When Holiday Tradition Compromises the Earth

We recycle.

We compost.

We eat organic food.

I weep at the plight of the polar bears and I pray fervently every time I spot an animal that has lost its battle with an oncoming car.

And tonight, we smiled and laughed and forked over what was probably entirely too much money so that I could have the pleasure – and the guilt – of throwing this into the garbage can:

garbage

Even as the lovely man at the fire station carried our tree over to the sawhorses, I cringed. There was that oh-so-clever contraption that made enormous evergreens fit into humble family station wagons. We barely got any needles in the car and the trunk door actually closed. A gorgeous, full seven foot tree stands in our living room and the netting that will languish forever in a distant landfill sits in our trash after its brief, but ostensibly vital, use.

Life is full of constant compromise. A good relationship is all about meeting your lover halfway. A treaty between differing factions can only be reached through mutual give and take. There is the ideal, and then there is the reality.

Most of us cannot get to work without contributing to global warming in some way, even if we hate that our carbon footprint is growing in leaps and bounds. Those of us who do not grow our own food are so often stuck feeling contrite that the avocado and everything else in our salad has racked up more frequent flier miles than we have. But still we get in our cars, and still we eat lunch that was born in South America, and still we make a million little choices every day that mean the earth is forced to bear more and more abuse all the time.

Obviously we have to reconcile ourselves with our impact on the environment if we continue to live mainstream Western lives, but when are we compromising too much? I cut up that wretched Christmas tree netting as much as I could so that birds and other animals could never become entangled in it, but I am really doubting it will biodegrade even after Santa has made another million year’s worth of trips around the globe.

We work on our expanding our consciousness and enlivening our spiritual selves through meditation and prayer. We try to compromise as little as possible when it comes to the welfare of our souls and the love that we share with others. How do we find the strength to apply this sort of rigor to our love of our Mother, the Earth?

Taking the easy way out when it comes to personal awakening never works. Why do we continue to believe that thinking about the our beautiful, singular planet some of the time could ever sustain the most constant friends that we have, the ground beneath our feet and the air that fills our lungs?

I ask these question because I really have one of the answers, but I have all of the symptoms of being yet another guilt ridden drain on the planet.  In so many cases, awareness is 75% of the battle.  I am pretty sure that being aware of what is in the garbage isn’t helping anyone.

How do we begin to let this awareness really shape our behavior and make the external changes that, in this instance, are every bit as important as the changes we are going through within?

naked tree!

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Healing is the Dance to Awakening

And so the first year of my healing classes concluded today. For all of the mad and beautiful directions that I have flown in the last few days, I give you something simple, a definition of healing that I love to wrap my mind around:

To heal someone is to facilitate her awakening.

Dornburg fuschia

It is not about the healer, it is not about specialized training, it is not about trying to do anything specific. It is about helping another person, in some small way, move from the fog of daily life into a place of glittering awareness.

Again, that idea of acting the midwife rises to the surface, and again it has nothing to do with the physical journey of bringing forth a child. The deeper I get into training as a healer, the less mystical the process begins to seem in some ways. I am realizing that the nation of healing is a truly democratic one, a place that is open to all people who look upon others with compassion and wish for the very best in this world.

Every day, I begin to understand that change really does begin within the individual and then ripples into the greater pool of life. This belief allows me to say that healing really is as simple as opening our eyes to our true selves. From that place of wholeness we can then see that we are all connected to the Divine Source. Connection to the Great Spirit, in turn, binds us all to one another because if God is in one of us then God is in all of us. We can always hold that sacred nature in common with all beings.

We are not all called upon to take up the title and duties of healers, but we are all born into a relationship with the earth and the life that surrounds us. In that relationship can we find the connection and the compassion to help carry others along to new senses of awakening?

