Potlatch to the Fullest

Just over two weeks ago, we held our estate sale and celebrated a sense of Potlatch release of much of our furniture and a number of decorative items. The following Thursday, Paradise, CA was transformed by wildfire in a few hours from a thriving mountain town with over 15,000 homes and businesses to rubble and a chemical smoke cloud that has yet to dissipate. There are a few buildings still standing, but most of  the 27,000 people who lived there lost everything and are grateful to have walked away alive.

We had been planning to leave our 3-bedroom rental house some time early next year, and then stay in the Chico area for about a month for a few last appointments. Suddenly, that all shifted. We told our landlord that if he found a family from the Paradise fire who needed the house, we could be out Dec. 8. This was a bold move for us, especially with no way of seeing what our next housing step might be. Yet, the image came that, if need be, we would get everything into the Subaru and when we reached the end of the driveway make the decision about what direction to head.

For a couple of weeks we have thought that there might not be anyone ready to make the move because of the slow process of aid and insurance money when there is a tragedy this big. The night before last, our landlord called, excited that he might have found the perfect family for the house. Yesterday, we met the mother/grandmother of a three generation household and the fit was perfect. She, her daughter and grandson will move in December 5 and they need as much of our remaining furniture and household items as we can leave behind. Now, instead of trying to find “good homes” for things in thrift shops and as donations down in the Chico area, we are free to drive away with just those things that will fit in our new RV life.

The other piece that fell into place was that we decided that our health-related care can be done as easily in Arizona. When Will spoke to our son, he and his wife told us we are more than welcome to spend December in their home while we look for our home on wheels. So, we are now in the last two weeks of packing, storing some things, preparing the house for its new family and experiencing the fulness of Potlatch.

Everything we have is free to flow to these four people who have lost so much. And they in turn will pass along anything that does not serve them. We are part of a community functioning like the ancestral peoples — when life transitions occur you release everything to those who need it. Potlatch is being fulfilled more beautifully and powerfully than we could have imaged.

The Path to Potlatch / Bonfire

ash-bonfire-branches-266751

The challenge of writing a blog once or twice a week is not to limit it to the final outcome of a process, but to be honest about the steps along the way.

This past Saturday, we held a Potlatch/Bonfire sale to release the first big wave of our furniture and household items. We had been planning the event for weeks, but it wasn’t until the Monday before the sale that we started the physical work of moving things out into our living room and kitchen to include in the sale and clogging the corners of the bedrooms with things that were not going yet. There was a physical sensation of congestion and confined energy about having bookcases and desks and boxes of knick-knacks stacked around waiting to be set free.

On Tuesday, it felt like things just got worse. We did get out to the Gateway trails to walk and sing, but the house felt more and more a jumble. The psychologic/energetic threads tying us to one thing and another felt especially tenacious. Thank goodness that when one of us lost focus, the other would suggest that we drum, journey, spend time seeking the wisdom of helping spiritual ancestors.

Will  has been playing Freedom songs, including a powerful Freedom Trilogy by Odetta and albums by Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Arlo Guthrie. These songs reinforced a call to freedom; to break from the cultural slavery that imprisons us in a marketplace economy, never letting us dream of real liberation. Odessa’s powerful voice also gave us the phrase, “I’m on my way, and I won’t turn back,” to inspire our forward movement.

Thursday, I started my walking/singing with the feeling that I was dragging a heavy weight behind me and would not make it up the first hill. But gradually, opening to the wisdom of my spirit guides, I found assurance that the freedom beyond this current transition is not just for me/for us. The timing and the form are important links within a chain which is being created to help support those who, for whatever reason, need to flee the mainline culture.  It pulled me back to my call of dedicating my life to serving the Earth and All Her Children. My body lightened and my singing flowed.

We both went through times of getting caught by cultural conditioning of, “How much do we need to get for this item?” On Friday, we put prices on most things and on Saturday we pulled them off. We did ceremony and drummed on Thursday Night; drummed again on both Friday night and Saturday morning. We had to turn again and again to our spiritual ancestors and our open hearts to help us stay focused on the path we are choosing.

Gratitude was also vital to the process. One afternoon, I went to many of the pieces we were offering and used Murphy’s oil soap, a gentle vacuum massage, a gentle rubbing with soda… to give each one loving care. I sang to it and thanked it for how it has served us. I also told it how much I hoped it would find a fulfilling new home.

