Posted in General Interest

Creating Sacred Space by Honoring the Earth

Today is the People’s Climate March. All across the globe, people are gathering, praying, chanting, and yes! marching! in the hopes that the world’s leaders will hear the call to create safe and sane policies that will ensure the future of the earth. Protecting the earth/cosmos through concern about the changing climate is sacred. It is my contention that to enter sacred space is to enter healing space

Sacred: late 14c., past participle adjective from obsolete verb sacrento make holy” (c.1200)

Holy: Old English halig “holy, consecrated, sacred, godly,” from Proto-Germanic *hailaga- (cognates: Old Norse heilagr, Old Frisian helich “holy,” Old Saxon helag, Middle Dutch helich, Old High German heilag, German heilig, Gothic hailags “holy”). Adopted at conversion for Latin sanctus.  Primary (pre-Christian) meaning is not possible to determine, but probably it was “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated,” and connected with Old English hal (see health) and Old High German heilhealth, happiness, good luck

I would like to share a reading from John Cobb, a Process Theologian:

from Is It Too Late?  by John B. Cobb, Jr.
It is the belief in this Spirit, the giver of life and love, that is the basis of hope. In spite of all the destructive forces we let loose against life on this planet, the Spirit of Life is at work in ever new and unforeseeable ways, countering and circumventing the obstacles we put in its path. In spite of my strong tendencies to complacency and despair, I experience the Spirit in myself as calling forth the realistic hope apart from which there is no hope, and I am confident that what I find in myself is occurring in others also.

Since what makes for life and love and hope is not simply the decision of one individual or another, but a Spirit that moves us all, I do not have to suppose that my own efforts are of great consequence in order to believe them to be worthwhile. I can recognize that they may even be futile or misdirected and still persist in them as long as no clearer light is given, for I see what I do as part of something much greater, something in which all persons participate to whatever extent they sensitively respond to the insights and opportunities that come their way. Belief in the Spirit is belief that I am not alone, that in working for life and love in hope, I am working with something much greater than myself, that there are possibilities for the future that cannot be simply projected out of the past, that even my mistakes and failures may be woven into a healing pattern of which I am not now aware.

Belief in the Spirit is no ground for complacency. There is no guarantee that people will respond to the Spirit’s prompting in sufficient numbers and with sufficient sensitivity to begin the healing of the planet. But there is the possibility. The future can be different from the past. Therefore there is hope. Where there is life, there is hope.

Today, my hope for you is that you will have hope. Hope in a sacred, healing space that encompasses not just you. Not just your neighbor. But the entire planet and planets! All beings and non-beings. All life and even non-life — even rocks. And with that thought, I will share this photo of church signs (it is an urban myth thanks to the online church sign maker, but it makes me smile every time!)

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Shalom,

terri

terrisignoffblog

Posted in Disability, Essay, General Interest, memoir, Mental Health, Michael Watson

The Olympics, Polio, and the Medicine Wheel, Part One

Snowy-MorningEditor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part piece on Perfectionism originally posted on Dreaming the World. Part II will post here tomorrow.

I am an elder, and as such I am given the task of teaching and supporting the young. On the Medicine Wheel of this lifetime I am in the Northwest, the place of honoring the challenges of my life, understanding them as best as I am able, and sharing what I have learned with others. Perhaps you will share your thoughts about the experiences I share below; I would greatly value that.

We, along with many others, spent a good deal of time during the past two weeks watching the Olympics. Over time we noticed, especially from NBC’s coverage, that the commentators seem to believe winning and perfection were all important. This is a sad thing. One does not have to watch much before one becomes aware the announcers are ceaselessly pointing out errors and failures. Rather than empathy for the competitors, one is barraged with demands for perfection and minute details about failure to achieve such.  There is very little celebration of the athletes who fail to meet the announcers’ or judges’ criteria.

This hits home on two fronts. The first is cultural. I was raised to appreciate the efforts of all. Winning is fun, but should not shame others. Nor should anyone be left behind after the games are over. Further, perfection was considered suspect. One was advised to build imperfection into one’s art and welcome it in one’s life. After all, we are not the Creator although we are aspects of His/Her creation. Only the Creator can be perfect, and it is likely even S/He makes mistakes; as we are reflective of the Creator this suggests that even mistakes can be good and holy. The unbridled pursuit of perfection endangers the individual and the culture, the community and the ecosystem.

The second part is I am a survivor of Bulbar Polio. My phsysiatrist says I am “a walking quad”; rather than disparaging, this is a simple statement of truth. I have severe neurological injuries; Polio destroyed motor neurons all over my body. My arms and hands have considerably diminished capacity; my legs and feet lack strength and mobility; breathing can be a challenge. I am not perfect by the dominant culture’s standards.

Add to this my Native American heritage and the soup becomes thick indeed. I once heard a man, who understandably thought he was with other Europeans, say something like,  “There is nothing more pathetic than a disabled Indian.”  What are we to do with that? Indeed, what are we to do with NBC’s virtual silence on the topic of the Para-Olympics?

