Seeing Through the Holiday Season

OXmrpWOur eyes, minds and nervous systems have been deeply trained to follow the surface patterns of our culture in an exaggerated way as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approach. It is as though a switch is thrown and we go unconscious to our usual self-care, balance and common sense. We are swept into overindulging in food, entertainment, buying, gift giving and family/friend gatherings. We push our energy to the limit to meet some inner standard of what we should be, and lose sight of who we are and what has meaning in our lives. In short, we run head-long into the prison of our economic system and end up carrying debt, extra physical weight, exhaustion, and heavy emotional fallout that keep us overworking and distracted well into the new year.

Instead of falling into this trap, we can set our intention to see through all of this illusion and unhealthy conditioning. I invite you to walk away from the noise and confusion of the cultural norms and into the spaciousness of the unseen spiritual mysteries that fill our lives.

The secret: We must remember who we are and that what is true of us is true of all human beings. Before, through and beyond this Earth-walk existence, we are beings of light – expressions of the amazing love and infinite creative energy which has formed our universe and beyond. The playful, powerful, wondrous, imaginative force that births all the living beings of this planet, brought each of us forth as an unique embodiment of life.

Each of us is a creative soul who knew the purpose and path through this lifetime before it ever began. That we have been distracted from that path and lost sight of that purpose is natural given the noise and confusion of our current world. Our loss of focus does not mean that we do not remain beings of light who possess the energy of love, creativity, and the gifts of self we came here to share.

When I look at all the people in my life, near and far, I remember that we are all made of the same elements of earth, air, water, fire and spirit. The spark of life the enlivens us, also animates all living beings – not only flesh creatures, but mountains and streams, trees and shrubs, physical buildings and automobiles. We are all beings of the same stuff, here honor and support one another.

When I carry this perspective back toward the holiday season, several things emerge:

1  No living being is truly honored and celebrated in vast amounts of food and drink consumed, or in the mountain-high stacks of presents under a tree. The inherent beauty and natural gift of each is lost. One taste overpowers another. Another glass of “holiday cheer,” adds to the depression of body and mind, and separates us from one another. Package after package of new toys, gadgets, trinkets or treasures dulls gratitude for the deeper gifts of life, love, friendship and connection.

2  When I see all of the people in my life as beings of light, I know that there is no “thing” they need from me. Whether they are near of far from me, it is my willingness to hold their inner being in focus throughout the year that seems the greatest gift I can offer. If I can remain open to the creativity, unique perspectives, their individual path through challenges, and their capacity for it all clearly in my heart, every encounter becomes a celebration.

3 Winter is an inward and reflective season. In this hemisphere, the whole outward rush of November and December pushes us straight against the pattern of the natural world around us. It is as though we are so afraid of what the quiet, inner journey will reveal, that we run out into a world of light, color, sound, party, and tradition, to avoid discovering our own light. It is not that we all need to become introverts or go into hibernation mode when the days shorten and the weather grows cold. But this season does invite a different tempo and focus for our creative energy.

May you find your own ways through this holiday season, which honors the light of your being and with wisdom of your soul. May you see through the distractions of the season to discover the deepest and richest gifts of joy, life and light in your life and in the lives of all those you love.

(I had hoped to post this a few days ago, but a winter storm captured my time. May your celebrations of gratitude be filled with joy.)

Seeking a Gift Economy

One of the most tenacious threads of our mainline culture is our market-based economic structure. It is also the most essential one to break in order to live an Earth-centered life. The very nature of capitalism is to view everything as a resource with a monetary value – whether tangible item, talent, skill, or person. As I shift to viewing all around me as living beings – trees and rocks as well as animals and birds; cabins and cook pots as well as human friends – all emerging as gift from the One Source, I choose to look to a gift economy as a way of passing along what I have been given.

autumn-flower-girl-hands_39704-1594What gifts do I have to offer at this point in my life?