By Saturday morning, we had two images. One was of the Potlatch tradition of the People of the Pacific Northwest of this continent. For celebrations of life transitions, you would gather with the tribe and give away everything you possessed – letting it pass from your hands to others effortlessly. This transition in our lives felt perfect for a Potlatch. Through Friday and even Saturday, more little things I had been keeping “just in case,” came out of hiding to be offered.

The second image was of putting a huge juniper log onto a fire and watching it release all of the energy it has contained for decades to create light, warmth and energy. Our “sale” would be Potlatch and Bonfire. Releasing the energy of long-held possessions to bless other lives.

People began pouring into the house an hour and a half before the stated starting time, and waves of people in and items out surged through the morning. There were many sweet moments of taking a small stack of quarters for a kitchen item, or just handing a picture or book to someone who showed a love for it. We watched with tenderness as many stayed caught in the “how little can I give you for this?” mindset, and found it easy to let them walk away satisfied with their victory in the bargain hunt.

The day culminated with a lovely extended family sitting in our living room waiting for a brother to arrive to look at a chair. They had purchased a number of small items and three large pieces of furniture. As we waited, I gave bells to the two little boys. When they left with one of the last big items, we gratefully put up a “Sold Out” sign, knowing that the rest will find its way to a friend who is moving or to the thrift shops.

The fire had burned away to leave a spaciousness and freedom in our home. The Potlatch had redistributed our goods, reminding us that nothing really belongs to us.

We are deeply grateful.

Wind’s Gift to Lighten the Load

I am sharing a post I originally wrote to fellow participants in a class by Sandra Ingerman on Shamanic Journey. I like how I described the experience to that group and wanted to carry that tone here.

I want to continue sharing about our transition from house to RV and the guidance from helping spirits that is a vital part of it all.

For the past couple of months, I have been struggling with how I might carry my bookbinding and book repair business into our new life – playing with various options for less equipment or shared space. Then a couple of weeks ago I had an ideal booth, at a lovely outdoor craft fair – weather was wonderful – all conditions perfect.

I had set my handbook journals up on a bookshelf display and halfway through the afternoon – on a gentle breeze day, a gust of wind came up against the side of the canopy – created a huge sail and toppled the bookcase and books to the ground. It left many of the books with scratches and dented spines or corners and knocked the breath out of me.

My husband stayed with the booth and I went to walk in a quiet place to ask my helping spirits what was going on. When I had quieted enough to listen, the first message was that Wind is my friend and wanted to help end my struggling.

The next message that emerged is that all of this is too heavy to carry with me into the new life that is emerging. All of the supplies and equipment and work tasks weigh too much to pull along behind me. And finally “You can not both leave a culture and be bound up in it by having a business.”

Over the intervening weeks, while friends have begun adopting the damaged books and I have taken steps to close the business, a couple of things have become clear.

First, the transition I am approaching is very similar to when someone of the faith decides to take holy vows and join a convent or monastery. The question becomes, “How little of this present life can I take with me into the next? and Can I drop everything that attaches me to a previous identity so that I can dedicate myself fully to the healing of the Earth and all her Children?”

Second, it was Wind as Eagle that has been trying to teach me the freedom of flying and how little weight one can carry when on wings. I sense the joy and freedom that await as I release these old life weights. 
Finally, both my husband and I are discovering a dedication of body, mind and spirit that we have been working toward throughout our lives. It is a time of deep gratitude.

I hope that if others of you are in transition that you find the same release, freedom and joy that we are experiencing.
Peace and Harmony, Nancy

The Prison of Our Culture

prisonOur American culture and economic system has imprisioned millions of us and has no intention of setting us free. Our jailer would be glad to see us die in captivity, clinging to the bars of our cell, striving to pry them apart or appealing to the holder of the keys to let us go.

We are taught from childhood what we need: a good education; an upscale car; a spacious house; and all of the things that make life more comfortable. So we go to college and amass debt. Then we get a job to pay off the debt, only to need a new car for transportation to the job. Then we gather convenience items and distractions in order to quiet ourselves after we arrive home exhausted from work.