Tearing the Dress Off the Divine

To talk about Wise Woman Working is a bold thing. It’s about unifying the stuff that we know we ought to know and the daily, lived practice of putting such ideas into action. It’s about living with a sense of discipline that keeps us from sliding back into pettiness, despair, and ego driven defensiveness. At the same time, it is about living with a profound sense of compassion for our own frailties and those of the ones we love, and so often, the ones that we believe it impossible to love. Nothing I am talking about is a great departure from what we have all heard before in church or from a bag of Yogi Tea or a book by Caroline Myss or Eckhart Tolle.

Poised at the beginning this enterprise, I do not want to fall victim to losing track of Wisdom before I even have a chance to dip a foot into her still pool. I definitely do not think that wisdom is strictly a woman’s realm, and even if the face of the Divine that I am most likely to understand is marked by great goddesses and soft bellies and nurturing breasts I recognize that I should widen my stock of metaphors to encompass the masculine as well.

I call it Wise Woman Working for many reasons: my need to shroud language in as much poetry as possible (Wise Person Working sounds awkward); my sense of being human is completely influenced by my having two X chromosomes; and my renewed sense of respect for the Divine Feminine as a particular aspect of the One. My need to find “The Goddess” as I fled from the Catholicism of my childhood lead me to identify exclusively with the feminine expression of the creator. In addition to missing some essential parts of spiritual experience, this left me in a place of confused narcissism as I found myself in the thrall of people who peddled self-help pablum that equated woman with goddess and left out all of the vital bits about humility and service and cultivating awareness.

When I was finally able to tear the dress off the Divine I was able to reenter a relationship with Catholicism and Christianity. I can begin to welcome visions of Mary because I can separate her from my objections to patriarchal oppression. Now, I can find empowerment in specifically womanish images, but I believe that much of their potency comes from the play of opposites between feminine and masculine.

The claws of my college feminism have dulled and I am a much less fervent guardian of some mythical woman club. I hope that as I have redefined the nature of the feminine in matters of the spirit, the feminine can be re-envisioned in the pursuit of being awake to this world. Call this path what you will, I can only dream that it can resonate for all people, regardless of gender.

Wise Woman Working

When faced with the impossible problem of what I want to be when I grow up or who I want to be for the next twenty minutes I often panic at the multiplicity of options. Sometimes I am crushed when I realize that whatever path I choose will inevitably eliminate a host of other equally attractive, urgent possibilities. So often I become completely mired in all that I cannot do; I just freeze up and let the night dissolve into television for fear I might waste time chasing after the wrong star. I suppose this is one reason why many passionate people who really want to affect positive change end up being stymied by the weight of their own potential. The vastness of the universe, with all of its beauty and ugliness, is devastating in its scale and the abilities of one person seem laughably inconsequential.

Of all the causes that call to me but do not seem to fit into a single lifetime, I think I have finally distilled my raison d’être to one articulable goal: I want to be a wise, wise woman.

For some time I have been sitting behind my eyes, watching as I move through the world, keeping an inner score card. My awareness has been heightened and I surf from epiphany to epiphany, so often conscious of this phenomenal world with its limitless possibilities. But I constantly find myself forgetting all I know about the life of the soul and the love of the Divine and the power of healing. The epiphanies all turn to dust as I find it impossible to practice all that I know when I am confronted with another unenlightened day at work or a quiet night when I am too tired to think.

And so I am ready to introduce a second stage to all of this shouting about revelations: it is time for Wise Woman Working. The pursuit of wisdom seems a relentless one that takes dedication and conditioning. At the same time, I think there is a need to let the world pass through you and allow the knowledge to pool at your feet, but I think that certain groundwork must be laid first. All those books I have read, all the classes and seminars I have attended – their brilliance dulls and I just find myself becoming an enlightenment junkie dying for a new hit. Wise Woman Working is about practicing what I have heard preached and letting all those lessons marinate until they are not airy-fairy icing, but the real sustenance one can build a life upon. It is about living through these flashes of insight and distilling them to their essential stuff so that I can blossom into being that wise, wise woman who contributes something to this miraculous, fucked up world.