As we all know through direct experience, life not only gives us lightness, joy, bliss, summer and spring to explore and live through, it also provides winter, bogs, heaviness, grief, sadness, and stagnation to inspire transformation and release.

Hestia’s main teaching is about the power of being WITH the dark night of the soul, or similar such episodes in life.  Being with what is skillful means to overcome the alternative: being uselessly destroyed or consumed by darkness.  Engaging our binds as a potential, in a wise way, is a powerful way to grow.  In Positive Psychology and Learning Theory terms this is can be thought of as resilience training and even post-traumatic growth.  Hestia teaches us to homeopathically treat stuckness with staying power, to engage and honor stagnation or the noose as a vehicle for transformative process and healing.   We all know that “this too shall pass”, but the trick is not to live through difficult times with numbing resolve and/or escapist techniques.  Of course, this is not always possible, especially in cases of mindless violence and overwhelming trauma, but in otherwise more frequent and healthy experiences of life’s great challenges, what would it be like to engage a Hestian perspective and hold steady within our series of challenges as sacred opportunities?   How different might it be if we stayed and felt fully what IS, instead of numbing out or running away?   The medicine and myth of Hestia’s beginning teaches us the power of presence in both the womb and tomb of life.  She teaches of the discernible value of being WITH pain, confinement, pressure, darkness versus trying to escape it.  Hestia’s power is the BE HERE NOW mantra, choosing to trust life as a sacred pilgrimage of opportunity, transformative process and essential wholeness/holiness.

Aside from her teachings regarding equanimous presence, Hestia herself represents the art and power of making sacred our lives and our work.  To intentionally make sacred is paramount to empowered choice, responsibility, and, I believe, our safety (especially if we choose to life our lives or do our work in the realm of God/Goddess/Divine forces/powers.  Hence why I am introducing Hestia now, before we meet any of the other Goddesses!).  Being an individual who intentionally and consciously works in the spiritual realm, as a shamanic practitioner and yoga therapist invoking Hestia and her symbol (the hearth fire) to open sacred space is essential to my work’s efficacy and safety.  The dangers of contacting God/Goddess power outside of sacred space is made explicit to us through countless myths and stories.  Medusa immediately comes to mind, as does Psyche, both young women of unprecedented beauty, who unintentionally and innocently invoked jealous rage from Goddesses, who inflicted terrible misery on both.  All this drama happened outside the protection of sacred space.  Or think of all the stories of mortal women who undeservedly elicited the wrath of Hera, after Zeus, Hera’s philandering husband, seduced, raped, and/or impregnated them.  All these dreadful stories ring warning bells as per the risks associated when mortals and God/Goddess relate and connect outside of Hestia’s helm.  On the contrary, countless stories and ancient (and modern) rites tell of the uplifting potential of contacting divine energy WITHIN sacred spaces, temples or anywhere where sacred space has been intentionally invoked.  So, what makes one space sacred, and another not?  I believe it is Hestia.

Remember, aside from two stories, Hestia is not personified.  Unlike her siblings, she is abstract, more an idea, a symbol, an essence, than she is a character.  In truth, there is something essential to Hestia, as implied by her symbology.  (Small side note here, unpacking Hestia’s potency, in its entirety, is a quest I am NOT endeavoring to complete with this blog; I do hope my perspectives catalyzes your own synthesis and expansion of her meaning and medicine.)  This essential quality is reflected in mythology and ancient Greek practices, as Hestia sat, the sacred flame, at the center of every God and Goddess’s temple.  She received the first offering of every ceremony and ritual, and appropriately so, as she is also the eldest, first in the order of Olympians.  Hestia’s presence commands order, she is the initial, the threshold and gateway for sacred communion between divine and mortal.

