Joy to the World

jump-for-joy_0Joy is one of the most sacred, healing and enlivening energies in the universe. It is at the heart of many of the celebrations of this season. It is also easily overshadowed by the cultural expectations, emotional investment and economic drive of these last days before Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I want to call us back to this transformative flow of joy as the best possible gift to both give and receive this season and throughout the coming year.

Why do I cling to my barriers to Joy? I, along with many adult humans, have learned that there is something dangerous about this illusive force. There are some powerful myths that we seem to take in with our mother’s milk and never question throughout our lives. One of these is that if you allow yourself to feel joy, with every cell of your being, that the next experience in your life will be one of tragedy and loss. We have been conditioned to believe that joy is a gift that at any moment will be snatched from our hands and sent crashing to the floor, to teach us never to reach for it again.

As a defense, our mind calls joy a “soft emotion,” appropriate for small children and elderly relatives. Those of us with any common sense know that it is dangerous and not to be trusted. But that is only because it is so very powerful in transforming our perception of the world, and therefore the quality of our lives.

Joy rises from that place of mystery, between unseen energy and visible expression in the world. When joy emerges, it comes as an irresistible force, almost volcanic in power, bursting forth from deep within. Joy is what makes the sprout push upward through the soil into the sunshine. It is what drives the beat of the drum and the soaring of the music. Joy makes the flames of the fire leap and dance. It is joy that wells up within the human dancers, fueling their exuberance and movement. When it breaks out from the core of our being, it changes everything we see, hear, taste, touch, intuit.

Consider the truly joy-filled people you have encountered in your life. You have surely met at least one person whose whole being shines with light, love, and peace. These are not naive or feeble-minded individuals. They have lived life fully, experiencing both happiness and sorrow, illness and health, gains and losses. They have also learned the secret to overcoming the fear that joy will lead inevitably to grief. They have discovered the power of gratitude. Gratitude for what brings them joy, but also gratitude for everything that occurs in their lives.

I would invite you to consider this simple opening to joy:

Each morning, as my day begins, I sing my gratitude to the elements of nature and all the living beings who share the beauty of this place. I ask to live in harmony and balance. I offer my thanks for my life, this land and the man I share my life with.

As evening comes, I offer gratitude for everything that happened during the day. Everything.  Sometimes it is a new awareness of how petty and self-absorbed I am, and how I let anger and fear take too much of my day. Other times wisdom or friendship have taken me to a new place of understanding. Whatever has happened, I welcome it as a gift to help me see my unique human experience on the Earth. All that is revealed adds to my willingness to question the barriers I carry that keep me from living in freedom, simplicity and joy.

In this season, may we all follow the lead of the little ones and old folks who laugh freely and sing playfully. May we enjoy those who are openly light-hearted and shine their love into our lives. May we find joy infectious and irresistible.

In the words of the song from Three Dog Night:

Singin’ joy to the world
All the boys and girls now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

 

Adapting to Our First Winter

IMG_6041There is nothing like a blizzard, bringing a general coat of 2 feet of snow and drifts of 4 feet, to bring the reality of winter home. Unless perhaps it is the second storm in the same week making that level 4 feet with a 6 foot berm from road edge to rear of Subaru. We weathered this first pair of storms well, but it has made clear that living in this close relationship with nature calls for adaptation and flexibility in our plans

Brego, our Winnebago, is 30 feet long and requires a good sized circular drive in the back field in order to turn around to nestle back in to the electric hook-up and the wind shelter near the cabin. That means that taking him out to empty the holding tank, or to refill the built-in propane tank would take major snow clearing. From the vantage point of a gentle fall season, that seemed like a simple matter of waiting for a break in weather, and using the snow blower to clear a path.

When the snows came, we found that the snow blower starts, but has little enthusiasm for moving in any direction. It lacks a reverse gear and seems to lean all it’s considerable weight into the ground when you try to push it up any modest incline. So, it basically refuses to work beyond clearing level paths between cabin and trailer porch (where our extra wood is stored) and Brego.

Our first instinct, rippling up from our past life, was “Of course we need a new, lighter, efficient snow blower. That’s obvious!” But, recognizing all the expenses of the fall, and using some adaptive thinking we discovered that we really don’t need it. The berm calls for shovel work. Working on it gently, we cleared an opening for the Subaru in two days. We have all we need to be snowed in. There is no place we need to go. So, a snow shovel and whatever modest help this old dear snow blower can give us will do just fine.
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IMG_6042We are approaching the propane question two ways. We will check to see if the local delivery service will wave their minimum fuel amount if they top off our tank when they are delivering to neighbors. We are also leaning into the availability of electricity to heat Brego with space heaters to the levels I am accustomed to (See my blog “Preparing for a Winter Flow). It took me a few days to realize that I do not need to leave the motor home at ice box temperatures to conserve fuel and keep the electric bill down. I just need to be conscious about when I need heat and when the warmth of bed or an extra layer of clothing allows me to turn the heater down low. We did buy a simple heating pad to warm the foot of my bed before I crawl in at night, and I celebrate that luxury.