Herein lies the difficulty. One one hand I was encouraged to accept  and honor imperfections. On the other, as a Polio survivor I was taught to do my level best to pass as normal, to overcome limitations, and to forget my illness and its  aftermath. Additionally, as a child in a Native family that was actively passing, I was taught to be invisible, a lesson that surely applied to Polio as well.

It is a profound challenge to resist the limiting messages of our families and the dehumanizing ones of the dominant culture. I have done my best, yet I have also spent much of my life seeking to achieve others’ views of perfection, even though not even normalcy was not an option.This has been painful.

I don’t know whether you have ever thought about the Wounded Healer.  In Traditional cultures ill youngsters are often expected, should they recover, to become healers. I use the term “recovery” loosely. Youngsters who face and survive catastrophic illness may not have the same physical capacities as their normative friends. Yet their illness may also give them abilities and insights not readily available to others. When the child is ill the healers do their best to aid. They also seek to discern the nature of the illness; often such illness are understood to be calls from the spirits, initiations into the realm of healers. When there is a spirit call, training in the healing arts accompanies recovery. The illness frequently leaves a footprint in the life and work of the survivor; he or she becomes a wounded healer, knowledgeable about many of the territories and challenges that accompany illness.

This is a different model than the academic learning focus of the West. Of course, the two paths are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they may intersect, even overlap at times. Both address the needs of the body. Some Western trained healers have adopted the Indigenous understanding that the soul and psyche must also be attended to.  (Milton Erickson, although not to my knowledge Indian, comes to mind as someone who walked both roads well.)

I have come to this point on the Medicine Wheel by living my life from within this severely injured body. This is a sharp contrast to the physically perfection of elite Olympic athletes, or the health and wealth gurus we see on PBS and on innumerable infomercials. The television sages convey the message to us that illness, poverty, loneliness, and all other forms of suffering are moral failures. They do not speak this directly, rather they hold up their carefully managed perfection as a mirror to our human frailties. They offer advice, even salvation; for a fee we can be just like them. But I, and many others, cannot.  The very lifestyles they espouse harm us, and endanger our precious planetary ecosystem and all that lives therein. Where, I wonder is their wisdom and compassion?

We approach the Spring, the East in the Abenaki view of the Medicine Wheel, the place of rebirth and awakening. I am curious how my changing understanding of this beloved, traumatized body will blossom in the coming year.  I wonder whether our culture can set aside the deeply held values of independence, competition, and perfectionism that shaped the  our country (the very ones espoused by those television commentators). Can we own our imperfections, and acknowledge the harm we have inflicted on ourselves and so many others, inside and outside our country? Can we embrace those who suffer illness, poverty, displacement, abuse, or isolation?

As we follow the journey of the sun into the East, we are invited to begin again, to open our eyes and practice compassion and understanding. May we  find the courage to do so.

– Michael Watson, Ph.D.

© 2014, essay and photographs (includes the one below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in Essay, General Interest, Michael Watson

Edge of America

Winter-TwilightThe days are lengthening; the intense cold of the winter thus far has receded for the time being. Overnight a light snow fell, fluffy and bright, the form of snow that arrives with temperatures in the upper 20’s.

Yesterday a Six Nations friend dropped by with a film, Edge of America. I’ve been stuck at home for the past week, following some surgery, and I was beginning to feel a touch of cabin fever. I had managed to go the the university library for 45 minutes and out for a quick cup of coffee earlier in the week, but mostly I have been sleeping and reading.

I had missed the film when it played in the theaters here briefly several years ago. Then, as has been my habit for a number of years, I never got around to borrowing a copy. The plot is pretty basic. A Black man arrives to teach English on the Res, revives the high school women’s’ basketball team (they have not won a game in years), finds a home, and creates the conditions for a good deal of much needed healing. On the road to redemption he tramples all over his team, his friends, the local medicine woman, and his spirit. I sure could relate!

Watching the film I was carried back to my middle school days in rural Illinois where the world turns around basketball and agriculture. I was the manager of the basketball team; when I was in eight grade we won the state tourney in double overtime. The women of our film lose in the state finals (in double overtime) to a team that is racist and represented the very worst of the dominant culture. None-the-less, our heroines are greeted on their return home by the entire Res community. The view of people and vehicles lining the highway brought a flood of memories. (Somewhere I have a memorial book that includes photos of the victory parade. The other team had one, too.)

Just before the team arrives home they have a conversation about winning and losing. They are bitterly disappointed, working hard to resist recriminations. They have lost sight of just how much they have accomplished. The community, however, remembers and reminds them. They are winners.

They are also women. Most of our Indian cultures are women centered; healing arises from the strength and wisdom of women, just as life arose from the sacrifices of Falling Woman. We men are definitely the weaker gender. (Then there are the two-spirits but that is another story.)