Taking a closer look at her symbology, fire is often a metaphor for spiritual consciousness, or even Great Spirit itself.  The rest of her symbol, the center of the round hearth, shows that Hestia is also a space holder, a specific location and shape.  Space itself is often depicted as the equal and other half to Great Spirit, as the Great Void (even our modern mythology of physics acknowledges space and light as the essential creation beings).  So, Hestia is a metaphor that translates the Great Spirit, as the light of consciousness, and the Great Void, as the space of consciousness, into a safe space and threshold for us mortals to intentionally contact these divine powers.  In the end, it all comes down to intentionality, and holding the image of Hestia, as an alchemical key, enables us to open sacred space, and empower our work and lives in a sacred AND safe way.  Hestia, of course, was not just the keeper of the temples, she was also Goddess of the common home’s hearth.  Hestia and her sacred making can be invoked in ritual, ceremony, and also around our dinner tables, or anywhere that we intentionally invite her presence and helm to do our good work.

Hestia is a Goddess and essential symbol that unifies the ethereal divine Light/Space with the definable, individual flame/hearth.  She is an “in-between” or unification metaphor, which in and of itself can inspire contemplative reflection on what she is ultimately mirroring for us (hint, hint, Psyche and the Heroine’s quest is an example of this reflected potential).  Regardless of her potency as a metaphor, Hestia, as the wisdom keeper of the threshold and of the sacred flame provides us with power to call on and intentionally make sacred our work.  It seems no coincidence, that cross-culturally a candle, fire, or flame is lite to initiate sacred work.  Whatever we want to call it, this power of intention, evoked when lighting our candles, makes sacred our work.  I am calling this power Hestia, and I am grateful for knowledge of Her to help all of us learn to walk in beauty in an intentional and sacred way.

Psyche and The Heroine’s Quest

Untitled design

In concert with the Hearth Fire: Re-Ember Your Soul’s Truth group that I’m currently facilitating, I’m writing a monthly Goddess blog to correspond with the course content.  Each month we will meet a new Goddess, her mythology and symbology.  Hearth Fire’s intention is to explore how these myths and powerful symbols relate to and inform our lives.  How we at times can experience ourselves as unconsciously overpowered by such forces, and also how we can intentionally cultivate the Goddesses’ unique wisdom and medicine.

In the future, I plan to unveil a downloadable online course that enables participants all over the world to directly engage and experience the Hearth Fire way.  Until then, you are invited, via these blogs, to explore each month’s theme alongside the group.

(An aside, Aware House Books, in Regina, is also publishing this Goddess Blog monthly, as a wonderful collaboration we are both excited to be endeavoring.)

My intention with this blog, and those proceeding it, is to introduce archetypal forces, via Goddess mythology, to support contemplation of how these forces show up in and effect our lives.  My hope is that through awareness of such forces we can liberate our individual psyches and learn to live in co-creative harmony with Goddess forces, never extinguishing our unique voice in service of theirs.  So, kicking off this monthly Goddess blog series, I’d like to start with the end in mind and introduce the story of Psyche and Eros.  This myth, as a template of the heroine’s quest, is particularly useful for modern day seekers.  But before we go delving into the mythological goods, it is paramount we first do a little housecleaning.  To get the goods from these blogs its best to untangle any binds in the mind that exclusively yoke the feminine with women, and the masculine with men.  This may or may not be news to you, but men and women both contain feminine and masculine qualities.  And though in the Psyche myth we consider the female protagonist as the model of the feminine, ultimately, we want to integrate her heroinic example into each of our lives: men, women, and all genders alike.   So, with all that in mind, let me introduce the story of Psyche and Eros.

Psyche was a young woman of unparalleled beauty.  Her beauty inspired the mortals of her time to forget their homage and sacrifices to Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty.  This unprecedented praise for mortal beauty invoked the jealous rage of Aphrodite, and Psyche not only found herself condemned to what appeared to be her death, but alas also faced with a series of impossible tasks that, in the end served as rites of passage for her to claim her divinity.  Psyche’s story is that of initiation and realization of one’s innate divinity.  This feat of Psyche, a mere mortal activating and claiming her place amongst the Gods and Goddesses, is of extraordinary importance for our own souls’ journey.  No coincidence then, that the word psyche means soul in Greek.  Psyche’s myth plants the seed of possibility in the garden of our souls, as to what is conceivable for us in realizing our own innate divinity.