A perspective which emerges from a lifetime spiritual journey, which has moved from Christianity, through Zen Buddhism, to Earth-centered shamanic practice. I have lived this journey full heartedly, sinking deeply into each of these spiritual practices with mind, body, soul and spirit allowing it to become a vital part of my life. Each stage covered decades of time, and the depth and complexity which each one deserved.

Before I received chaplain’s training or spent 12 years as a clergywoman, I already possessed an innate calming presence and ability to companion people going through times of crisis or major life transition. This capacity only deepened in my time working with hospice, and co-leading Still Point Zen Practice Center. I am still learning to listen to the depth of people’s experiences, and find my shamanic journey work helpful in developing this skill.

I have dedicated my life to living an Earth-centered life for my remaining years. The willingness to leave a middle-class lifestyle and purchase a 30-foot motor home as our residence is only one small factor. I continue to deepen my relationships with the land on which we live, the mountains in whose shadow we dwell, and all the living beings who share this region with us. My shamanic practice takes me into the unseen realms, where I open to wisdom born of our interconnections within the Web of Life, and bring back images and insights to add to my words and writing.

Each day I greet in gratitude for my life, this land and the wonderful man who I share life with. I do shamanic journey to nurture the Web of Life and aid in the healing of the human family which is essential to the healing of the planet. I spend time dreaming the dream of the reality of harmony, life, creativity and balance which I want to see emerge beyond the current breakdown of our culture.

I am currently writing this blog – Earth-centered Living After 60 and a book that shares the same themes: Spirituality, Living Appropriately as a Human Being in the World, Living in Harmony with Nature, Leaving the Cultural and Economic Systems Behind, Golden Years, Taking the Journey Together, and Practical Matters. In this way I hope to share one way of moving into a new harmony with all living beings.

Beginning in the 2020, I will begin offering Spiritual Direction for those who are seeking to deepen their inner journey. It will be based in my Earth-centered spirituality and shamanic journey practice, while also inviting those who touch the mystery of the unseen world through other spiritual traditions and practices. Watch for a new page on Spiritual Direction to learn more.

What do I seek in return ?

Freedom to live my dedication to Earth-centered living as deeply as I have lived the rest of my spiritual path.

Freedom from making my spiritual practice a market-based way of making a living.

Support of a simple way of life as I write the book/s that are emerging from this lifestyle and my shamanic journey experiences.

Freedom to explore how to offer deep listening to individuals as a means of supporting their inner healing, without making it a business.

To support this I am looking for Patrons –

People who are not able, at this time, to do the work or live the practice that I am, but are interested in witnessing what this path might hold.

Individuals who are interested in seeing my writing come to fruition, and providing the freedom from money-earning that I need to write both blog and book.

Those who want to support my shamanic journey work and my approach to healing the land, humankind and all living beings.

Those who are intrigued by the concept of deep listening or spiritual direction combined with shamanic practice as a support for individual healing work.

I am using a very helpful site called Patreon which provides a channel for individuals to support others who are creating art, books, and music. “Support My Work,” in the side bar will take you on to my Patreon page. The Patreon site will lead you in the steps to contribute a monthly amount that you feel is appropriate. I welcome contributions of $5 or $10 per month, because many people are living a very simple life with limited financial resources. In addition, I am seeking a handful of people who can offer $20 or more per month, as a sustaining flow for our lives. Each patron, at any level of giving, will receive an additional monthly article taking you deeper into one of the Earth-Centered Living after 60 themes.

For a beautiful description of where Patreon fits within a new flow of economy, I invite you to read David Cain’s article: Two Ways to Keep the Fountain Flowing: https://www.raptitude.com/2019/11/two-ways/

As always, this website/blog will remain available to all, free of charge. I also appreciate you sharing what you read here with others who you feel would value what I offer. This is part of the central gift of my life and I want to let it ripple outward beyond my small circle of family and friends.