We are given credit cards and encouraged to ignore the actual cost of what we purchase, so that we end up paying  20/ 30/ 50 times for an item we bought ten years ago that was designed to wear out in nine months. The credit card companies charge interest at 15%+ and the banks give about .01%  on our simple savings accounts.

We start a family and therefore need a larger house, plus feel the need to cover all of the expenses of seeing our children safely through college. The debt continues to build and we work more hours and spend less time with family and more with distractions. We grab fast food and try to find time and money for the much needed vacations.

We are told that we can not possibly retire until we have paid off the mortgage and have a substantial amount of savings so that we can continue the same lifestyle through the end of our lives. What we are not told is the number of people who die at their desks or have their bodies give out under the strain of continuing to try to pry the bars open. Our economic system depends on us never giving up the struggle to get ahead, to continue to gather all the things that are supposed to make us happy and secure.

As I was seeking deep wisdom for our transition out of this culture and economy, the thought suddenly appeared, “You will stand at the prison bars forever shaking them and struggling with them, and the jailer will never let you out. But if you will turn around and begin walking the other direction, you will find that you can walk through the walls that you imagine hold you in.”

The culture and economy can only confine me if I believe their lies. They tell me to be ashamed of my debt and afraid of the idea of living on a monthly budget of $1,000 – $2,000. My heart tells me that I need a forgiveness ceremony to let go of self-punishment for not succeeding in this system in order that I might step fully into a life of “just enough.”  The culture warns me that I must not end up running from my financial responsibilities. My heart tells me that I can choose to walk away from an abusive and manipulative financial structure, as I would leave any abusive relationship.

My culture tells me that I have to have health care coverage based on the belief that my body is a machine to be quickly repaired when it breaks down. My heart tells me that my body is part of the endless dance of energy and that when illness or injury emerge I need to listen for what it is teaching me for my own evolution. I will die, as all will die. But if I fully live my days, dying will just be the next step of the journey.

I am going to turn my back and walk away from the bars. In the coming weeks I will share more posts about this aspect of the transition. I hope you will join me in turning around and beginning to walk through the imaginary walls.

 

 

Twelve by Twelve

via Twelve by Twelve

By William Martin

This fits so well with the discussion of the appropriate size of dwelling and the mindset that accompanies it, that I am sharing this guest blog from Will’s Freedom, Simplicity and Joy site. I had hoped to repost the whole piece, but have been having human error problems. For now, I am glad to send you to his site which holds added riches that you may also enjoy.

In Physical Training for a New Life

There are many days when I feel that my most important task is to be in training for the new life that we are creating. As we piece together what it means to live in balance, harmony and honor with the Earth, the first phase for me is physical training.

It began with the lengthening of walks and the addition of longer hikes into our lives. In June, a 45 minute walk on fairly level terrain was the “big walk” done at most 2 -3 times a week. Once completed, there was the feeling that all of the physical energy for the day had been consumed. Lunch, followed by nap, followed by watching movies on DVD was the norm.

The turning point was meeting Flora and the Strolling Bears (a group of senior adult amblers). They are avid hikers who hike  4 – 6+ miles, once a week, on a wide variety of trails; including some very steep and challenging climbs. They walk at a a slow pace, and invite each participant to listen to their body – rest, turn for home, or keep going depending on the energy of the day. They will not leave anyone behind who is lagging, but pause at each change in the trail to let everyone catch up, rest and be assured that they know the way.

You will see on the Favorite Hikes page, that it is not unusual for us to spend 3 -4 hours walking around Lake Siskiyou; climbing from Bunny Flat to Horse Camp, or taking the McBride Trail from Gateway to the campground. When we are with the Strolling Bears, we visit with people who love nature; tell us the names of flowers and birds; and share their joy in living simply and hiking often.

Our “shorter routes” at Gateway (about 1 1/2 – 2 hours), are what we now think of as  “strolls” or everyday walks. Through the summer and into the autumn we have tried take these strolls several times a week.

When we are on our own, Will, ( my husband), takes a good leading start, so we can each spend time in communion with the healing spirit of The Mountain and our spiritual ancestors and guides in this journey back to unity with the land. There are occasional insights and new perspectives that emerge as we walk. More often it is simply sinking into the beauty and harmony of nature: sky, breeze, trees and brush, rocks and hillsides, and a variety of animal and bird companions. If nothing else is emerging, we each sing a song that is our reminder to open up to the path ahead.