Psyche and Eros’s myth is nuanced, thick with meaning and metaphor, and can hardly be done justice, as a story well told, in the context of this blog.  And because of that reality, I STRONGLY recommend sourcing the book “Amor and Psyche”, by Erich Neumann, to get a fuller handle on it.  But, for now, let it be sufficed to relay that it was Psyche’s commitment to love, and a hopeful reunion with Eros- God of Love, that models for us the essence of a heroine’s quest: a unique quest that it is essential we endeavor to understand.  The way of the heroine is like that of the hero in that both are active seekers.  However, they differ in that where the hero is typically motivated by the opportunity to conquer, revenge, or prove himself, the heroine is inspired by a longing for union, reunion, passion, and ultimately love.  Psyche’s quest leads to a relationship of conscious co-creativity between human and divine.  Yes, one of her super powers is being persistent and committed to her mission, but instead of choosing to slay, force, or actively assert her power over (as the hero typically does), she models the way of receiving support, and actively surrendering to something bigger and beyond her limited and determined mind.  Her journey shows us the power of letting go of willful control, listening to the ethereal deep, and holding true to one’s courage, beyond all rational, until something greater and mysterious comes to the rescue.

*It is at this point in the blog, I recommend you google search, and play the song “We Don’t Need Another Hero”, by Tina Turner, for affectual resonance. *

Another specifically feminine aspect of Psyche’s quest is how she responds to defeat and dead-ends.  Frequently met by insurmountable challenge, she typically crumbles into a pathetic heap, not very heroic, I know.  Her surrender to defeat, however, is in perfect concert with her feminine quality.  Now hold up, wha!?  I know, I hear ya Sister!  As a strong and fierce feminine force myself, there is a loud voice in me that reels at such a statement.  The idea that pathetic desperation could be considered perfectly feminine feels nothing less than the sad and typical masochistic attempt of a long entrenched patriarchal mindset aimed at relegating the feminine, and thus women, to the lesser side.  However, this is where learning about archetypal Goddesses has been useful!  I’ve come to recognize that it is none other than the honorable voice of Artemis, and/or Athena, within my own consciousness whom rejects the qualities of vulnerability, and thus feels little resonance with the desperate feminine expressed through Psyche.  (We’ll learn more about Artemis and Athena in later blogs).  The truth, albeit uncomfortable for the Artemis and Athena in me to bear, is that surrendering to defeat is a potent medicine that Psyche, in her feminine perfection, brings to the table.  And, as prescribed, this remedy relentlessly brings Psyche to her knees, and reliably opens her heart to the wisdom of the Deep Feminine, the Mysterious Mama, the Great Goddess within.

Psyche’s myth also brings to light the importance of embodying our divinity and making holy our humanity, the outcome of which naturally gives way to Joy (who is the aptly named love child of Psyche and Eros).  Although the myth of Psyche takes place in a story world of dynamic, external relationships, the story is ultimately a path-work for the sacred marriage within, and its potential outcome.  The end of the myth, which is also the promised beginning of joy, is the blessed result of such sacred union.  Joy is what is possible when co-creation exists between two mutually empowered, mutually embodied, and mutually divined partners.  Psyche’s heroinic mission not only activates her own divinity, but also initiates the humanity of Eros, awakening the God of Love to his personal love of Psyche, and the soul.  This story teaches of the uplifting power of uniting our inner masculine with our inner feminine, and our inner divinity with our ultimate humanity.