Extraordinary Challenge

gretathunberg_2018x-1350x675-1The outcry of the young is reaching me here in my mountain home. A young woman who has been speaking out for the planet, and trying to get people to listen to what science has told us for most of my adult life, has burst into the public eye. Greta Thunberg’s message tells me that while my inner work is vital, the use of my voice is also essential to being dedicated to the healing of the Earth and all her children.

It was her call for a “state of emergency” response to climate change that caught my attention. If she is right, there is no time to go through endless arguments. If she is wrong, there is no harm done in placing the survival of the planet above the accumulation of money and material goods. One goal she mentioned in a TED talk was the reduction of CO2 emissions by rich nations by 15% per year with a goal of 0 emissions in 6 – 12 years. This is an incredible goal. It will be a miraculous achievement when obtained. It is a nearly impossible challenge which is perfect for this time in our evolution as human beings, and for the work of grandmothers and grandfathers.

We who are seeking to live earth-centered lives in our 60’s and beyond are perfectly placed to lead the way. We have experienced massive changes in our world over the course of our lives. Many of us have let go of “earning a living,” and are settling into a more simple lifestyle. We are aware of the ultimate transition of this lifetime awaiting us on the near horizon. We have worked through many of our illusions, confusions and imagined needs. We have learned that living in harmony with the Earth is a spiritual as well as a practical path.

What are we willing and able to do to slow the rate of carbon emissions? How do we hold to our commitment in the backlash of our conditioned mind telling us that it will not be enough? How do we create an outward space that supports all living beings, while continuing to work on our inner being to allow more of the flow of light, love and creativity of the Sacred Source to flow through us as healing energy for the planet?

These are questions I want to explore on this page. They are at the heart of “Earth-Centered Living after 60,” as we weave our inner/spiritual energy with the outward/practical expressions of deep connection with All That Is. We will each look to our own wisdom and spiritual guidance to see what is ours to do. We needn’t become overwhelmed, since we are each a single cell in the amazing organism of Life.

I think of our parents’ and grandparents’ wisdom. They lived in a less technology-based world and developed ways of living with very few material comforts. They faced rationing in times of war; endured the poverty of depression era living and were often part of immigrant populations forced to migrate far from their homelands. What are the stories you remember of “Victory Gardens,” “Mend and make do,” riding a bicycle to work rather than having a car? Are there images and practices waiting to be rediscovered? Can we honor our personal and collective ancestors by looking to them for the wisdom we need now to help us survive as a species?

From my youth, I remember President Jimmy Carter responding to an energy crisis by inviting us all to turn down the thermostat in our homes and wear sweaters. He cut the highway speed limit to use gasoline in a more efficient way. Can we adapt and adjust these recommendations to help us now?

I am making a renewed commitment to writing in this blog one a weekly basis. I hope this will nurture a forum not for debate about whether extraordinary measures are needed, but how we might take them in our daily lives, in service to this beautiful planet. Please share this with others who may be interested in this community. To face this challenge, we are going to need all of the creative ideas and open hearts we can gather.

Some other background links for Greta and the IPCC report:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2018:      IPCC Report

Greta before the US Congress included in: Several speeches in US in September

Life is Not All Petting Bunnies

bunnyThis was what I was told in a recent journey to one of my teachers in the Unseen world. I’m finding it to be very true.

We have nearly come full circle from the time we made the decision to release our 3-bedroom rental house and it’s lifestyle. In a month, we will pass the one year point since the end of my work as a bookbinder. So many changes, and not all of them “petting bunnies.”

This life calls for a great deal of honesty with myself and about myself. I can not sink into the relationship with nature; with all living beings; with my deepest sense of calling, if I am hiding out from myself and others. One of the impacts of paring things back in my life is that when I find something I am unwilling to let go of, there is something important hiding behind it.

My bookbinding equipment still sits in a storage area, which is costing us a monthly rental fee that our budget can no longer support. Yet, I have limited my attempts to sell it to people connected with the bookbinding schools in this region. I was talking with Bill this morning and finally found the courage to explore why.

