Letter from Jean Houston

Hands and HeartDear Friends,

Like all of you, the epic scale of the Coronavirus threat has humbled me with its power and is collectively asking more of us than to just stay at home.  All of my life I have been dedicated to encouraging the potential that every person carries within them.  I’ve taught about our innate depths, our possibilities, and our purpose.  Now, however, it’s time to live out the promise that we all carry, to become noble, kind and compassionate people.

This week on television, I witnessed the best and most fearful sides of our natures.  On the one hand, I saw violent videos of shoppers fighting over toilet paper, and also experienced indiscriminate generosity while shopping at my local Costco.

Customers who knew the gravity of the challenge we all faced stepped aside for each other in the aisles.  If one item was left on the shelf, they asked the person behind them if they would like it.  The obviously overworked employees were never too busy restocking the shelves to share a smile and ask how they could help.  Strangers looked at each other — really looked at each other — and bonded in that momentary glance.  There was a pervasive energy of collective caring that will never be reported by the media.

Tonight on the news, I saw restaurant owners and chefs in New York who were transforming their empty restaurants into soup kitchens of a sort and creating food for those who might be hungry in their neighborhoods.  Families in need were brought to tears with the unexpected kindness of these people.

Yes, my belief in our potential is vindicated as neighbor cares for neighbor and plans are drawn up for feeding children who can no longer go to school.

The remarkable thing is that this isn’t the government that is rolling out a highly budgeted plan; it’s individuals. As one restaurateur said, “I’m asked how long I’ll be offering food. I guess it’s until I run out of money.”  My hope today is that we allow this crisis to evoke the best of us.

We can hunker down in fear, or look for the opportunity to care, each in our own way.  Our kindness is a light.  The more we extend it, the brighter it becomes and the more darkness we illuminate.  We can give without any expectations until goodness flows from our depths, presents new possibilities, and expands our sense of purpose.

The benefit is not only for those we touch but is also like my Costco experience, where our generosity of spirit can create positive energy that permeates the very air we all breathe.  It creates a powerful new vision of who we are and what we can accomplish together. We must hold fast to that vision until it becomes reality.

So, my dear friend, I invite you to create a new virus of caring, of a nobility of our humanity that becomes even more contagious than the one dancing in the headlines.

This is our time.  We can choose to surrender to fear or we can show the world what it means to be thoughtful, to be generous, and to be proactive in helping friends or strangers alike. Perhaps this is an initiation of sorts in which we are invited to step into a new experience of our interdependence and empathy.

Former Vice President Biden, during the most recent debate, announced his intention to create programs that would “make us whole.”  As we extend ourselves into the well-being of each other, we return to wholeness as the family of humankind. Self-serving actions and the illusion of separation can transform into a collective strength that is more encompassing than divisions of race, economic status, gender preference, or political party.

It can be as simple as a smile, an encouraging word, a “window visit” to an elder care home, or a letter to someone in prison.  Your words of encouragement are constantly influencing our perceptions and worldview.

Take all the precautions that are recommended, and at the same time be bold in your love, and constant in your faith that together we will pass through this challenging time.  On the other side of it, we will look back and realize that we were part of an epic time in history when caring triumphed over fear, and goodness prevailed!

Bless you dear one, now and always,

Jean Houston

She says it so well and so lovingly. I hold each of you in the light and glory of the highest expression of who you are. Thank you for being lights in my life.     Nancy

(You can learn about Jean Houston on the Evolving Wisdom site: Evolving Wisdom  going to faculty. Her courses (including some free presentations listed there under Life Purpose and Personal Power.)

 

DOORWAY TO NEW POSSIBILITIES

hand-opens-empty-room-door

In the days and weeks following the shock waves of sadness and fear of 9/11 there was a doorway that swung open. There was great fear and apprehension, but for a short time, there were also acts of deep compassion and solidarity. Hearts went out not only to the families who lost loved ones, but with those who were now hated for their religious beliefs and the contours of their facial features.

We looked in the wrong direction for the true wisdom and guidance that might have led us to an evolutionary leap in our self-understanding as individuals and as a nation. We had the chance to fan humility and honor to discover compassion and creative alternatives to life as usual. In the face of great fear, we drew back to “normal life,” as quickly as possible … and we went back to sleep; credit card in hand, marching forth to the shopping malls which we were told would be our salvation. It was familiar and felt safe… we slammed the door shut.

We have had nearly two decades to regret that missed opportunity. Some have become watchful, knowing that we live in a loving and purposeful Universe and that the doorway would open again. Now it has.

This time the threat is global. The flow of two planetary threats are converging to form a mighty river of momentum toward transformation. Earth’s climate is shifting in a natural progression to a return of balance throughout the web of life. Healing from the poisoning of earth, air, and water is essential for the survival of all living beings. Add to this a virus, inviting us to all work together for the sake of those we love. We have challenges which are hard to sleep through.

How do we seize the opportunity and avoid the tendency to lean our weight as far onto our haunches as possible to resist change? Much is happening to shake us loose. Schools are closing pouring children back into homes and neighborhoods. Sporting events and community gatherings are cancelled, letting us draw back into our own homes and let go of a fevered pace of getting young ones to five events a week. People are encouraged to work from home and not travel great distances, freeing hours on the roads and in the air for us to discover new uses for that time and energy. Many are being shaken loose from our ordinary routines. The secret is not to dive into our comfortable hiding places to wait it out until we can get back to “normal life.”

What if we choose to turn off the perpetual media updates; the reality TV programs and the streaming of countless movies? What if we step away from our virtual reality devices and our on-line shopping carts? What if we let go of the assumption that we can hold on for a month or so, and instead plan for the virus and other changes (along with their countless repercussions) to last for six months, a year, or more? What if we begin now to invent a new way of being outside the insane pace and complexity of mainline western culture?

I invite you to begin dialogues with three to five of the most creative, innovative, out-of-the-box thinking friends you have. Brainstorm about the outdoor activity options from community gardens to outdoor gyms. Share book titles of award winning children’s books and uplifting fantasy stories which feed the imagination with new possibilities. Swap ideas of what you can do as a family or in coordination among a few families to enrich your lives with music, art, dance, teaching and learning new skills.

Make your life a “No Kvetching Zone.” You may be part of those circles as well, but seek to spend very little time there. What you focus on and what you put your energy toward is what will grow and develop in your life. Be playful and joyful. Be grateful for what you have in your life and available to learning new things. This is the energy that will align you with the flow of transformation. The possibilities for personal and global transformation have never been as potent and vast. Let’s all head on across that threshold and see what adventures await us on the other side.

Go out there and create the world that will nurture
and delight your great, great grandchildren!

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.