In preparing for the first drop of temperatures into the single digits, I have added to Brego’s internal insolation. There are various materials up under the dashboard to block the air flow from around the gas/brake pedals. Over the four main windows, old blankets  provide a fourth layer, and drape down to the floor. There are rubber-backed mats along the aisle way, a heavier curtain on the doorway, and there are pillows tucked up in the ceiling vents. I can’t think of much more that I can do to keep the heat in and the cold out.

In terms of the holding tank, there is also a duel solution. First, I have begun using a night bucket as much as possible. That experiment is going well. With my aging knees and hips, it is not quite as easy as ten years ago when a night bucket was standard equipment for the hermitages at the Zen Practice Monastery. I am grateful for the experience of all those retreats that makes this seem more natural now.

Since the shift in Brego’s mobility came as a surprise, I have also learned that I can empty the holding tank, one bucket at a time. It took about an hour, and six trips to clear his tank from being 35% full. But I now know that if it is necessary, I can care for that need as well.

And today, five days after the snows stopped, it is warm and rainy. Who knows, we may be able to get the motor home out just fine. We will wait and see how things look the next time we need to move him. So, adapting continues, as a breath-like expanding and contracting. We see what is possible in the moment and remain grateful through it all. All we need flows into our lives and we are learning how powerful it is to live in this intimate relationship with land, weather and life.

(Our deep gratitude to those who have given us regular support through our Patreon pages. It makes a world of difference in our lives.)

 

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 animal 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.

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 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  more per month, as a sustaining flow for our lives. Each patron at this higher level of support, 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.

Relationship with Land: Mary Reynolds

gardenawakeningA few weeks ago I shared about Fiona and her invitation to live in a more intimate relationship with the land. Today, I want to share about a second big influence: Mary Reynolds. You may have heard of her through the film “Dare to be Wild,” about her wild, native garden entry in the Chelsea Garden Show, or from her book The Garden Awakening. I discovered her through an NPR interview, shared by a friend, and have since been reading her book and her website We Are the Ark

Mary weaves together a love for land as a living being, the honoring of native plants and creatures, and the importance of growing our own food. She began her career designing gardens that had multi-levels of trees, plants and shrubs which provided both habitat for wild life and fresh food for humans. She is now calling for those of us who are caring for some piece of land to allow half of it to return to its wild state to provide an Ark to help retain diversity of both plants and animals. Growing our own food allows our land to nourish us. It frees us from mass produced food which poisons our bodies, the land, and all living beings through its use of GMO crops and the pesticides/herbicides/fertilizers they require.

Bill with CedarWhile many of our friends are having to take out the shrubs and trees near their homes to reduce fire risks, we are fortunate to live in small dwellings on about 2.8 acres of open grassland with trees, manzanita and other scrub. Beyond the “defensible space,” for human habitat, there are a number of different areas within this land. There is maze-like area of manzanita bushes and pine trees settled near the road, and extending north to Grandfather Tree. There is a gathering of pines, manzanita and other bushes at the back corner, with Grandmother tree in its center. There are a dozen 30-year-old pine trees (The Sisters), which follow the contours of the land in a way that implies a stream leading to a small pond. There is another small cluster of bushes and the small pond I have set out at the other rear corner. Then there is open grassland which has been mowed on a yearly basis, but is basically natural.

During this past week, we have followed Mary’s advice in several ways. She recommends that each year, you walk the boundaries of your property and tap stones together to let it know that within this place you will be caring for the land. Part of this is to honor it as a living being and to learn to listen to what it wants to be, as well as to communicate your wishes for it. We used our drumming to set this boundary of care and to share our intentions that this be a place where people can discover deep, healing connection with nature and that all the living beings here thrive in harmony with one another.

Nancy and FirYesterday, we brought two small trees from the edge of the road into the stream-like pattern in the field. Again, Mary’s words inspired this experience. Mycorrhizal networks extending beyond the root systems of trees communicate both with the soil to seek needed nutrients and with other trees to provide information and mutual support. We started by finding a few small trees that were willing to be moved from their current network out into the field, and trees among The Sisters to be foster family connections for these young ones. We dug up the small fir and cedar as carefully as we could, using our fingers to untangle their roots from the stony soil and then carried their roots, surrounded by some of their own soil in a damp towel out to where they were planted. I cradled them in my arms and sang to them, and spoke of the sunshine and love they were being moved into. Bill helped plant them at just the right depth and gathered pine needles to mulch around them.

We returned to the places where we had taken the trees, and made offerings, restored the soil as much as possible and offered gratitude to the surrounding vegetation.

Later in the day, I made a mixture of water, a handful of rich soil we had gathered from a hillside that has never been cleared, and a bit of sugar. I sang to it and again placed intentions into it for it to bring light, love and vibrant life to all it touches. At the close of the day, we poured good amounts of this water onto the two new trees and then gave a bit to each of the Sister Trees in gratitude to them.