My bookbinding business failed. I had given myself fully to learning the skills to both create hand bound books and journals, and to do complex book repairs. I had gathered more and more materials, papers and equipment. I tried new craft fair settings, and extending the hours I spent in this work. But the business failed. In fact it failed to the point that we are now going through bankruptcy because of the debts it accumulated. That sense of failure and the accompanying shame keep that equipment and materials locked up in the dark.

I had designed a scenario in my mind of finding the right young bookbinding student, and having my equipment go to helping them set up their studio. I wanted to have a story of generosity. I wanted to pretend that leaving bookbinding was part of the natural flow of moving toward motor home living. What I am learning is that all of this is hard to admit, but vital to my story. If I am going to stay honest about the challenges of this life (and its promises), I need to share deeply.

This is made easier by a TED talk Bill found yesterday. Brene Brown spoke for 20 minutes about Vulnerability , it is liberating. She points out that while vulnerability is at the base of many of our fears and much of our shame, it is also the fundamental basis for creativity, joy and whole-hearted living. Failure is part of life as we give ourselves to commitments, relationships, or projects with all of who we are. We have to launch ourselves into that flight of creative possibility, without reservation or fear. It is not that we are being unreasonable, it is just that we are letting our heart propel our life.

I would never trade the life I have now for a return to a successful bookbinding business. I would not trade my hours of walking the trails, journeying for wisdom to ancestors, and singing for the healing of the Earth, for endless hours in a bookbinding studio creating the most incredible books.

This land and this mountain have claimed me. We have been asked to remain here on this 3 acres of land, to care for it and for an aged cabin for Bill’s sister. Our home on wheels is a strong shelter providing all we need. We have food and some of the cleanest water on the planet. We have just enough in the bank to make the monthly bills, while the generosity of the Universe continues to flow to us in amazing ways.

Our small home keeps me growing in my intimate relationship with rain and wind, phases of the moon and song of morning birds. It is a strong reliable shelter for our living. My devotion to living for the healing of the Earth and All Her Children deepens every day. It is not all petting bunnies, but the transforming flow of life keeps showing me flowers.

P.S. – The bookbinding equipment is now up on Craig’s List.

Craftivism and Sewing: Passing the Love Along

Hannnah's Dress

(Craftivism is a new way of sharing skills that can transform our relationships with one another. This is a guest post by my niece, Hannah Wardman. I love the way her connections with her mother and Reginna are feeding her relationships with her niece, nephews and other family members. Her sewing adds a beautiful creative, playful energy to the world.)

I grew up watching my mother do all sorts of crafts: knitting, sewing, crocheting, paper crafts, painting, etc. I started learning how to do some of these things myself at various stages in my life. I started out learning how to knit but wasn’t able to stick with it for very long. Then I moved on to crocheting and that was fun for a while. I dabbled with sewing every once in a blue moon but never got into it seriously. However, I did get a sewing machine when I was in my early twenties and I was determined to teach myself how to sew.

Life took me out to the other side of the country shortly after. I flew when I moved and was not able to take my sewing machine with me. It sat unused most of the time I had it anyway, but I left it tucked in my closet at my dad’s house where it happily waited for three years. When it was time for my dad to move, I went back to Illinois to clean out my belongings and happened upon my sewing machine. It was practically brand new so I decided to put it in my suitcase and bring it back to Washington state with me.

When I returned to Washington, I was determined to learn how to sew. I knew that there was a lot that went into it so I decided that I need to take some classes somewhere to learn how to do it properly so the frustration didn’t chase me away from the craft.
I made a post on a local facebook page which is called a Buy Nothing Group. These groups are set up to be a hyper local gifting economy where things are given freely between members to foster the sense of community. It is the modern day, “Do you have a cup of sugar” if you will. I put a post up saying that I wanted to learn how to sew, would anyone want to teach me? And that is how I met Reginna.IMG_5338

I call Reginna my sewing sage. She doesn’t even live within the bounds of my buy nothing group, but her daughter Jennifer does and that is how we got connected. Reginna worked for Hancock Fabrics for over twenty years before they went out of business. When they closed, she was unable to find another job. She also had to have back surgery which she had a hard time recovering from. The combination of the two made it hard for her to function. She wanted to teach someone her craft so that she could share something that she loved. That’s where I came in!