Embodying our unique and divine soul is key to a life of joyful mystery, and the myth of Psyche and Eros is just the template we’re looking for.  Integrating their story helps us to better engage our own quests, as the heroes and the heroines of every day living.  Although there is value in continuing to learn from the hero’s quest, I hope this blog has inspired a remembering of the wisdom and potency of the heroine’s quest.  The medicine of surrender, the need to listen to the wisdom of the Deep, and the quest inspired by love and union are essential remedies for our time.  How many of us have felt at our wit’s end, having tried EVERY possible, thinkable, rational option to solve a major life dilemma, only to find ourselves pathetically and desperately on our knees, humbled by an insanity that there is no solution in sight?  It is here, in a tantrum of madness, wallowing in the muck, filth, and muddiness of our own hellish bottom, that the heroine can come to our rescue.  With her, we remember, there is only one thing left to do: let go.  Then, surrendered, laying belly to belly and heart to heart with the Earth, we can begin to hear a deeper wisdom, and feel Her eternal beat.  Fed by a previously unthinkable source, we begin to crawl, feel, and find our way forward, through, and miraculously out of the mysterious dark.  Psyche’s myth models the honorable, though oft times irrational, way of the feminine.   The Feminine, the Great Mother, in Her essence is a mystery, which generally evokes all sorts of rational resistance.  But, She is patient and persistent, Her’s is no rush and all trust.  She is not fighting time, nor us, and there is no bottom below Her for us to hit, and no height above her for us to escape to.  She waits with loving, open arms, and Psyche’s myth shows us a way to consciously engage, as we walk, yes blindly, but all the more wisely through the mystery towards joy.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Psyche story bite.  I invite you to tune back each month, as we continue to traverse the realms of the Goddess to help us discern the differences between archetypal forces and our own unique soul.  Until next time, many blessings and be well.

Sincerely,

Jenelle Finch

 

Modern-day yogi and shamanic practitioner contemplates cultural appropriation

29571421_10150998447624944_5268164462226371783_nI recently participated in a women’s empowerment program at the MacKenzie Art Gallery of Regina.  I found it fascinating that my program: Psyche Soma Yoga, was being offered alongside a First Nation’s traditional healing dance presentation, and a Hindu traditional dance presentation.  Why did I find this fascinating?  Well, the two main-threads I’ve been studying for the past 12+ years have been shamanism and yoga, and my work as a PSYT Facilitator is truly the creative offspring of these two practices.  So, it seemed rather perfect that I was unveiling my creative work, at the art gallery no less, alongside the parent-modalities that have inspired it!

Although that feels quite beautiful and synchronistic, I have to admit that I’ve often felt acknowledging the parent traditions of my creative work edgy.  There is a lot of current awareness, and appropriately so, around the concepts of cultural appropriation, and due to my study paths, and my cultural background, I’m implicated in this conversation, and thus feel invited to contemplate and respond.

Do I have the right to my work?  Who has the right to what traditions?  How do I accept and honor the torches that have ignited me, and still embody the deeper truths they have awakened?   This blog is an attempt to enter a healing conversation around sacred traditions, and our need to consciously remedy underlying suffering and dissonance surrounding the modern day use of them.  This blog is not an attempt to offer a righteous solution, nor to judge, shame, or blame others who’ve previously entered the conversation.  Please do read the intention of peace, compassion, and curiosity between the lines and within them.

Although I’ve intensively studied yoga and shamanism, I am not, and never will be, culturally identified as East Indian, Hindu, First Nations, Indigenous, or Aboriginal.  Although I know for a fact that I too descend from some, if not many, indigenous tribes people from this planet, Earth, who’ve practiced and inherited their own sacred traditions, I do not currently abide on a piece of land that my ancestors were steadfast custodians of, nor do I have connection to bloodline elders who could possibly impart me my birthright sacred traditions. I am a descendant of immigrants, not only to North America, but also to parts of Europe, and main land Eurasia. I come from a long line of peoples who’ve repeatedly had to flee “homeland” due to war, famine, oppression, and/or other life/soul threatening challenges, for generations.  This truth, and the likelihood that so many people on this planet (if not most) descend from similarity traumatized generations, due war and oppression, afford me much compassion to the human experience in general, and especially to those who find themselves orphaned on a life boat void of sacred traditions, unsure of how to start consciously rowing themselves in the direction of the beloved, grace, and the divine.

