Cultivating Connection, Compassion & Communion
“Mayans don’t wait for a crisis to occur; they make a crisis. Their spirituality is based on choreographed disasters — otherwise known as rituals — in which everyone has to work together to remake their clothing, or each other’s houses, or the community, or the world. Everything has to be maintained because it was originally made so delicately that it eventually falls apart. It is the putting back together again, the renewing, that ultimately makes something strong. That is true of our houses, our language, our relationships.”
Greetings dear people~
These are troubling times for many around the world, and recently for Southern California folks affected by the fires. Although many communities have been facing challenges for some time now - floods, drought, racism, violence, injustices, you name it - this fire is particularly close to home. It is at this time of crisis, and the darkest time of the year in this hemisphere - winter solstice - that I write this newsletter. As we know, times of crisis are also often times of opportunity, and we are certainly being called to wake up to the effects of a world view and way of life which is out of balance with our original instructions and the natural living world.
Fire is an element of purification and transformation, a being of warm heartedness and light. At a gathering I hosted recently to honor grief, many people spoke not only about the fear, loss and instability the fire has ignited, but also the exquisite beauty and the many unexpected gifts - most significantly, people coming together in care and kindness, in our raw humanity, none of us spared the vulnerability, uncertainty and fragility of this precious human life, our need for each other absolutely clear.
We have been living in a time of fear and separation - the delusion that we are separate from each other, the earth, ourselves and the mystery, and we are in trouble. Disconnection is rampant and the symptoms are pervasive. Most of us have been made to feel inadequate and unworthy somewhere along the way, and modern culture thrives on this sense of lack and scarcity and perpetuates the delusion of never being or having enough, which keeps many people from living their purpose. These times call us to remember our divine perfection, our blessings and gratitude, as well as reflect on the ramifications of our individual and collective history and our part in shifting our dominant personal and cultural story from one of fear to a love story - of peace, justice, compassion and communion.
Moving from the old story to the new story entails moving from denial, numbness, and forgetting to feeling, remembering and connection - a process which calls us to be present with grief and pain, to feel and bear witness to the most frightening and challenging aspects of our personal and collective human experience, take responsibility, make amends, offer forgiveness, and join hands with each other in our shared humanity in the spirit of reconciliation. This world is beautiful and holy, and there is much suffering and pain. When one of us is hurting, we all hurt. It is a humbling practice to keep our hearts open to all of what is, with a willingness and commitment to live in right relationship with all beings, and to mend and maintain what has been broken and in need of renewal.
When I saw the words Wild Belonging together, I recognized a practice and way of life I have been devoted to for a long time as well as a prayer for myself and humanity to experience the truth of our existence.
Wild, in the English language, as in untamed, not subject to restraint or regulation, living in a natural state; often referring to natural places with very little human activity. The word, however, is limited, and some indigenous peoples, from my understanding, grounded in an understanding that humans are a part of nature, and we are all related and interconnected, do not have a word for wild. It may be that the word wild co-arose with the concept of domestication.
"....Wherever forests have not been mowed down, wherever the animal is recessed in their quiet protection, wherever the earth is not bereft of four-footed life - that to the white man is an 'unbroken wilderness.' But for us there is no wilderness, nature is not dangerous but hospitable, not forbidding but friendly.... For us, the world is full of beauty; for the other, it is a place to be endured until he went to another world. But we are wise. We know that man's heart, away from nature, becomes hard.”
―Chief Luther Standing Bear
Belonging as we generally understand it, refers to a sense of inherently being a part of something, with a feeling of connectedness and intimate communion.
"True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging does not require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are."
However, longing is the root of the word belonging, and belonging therefore also alludes to an intensified version of our inherent longing; to be set upon by longing. Understood in this way, it is not that we aim to get rid of our longing, but rather acknowledge, honor and welcome longing as natural and a possible gateway to the kindness and humility of a tender heart. Perhaps we may find our way stumbling into wholeness and kinship when we make space for our longing.
My Eyes So Soft
Don't surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice so tender,
My need of God
-Hafiz, trans. Daniel Ladinsky
Many of us have been wounded by shame, abandonment and betrayal. As we practice compassionate listening to ourselves and each other and the sharing of our authentic truths, our hearts soften and we learn not to orient around our wounds in strategic protection, rather with compassion and wisdom begin to embody the knowing that we are much more than our thoughts and feelings might have us believe. This requires trust, vulnerability, courage, awareness and a kind hearted presence to welcome home parts of ourselves and members of our communities that may have been exiled from the embrace of the heart. In this way we participate in creating a culture of communion one relationship at a time.
In permaculture, the places where two ecosystems meet, edges, are the areas of most diversity and abundance. This is true in human and non-human communities alike. Many who feel alienated from mainstream culture, and those who are marginalized due to race, gender, class, or generally not fitting into the narrow and suffocating range of normal, are often creative and sensitive change agents who know there is another way, another story, another world where every living being matters and is needed as an essential part of the whole, and all life is greeted with reverence and respect. Indigenous cultures around the world have known this and carry this deep wisdom and understanding.
We each have a specific purpose related to our unique gifts and the circumstances of the times in which we live - you are alive because you have something the world needs. We were never meant to do this alone. You are needed and we need each other. Together, let us remember our wild belonging and contribute toward a life of beauty and relatedness for all.
Blessings and gratitude,
NOTE: A dear friend recently completed an album by the name Wild Belonging. She knew I shared her connection to the name and when I recently checked in with her about the possibility of using it, three geese flew over her head as we were discussing on the phone. She shared that three geese are on the cover of the Wild Belonging CD, and the last line of the last song reminds, "...When all is said and done, in love I do believe, 'cause I know we are right where we are meant to be." With that, she said she was not attached to the name, and gave me a generous and enthusiastic blessing to use the name in relation to this work. Check out her CD here. Thank you Sarah Nutting.