When I say Reginna knows everything about sewing, I mean it. When I first went to her house, she showed me everything that she had made. The bedspreads, the curtains, the pillows. It was all so impressive. She asked me if I wanted to do more home decoration sewing or clothes sewing. I said clothes sewing as I don’t really have much to decorate in my tiny apartment. She said that I should bring the fabric, notions, and patterns for what I wanted to make to my once a week lessons and we would work on those projects. And that’s exactly what we did.

IMG_5337I asked her if she wanted any payment for her time. There are places and people that would charge easily $20 per hour for this type of one on one lesson. She said that she didn’t want any payment. That she wanted to pass along her craft, which she knows is a dying art, and that me coming over was good for her mental health. I did bring her her favorite coffee once a week: a decaf, non fat, extra hot, white chocolate mocha.
We made all kinds of things together – dresses, skirts, curtains, aprons, onesies, bathrobes, shorts, swimsuits, all kinds of stuff! The lessons I learned from her are absolutely invaluable. I haven’t been going over to her house recently because my life got a little crazy and I needed to take some time for myself to mentally heal. Unfortunately my sewing lesson was the one thing I had to cut out. I hope to resume my time with her soon.

IMG_5489One of my favorite things that came out of my time at Reginna’s was a newly forged relationship with my niece who lives in England. She is eight years old. I haven’t seen her since she was five and don’t have the same kind of relationship with her that I do with my nephews who live in the same town as I do. I decided that I was going to start sewing for her to try and start a unique relationship between the two of us. I sew her dresses with fabric of things I thought she would like and write her letters to go with them. Her dad takes pictures of her wearing the things I made and she often writes me a letter back saying thank you and letting me know what she was up to. She says I am the best at making her dresses and that makes me happy. She currently wears a swimsuit that I made her to her swim class every week and carries her towel and clothes in a bag that I made her to the pool. How cool is that?

We live in a world that often doesn’t slow down. I am guilty of being a person who is always going. When I do slow down, I often find myself in front of a screen to relax. Watching tv, looking at things online, etc. Sewing breaks me out of that. Cutting out patterns, ironing fabric, making sure everything is lined up perfectly and centered before I cut it out. Pinning, sewing, ironing, surging, and more often than not if I’m being honest, ripping seams out and doing them over again! It gives my brain a chance to focus on the craft and forget about what else is going on around me. It gives me a chance to use my energy to create a tangible product that in turn makes someone else who I love happy. And none of it would be possible without Reginna. She has given me every tool in my tool box; all because she wanted to pass along her love of sewing. Thank you Reginna.

On the Outside!

IMG_4272I had one of those moments the other morning when suddenly the perspective shifts and everything changes form. The wisdom that dropped in months ago suddenly makes perfect sense.

It happened during my morning ritual of watching the new day dawn. I was looking at the colors dance in the clouds across the valley, gazing past widely spaced cottonwood trees, and over grasslands. Then something sprang into focus that has been right here all along. It is the small swimming pool surrounded by a concrete skirt and a wrought iron fence in our son’s side yard. I looked at that fence, hugging an 15 x 20 space and began to laugh.

You see, back in October, I wrote a post “The Prison of Our Culture,” including:

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.”

I had forgotten that in our culture we build fences to define what is ours and to keep others out. Those who have acquired wealth, power and property put up fences around themselves and then convince everyone else that they really want to be allowed in. We all gather on the outside of the bars, pushing through pay checks, time, talent and life energy, hoping that those inside will receive these gifts and find us worthy of entering in. Every now and then, the gate swings open to allow someone in, so the rest feel that they too will some day enter the chosen ground.