Edge of America addresses the hard parts of life on and off the Res: alcohol, violence, poverty, and crushing racism, drawing connections between Indian and Black experience. It also explores the inevitable tension between the healer’s need to remain traditional while nurturing the future. And yes, there is a strong undercurrent of good old Indian spirituality. (There is a priceless scene in which the medicine woman (whose daughter plays for the team) and her friends, are listening to the women’s game on their transistor radio, in a beautiful, spacious, hogan far from anywhere. One of the players has been “witched”, has required a healing ceremony, and now must make crucial free throws. The healer switches from rambunctious fan to medicine person, does what is needed, and returns to fandom, all in maybe 20 seconds.)

So there we sat, two light skinned male Indians who have never lived anywhere close to the Res. We are well in to our sixties, reasonably affluent, over-educated urban professionals. We’re laughing, crying, and hooting for the good guys. (I remember as a kid wanting to be a cowboy so I could win occasionally.) We are also noting the racism and just plain viciousness coming from all the guys: Indian, White, and Black. No holds barred there. At the film’s conclusion I am choked with emotion.

I believe that at the very heart of human experience lies story. Sitting in my living room, wrapped in my electric blanket, gazing at the TV screen, I was blessed to be told a remarkably good story. In the process I was reminded that together a good friend, a community, and a great tale can be remarkably healing. Last night my dreams carried that notion forward. In my dreams the spirits and Ancestors came to remind me that these things are good to live and good to think about. They are indeed profoundly healing.

– Michael Watson, Ph.D.

© 2013, essay and photographs (includes the one below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in Marlene McNew, Poems/Poetry

MARATHON

Our treasured Marlene is not to be undone by Parkinson’s Disease. A former professional accountant, she is a master-level skier, participates in marathons, is an award-winning dancer, paints, writes poetry, and  . . . that’s just the short-story.  J.D.

MARATHON 

by

Marlene G. McNew (Strange Gift)

·

Decay’s process cannot be stopped.
In dark shadows of age, watch illness burn
all signs of pink that we treasure.
We become a residue of memory.

·

Ravaged, by the weight of the thought
we seek a path of the heart
lit by fire that burns within,
the will to endure anything,
a power to persist.

·

A marathon holds a promise of pain,
a challenge built upon reason, a test
for mind and body; a sacrifice
a vow of suffering in the name of hope.

·

A marriage of preparation and outcome,
of cooperation of heart with mind,
it is emergence from a cave,
the acceptance of help.
Is is a war against defeat

·

the making of a miracle.

·

© 2012, poem and video, Marlene’s and Carmen’s photographs, Marlene G. McNew, All rights reserved

Photo credit ~ Athletic Shoes, Vincent van der Heijden via Wikipedia and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0

 

CARMEN McNEW

MARLENE G. McNEW ~ began exhibiting symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (P.D.) eight years ago. Her blog (Strange Gift) is a vehicle for sharing her experiences with P.D. and her many, many interests. She maintains a lovely home in Northern California where she lives with her husband and a much-loved rescued golden retriever, Carmen.

Marlene is a master skier, but for the past several years she’s been able to incorporate into her life increasing involvement in the arts. She expresses her beautiful spirit through poems and paintings.  She also has a strong interest in dance, having been a competition level ballroom dancer.  Other interests include cooking.  

She is currently preparing for a marathon and is registered for the Mighty Mermaid sprint triathlon (1/4 mile open water swim, 12 mile bike, 2 mile run/walk) through Team in Training with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Marlene originally started her blog when she was getting ready for the Nike Women’s Marathon (half marathon walk) and raising funds for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Her YouTube channel is SkiDisiple. J.D.

Posted in Ann Emerson, Buddhism, General Interest

A LITTLE GIFT FROM ANN …

SMILE!

It’s good for your spirit.

Ann found this photograph on CatalystYogi.

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

UNBOUND

They grow together

but they aren’t even fraternal

Body and Soul by Sharon Bryan, Poetry Magazine 2002

UNBOUND

by

Jamie Dedes

he broke the cocoon

tripped into a sea of sky

free to simply be

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

ALL THAT MATTERS

ALL THAT MATTERS

by

Jamie Dedes

Find the body blowing in the wind,

a rag doll to be dusted and draped,

loved with warm baths, oiled with

the scent of lemons, fresh and clean

·

and sat in a chair by a window to

watch the world go by. The zephyr

in the trees rustles like silks once

reserved for proms and weddings.

·

The sound of a car door closing,

no longer a date for dinner out

arriving brushed and blushing. Now

the delivery of air in metal tanks

·

or some other chemical miracle.

Alas and joyfully, we are left to

live a life rich in its simplicity.

Art and kindness call, making for

·

wealth in fact and in deed. The

self-centered life is both unkind

and unhealthy, but poems and

caritas are within the reach of

·

anyone. The tools left now are

old enduring: poetry and charity.

Content! For suddenly by chance

we’re left with all that matters.

·

* caritas  – orthodox Christian concept of compassion, loving kindness, or in Buddhist terms “metta.”

Photo credit – Brunhilde Reinig, Public Domain Pictures.net.