The first tradition I stumbled on, when starving for the sacred, was yoga.  I came across a hot yoga class, and then an Iyengar yoga class, both of which started me on my path of uncovering the light within, which, although thoroughly buried and refracted, was relentlessly beckoning me home.  However, no matter how deep I went with yoga, I constantly found it left me adrift when it came time to understanding the spiritual content it so willingly helped unpack.  The fact that yoga practiced in the west is oft times denatured from its spiritual roots does not mean its technology is any less potent!  My personal story of a disorienting spiritual awakening, from practicing “westernized” yoga, is not an anecdotal anomaly (here I should have good references for material to find on this subject..which I will edit in eventually, have patience).  Participating in yoga for the lulu-lemon and long, sleek body, did not serve as protection for me from the firm spiritual nudge it ultimately enabled.  And since, the yoga I had access to fell well short of supporting me with integrating and understanding my big spiritual experiences…

The second tradition I stumbled on, when struggling to integrate the spiritual awakening catalyzed by the first tradition I stumbled on, was shamanism.  Shamanism was a life saver, and soul saver. As a clearly spiritually intended practice, it helped me land on my feet and integrate my spiritual aliveness.  I feel I was especially fortunate to find myself in the company of the Foundation of Shamanic Studies, as the foundation is consciously devised to support westerners and other “civilized” people (aka orphans separated from their bloodline sacred traditions) to wake up spiritually.  The foundation teaches de-cultured spiritual technologies, and to learn more about what decultured shamanism is, please read up at http://www.shamanism.org.  The practices shared at the Foundation of Shamanic Studies provided me a firm footing not only with my own inner light, but also with means to access wise, and compassionate beings who can further empower my path for collective, individual, and personal help and healing.

In so many ways, the practices of shamanism and yoga are inherently designed to dethrone any living guru or external authority figure.  They are designed instead to empower the guru and guiding light within, the yogi or shamanic practitioner are empowered to skillfully navigate the oh-too-common politics of human power-struggle, and as sacred warriors they are ultimately informed by, and embody a direct-line connection to the divine, the light of truth within (which is of course found in every being, animate or otherwise).

Knowing that this is the root of all sacred traditions, to invoke loving kindness, wise compassion, and skillful means in it’s practitioners, I do find some of the rhetoric around cultural appropriation often a disservice to the integrity and intention of the practices the arguments deem to defend, or protect.  I think it’s possible that the underlying dissatisfaction and anger these arguments point to has less to do with the cultural-identity of the seekers who engage and employ (or are employed by) them, and more so about the pathology that finds it’s roots in competition, comparison, consumerism, capitalism, and in general the “us vs. them” mentality, which is making us all sick.  Is it helpful for us to pick up stones to shame or blame anyone along their path of becoming…the same path we are all on?  The deepest truth, spiritual, scientific or otherwise, is that we are all one.  We all descend from this planet, this galaxy, this universe, this time-space continuum.  Whether we like it or not, we are all related and connected.  All lines drawn are continued misperceptions and misconceptions that only fuel further war on ourselves.

My vote is that more and more we enter healing conversations, where we practice the art of sacred listening and mutual respect.  Hearing one another’s pain, longing, confusion, clarity, and humanness as catalysts to embody the healing balm of loving kindness we can afford each other.  This is achieved with a willingness to learn, grow, and heal as a collective, leaving all of us on each other’s side.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.” -Rumi

Developing Self-Edgency

I’m a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist, and lets be honest, the title invites a certain level of mythical curiosity.  What does it mean when you’re not only a Yoga Therapist, but a Phoenix Rising one?