What we do not see is that those inside are the ones imprisoned. Fenced in to protect what they have and cut off from the riches beyond the boundary. We are held in place, hands on the bars, because we are look the wrong direction. When we turn around, we discover all the wonder of the natural world, given without price – abundant for all to receive.

I come out in the mornings to live my gratitude for all of the stars filling the predawn sky which speak to my heart of vast open spaces and light that travels through time. There are the cliff and canyons, pebbles and rocks that give solid form to this beautiful land. There are grasses, bushes, shrubs, trees and many other members of the plant family, all adding color and texture and life. There are four-legged, winged, crawlers, swimmers and one who slither, moving with howl of coyote and rustling grass of rabbit. There is the gift of water in the nearby streams, in the San Pedro River, within my body, and coursing through all living things. There is the wind – the breath of the spirit and the breath of our life, given freely. It carries vibration through the cosmos and dances with the wings of hawks. There is the sunrise, seen by billions of living creatures this morning as they look to the horizon for the light of a new day. With light come the gifts of vision and colors so varied from subtle to brilliant that they make my heart leap. There is the gift of the divine light within every human soul. The call to be one vibrant strand in the Web of Life with all humankind, all living beings and all the expressions of creation.

So, why would I ever cling to the bars again. I am a rich woman. I have no need to fight my way in. I will sit here, surrounded by beauty and filled with gratitude. A free woman indeed.

 

 

Creativity Plus Transformation

 

hector-j-rivas-1146117-unsplash

Thoughts of  combining Creativity with Transformation began with reading about Craftivism = craft + activism. This concept has many valuable expressions, but I want to focus on how the use of our creativity and imagination allow us to transform our own lives and the reality of our world. My calling is to open to the flow of creativity from the Sacred Source, which can then move through my life to bring healing and transformation to me and others. This is a calling that we all can share.

Making things by hand is an act of co-Creating with the Energy that forms the Universe and fashions the diversity we experience on Mother Earth. In choosing the materials we use, the patterns or recipes we follow, and the way in which we form the images that we want to manifest in the world, we open ourselves to the creative flow. We experience the joy of being one through whom something beautiful as well as useful can emerge.

I know wonderful cooks who blend colors, tastes, textures and aromas to make a meal that nourishes both body and soul. I know bakers who use healthful ingredients to make luscious desserts and breads, pastries and creamy concoctions that are a treat for both the adult and for the child within who loves goodies. I know knitters and weavers who select only the highest quality fibers in the richest hues and textures to make garments that mirror the wonder of nature as expressed in sunrise or desert scape; forest glade or cloudy day. I know seamstresses who choose fabrics and patterns that elevate homemade clothing to an expression of the unique qualities and characteristics of the person they create clothing for.

There are painters, sculptors, wordsmiths, glass workers, those who draw with pencil and crayon, and those who form out of wood or stone. The list of creative expressions is limitless. We have only to begin playing with any of them to open to what our specific gift may be.

The aspect of transformation comes as we allow the creativity to flow through us and bring us freedom, joy, playfulness, and an honoring of all we love. We add time, energy and love and allow the Sacred Source to bring the form that will add richness and enlivened beauty to the world. Transformation is first for us, and then through us for a new reality in the world.

Creativity helps us to envision a very different reality than the one offered by any mainline culture. Imagination forms ideas and images of the harmonious, interconnected, creation-honoring Web of Life of which we are all luminous strands. The elements we use are of the Earth, as we are of the Earth.  Everything is earth, water, air, fire and spirit. Our hands and minds and hearts work with the desire to bring life, light and love to this creation we share. And we and the world are transformed by the act.

In the weeks ahead, I will be sharing some guest blogs by people who are bringing creativity and transformation together in their own ways. I will establish a separate page on this site so that this important strand can be an ongoing exploration.  I hope you will feel free to add your contributions through the comments, or contact me if you would like to submit a guest post to add to the abundance of this journey.

May our lives open to the flow of creativity which is unique and valuable within each of us. In this way we create and celebrate the wholeness and wonder of the world we share.

(Photo by Hector j. Riva)