I am deeply grateful to Mary Reynolds for these and many other suggestions she makes for creating strong relationships with the land on which we live. She helped me bridge a sense of environmental responsibility to nurture this property and the symbolic ritual that has become familiar in my shamanic practice.

I will continue to share with you as the seasons unfold, and I learn more as I listen to the land.

Places to Begin if you have a small yard, or if you have voice in the landscaping near your home or work pace:

  • Visit Mary Reynolds’ website wearetheark.org. We Are the Ark 
  • Read the opening chapters of her The Garden Awakening, to nurture your sense of relationship with land as a living bring.
  • NSPR Interview – Best of Cultivating Places: Dare to Be Wild, Aired Oct. 10, 2019, by North State Public Radio in Chico, CA.
  • Do not use any chemicals on your land – not fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides … they poison land, water and all living beings.
  • Let go of lawns — they gobble up space, usually require chemical support and excessive watering, and cause us to categorize many native grasses as “weeds.”
  • If you can not grow your own food, buy organically grown to reduce our dependence of agribusiness farming practices.
  • Allow nature to bring forth what it knows is fitting for the soil and the climate of your area.  Sometimes leaving it alone will allow it to reintroduce a balance of plants and grasses which can thrive in current conditions, and support living creatures of many sizes and forms.

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

Conversation with Money

snowflakeI was introduced to this concept through a free introductory session from Shift Network for their course: “The Generous, Loving Energy of Money,” with Sarah McCrum. While I generally veer away from anything that ties spirituality with money, abundance, … I loved her tone. Her premise is that “Money” is one of the most misunderstood forms of energy in the universe. Our conditioned mind, our personal upbringing, our cultural messages, and our life-long experience of ambivalence with money, lead to a love/hate relationship with it.

One of her books: “Love Money, Money Loves You,” emerged as she had conversations directly with “Money.” She recommends this practice, and I am amazed at what has emerged over the months as I have used it. I will share a bit of my dialogue, but encourage you to try it for yourself.

I first did a journey to meet the energy of Money, and found that it appeared in the form of a snowflake — full of light and beauty. In a dialogue that followed, Money affirmed this image as much more helpful that the cultural dollar signs and price tags that we have been taught to place on everything, including our own worth and the value of our life purpose.

In following Sarah’s example, I took time to quiet my mind, and then just sat at the computer, typing my questions and watching what emerged as I typed responses.

An image of the flow of financial resources into my life being like the flow of water available for a garden has been very helpful.

N: Good morning my snowflake-shaped friend. As I open to the possibilities of your flow in support of my life, I find that I am more open to admitting I want that support. But then, I immediately go to, “I don’t want to sound greedy, …” I do not want my relationship with you to become one where I am clawing at you trying to get more and more.

M: Okay, do you see where you veered from your original open, honest, vulnerable statement and went right into an age-old myth? When you make “What I want to support my life” = “Greed” we are in shut-down mode. One of the worst names anyone could call you is “greedy,” so your analytical mind, which wants to stay between you and me, throws out that name to get you to move away and “be reasonable.”

N: Yes, that seems to be what happens. I am to weigh, measure and compare my wants/needs very carefully before I ask for anything. The one in me who does that process is afraid of wanting anything more than bed, rice and beans.

M: Remember that I am not the miser here. My flow is available and unlimited. What you receive does not limit what flows to every other living being. Money is not limited – currency may be, but Money = Nurturing flow to support life purpose, is not.
I am not a Comptroller who is managing your life. You are responsible for the requests you make, the focus you hold, and the way you decide to channel the flow as it comes. If you asked for more water for your garden, the canal operator would not tell you which vegetables or trees to put the water on – he would simply increase the flow. You could not complain to him that you drown your parsley and that your lettuce never matured because of the dry conditions. I am not trying to control your life – I am not here to determine your life focus, nor to make you a good person — or a bad person for that matter. I am a resource which is eager to enhance life on the planet – to bring peace, love, joy and fulfillment. So, can you go back to the beginning? What is your life purpose and what can I do to help support it?

N:  I want to give the gift of my life purpose: “Being an open, human channel for the flow of the Love, Creativity, Harmony and Light of the Sacred Source.” I want to be one who helps bring the sacredness of all of life back into our human experience. I sense this is nurtured by my Shamanic Journey work and a deepening relationship with all living beings. It may be expressed in the weaving of a book from some of the insights this work brings.

I do not see myself working very much in the outward, ordinary world. I give my life focus for the benefit of all beings, and the healing of the planet Herself. In return, I seek a flow of financial resources to sustain the simple life Bill and I are living, with freedom from worry about bills and unexpected expenses. I will continue my inner work to open to this flow into and through my life.

May you have your own conversations with “Money,” and find a new relationship with it that brings freedom, peace and joy to your life.