The legend of the phoenix is a curious tale, and like all tales, it is known to have several divergent versions, depending on which continent, and in which culture you find yourself.  My interpretation of the phoenix legend is that of a story of conscious transformation: of conscious dying and conscious birth.  In most tales, the phoenix emerges from the destructive flames alive, alight and soaring, wholly transformed from its original state.  However, the phoenix is not a passive recipient of change, but instead seen to be a conscious choice-maker, who appreciates and values the fire as a catalyst for its own essential becoming.  

Understood this way, we get a hint for why we’re called Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist, as the phoenix is a symbol of intentional transformation, of enlightenment grounded in conscious choice-making.  This is what Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is all about.
But where, you might ask, does this promise for transformation abide in our normal, day to day lives?  How can we recognise the ripe possibilities for change while folding the laundry, getting to work, and feeding the cats?  Well, in all your edges of course!

Our “edges” are places of discomfort in life, places where we feel stuck, or places we fear-avert from, places of triggering, disharmony, and general dis-ease in life.  Dissonance can be our best sign post towards finding the potential for a phoenician transformation in life.  But, the catch is, they need to be engaged consciously if they are to lead us towards a sense of self agency…aka Self Edgency!  

When we choose to step into whatever frightens us about our selves, our relationships, our experience (emotionally, physically, psychologically, and/or spiritually), we begin to employ courage and curiousity, two necessary allies for facing our shadows.  And, good news, this is where employing a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist can be an act of wise, self-compassion.   There’s no need to recklessly throw ourselves into the belly of our internal beasts, and furthermore a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist is specifically trained to hold space for your Self Edgency and Transformation, without interFEARING (which is typically what most your well intended friends and family inadvertently do).   Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapists tend to be pretty good at supportin* an embodied experience of transformation because a) they’ve likely already walked through their own phoenetic fire, and b) they’ve been trained to.

Walking consciously, and skilfully into self-transformation is, to say the least, an enlightening and empowering experience.  And thus, it’s no surprise the work has been aptly named after such a magical, and mythical creature.

 

Healthy Connections, Clear Boundaries

Reflecting on my Camino-in-Writing blog post of a year ago, I am reminded of the intricate balance between feeling connected to others, and still having clear boundaries between us.  The art of intimacy in relationship is one I will forever be unfolding in, and although it would seem like a contradiction, I find the clearer my boundaries are in relationship, the more intimacy is afforded.

Clear boundaries help us discern the difference between what we are feeling, and what someone else is feeling.  This might sound like a ridiculous statement, to assume that people can feel what others are feeling, but the concept of being overtly empathic is not a new one.  It becoming more and more recognized that  some individuals are highly sensitive (HSP), not just to their physical environments, but also to the emotional, psychological, and spiritual surrounds.  Whether these sensitivities are the result of a type of pathology or simply as a quality or attribute that someone have is undetermined, and perhaps only relevant to how we approach and integrate, or treat, these empathic experiences.  Many people, wittingly or unwittingly, are getting around not only with leaky gut syndrome, but also with leaky emotional processors.

Personally speaking, as I’ve come to self-recognize and self-honor, I’ve realized what is necessary for me to not only heal my physical “leaks” and wounding, but to also heal my my emotional leaks and wounds.  This quite literally has seen me embodying a clearer, more discernible, and self-aware boundary, including a healthier digestive tract boundary, which in turn enables me to pursue sustainable intimacy.  I have come to realize the vital difference between my initial behavior of getting to know someone via empathic digestion of their emotional and psychological content, versus now simply seeing, hearing, and knowing another all the while behaving more so in a way that has me reflecting them back to themselves, and resisting the temptation to take personally any of their behavior.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve mastered this way of being, but I’m much more aware of it, and of the gifts of healthy connection and boundaries it enables.