The July – September part of my path was building my stamina, leg strength and physical confidence. The altitude and steep last half mile of the climb to Horse Camp still leaves my heart pounding and calls for “breathers.” Now, after three visits, I feel comfortable negotiating the downhill rocky stretches as well as the uphill push. A few weeks ago we made the whole 6.8 mile circle around Lake Siskiyou for the first time.

The growing confidence in my body translates to being more at ease in nature. I can relax and experiment. My view broadens to include more tree-tops and sky views – including a golden eagle that circled over the Gateway path the other morning. There is a stretch of the Horse Camp trail that I did barefoot last month, enjoying the sensation as the temperature of the sand shifted from cold in the shade to warm in the sunshine.

It all seems connected with not needing to be coddled and protected from the challenges of life. When I move in nature in this sense of freedom and strength, I know that I no longer want to be insulated from this wonderful planet. While the weather is beginning to shift, there is still time for a few more hikes up high on the mountain before the snow. Then, it may be time to borrow snow shoes and give that a try.

Transformation Built for Two

Throughout our nearly 30-year marriage, my husband and I have been blessed with a deep connection that allows us to make life shifts and changes in unison. Whenever we have made a physical move, or shifted to a new focus on our spiritual journey, there was not a sense of one leading and the other “coming along.” Instead, it is as though we both become aware of a shift at about the same time. Often if feels like we have already turned the corner to a new way of being and then notice the shift.

It is the same with this transition. It a transformation built for two, on every level of our lives. We don’t remember which of us first voiced the desire to live in harmony with the land and to connect with the ancient wisdom of the People of the Land.

I know that Bill has spoken often of his desire to live with the simplicity of a mountain hermit. Images from the Taoist tradition lead him to want to follow Lao Tzu and get on an ox and head out of the culture and into the mountains. Another image from him is that of living as a turtle who carries its home on its back.

I have been drawn more and more to images of living in the way indigenous people have lived for centuries – in intimate harmony, balance and honor with the land and all living beings. I long to sink into relationship with the life expressed in nature and learn the wisdom it alone can share.

A couple of factors came together to set us on this course of changing our housing as part of living in a new way. One was that we shared in an on-line course with Sandra Ingerman on Shamanic Journey. I have been involved with this work for a couple of years, but this was the first time Bill joined in and found that he too was drawn to drumming and journey. So, we came into step with one another in a new expression of our spiritual journey.

Another factor was that I let go of bookbinding as an essential element of my future. Every time I began to think of living in a tiny house or RV, I just couldn’t imagine the presses, cutters, supplies and tools of my craft work. The moment came when I realized that this is not something at the core of who I am. It is fulfilling, and indeed probably saved my sanity at an earlier point in my life, but it became clear that it does not have to come on the road with us.

Our drumming and journeying is sometime together as ceremony, and sometime separate. Again, much of what we experience is just for the one making the inner journey, but sometimes the wisdom encourages and focuses both of us.

We have been sharing hikes, but usually allow a good bit of distance between us. Bill’s longer stride carries him out ahead of me, and we are each left to sing; open to the beauty of nature around us; and to spend time in deep listening to the wisdom of our helping spirits and guides. Afterward we share insights that emerge. Sometimes there is a phrase that will emerge that gives us a touchstone – so we remind one another of it from time to time.

Our current catch phrase dropped in as I was waking up one morning into the usual mental chatter of all of the challenges and details that lie between where we are and where we hope to be next summer. It was a vivid image from “The Two Towers.” Gollum is leading Sam and Frodo through the Dead Marshes and has warned them not to “follow the lights” that shine up from the marsh. If they do, they will be drawn down into the depths and light little candles of their own. It is not long before Frodo becomes mesmerized by a presence in the marsh and falls face first into the marsh. Gollum pulls him out and lays him on solid ground, but while he is still holding him by the lapels, he says, “DON”T FOLLOW THE LIGHTS.”  So, whenever one of us gets caught by the conditioned morass of things that have to be done, the other gently reminds him/her, “Don’t Follow the Lights.”

I am deeply grateful that my primary companion in this transformation is my beloved husband. There are others who help keep our feet on the path, but this is indeed a transformation built for two.