Category: Eco-Spirituality

Echoes

Echoes

A little holly tree, about waist high, caught my attention so I stopped and pulled out my native flute to play it a tune. I started doing this on some of my hikes into the forests of the Smoky Mountains a while back. I play as a thank-you to Nature. 

As the first notes of the flute floated over the tree and out into the woods, I paused. I do this to create space and allow the notes to drift. Today, in that first pause, I heard a magnificent echo that resounded from the bottom of two mountain ridges I stood between. It was a most magical experience listening to the mellow, resounding notes drifting back from their journey to the mountains on either side of me.

As I walked on the echoes stayed in my mind. Up to the top of the ridge, down the other side to the beautiful creek below, I thought of how what we put out in the world comes back as echoes. 

Perhaps the echo of one effort returns immediately and the results shine quickly. But maybe something else we did decades ago just begins to return as an echo long after we remember doing it. Sometimes we may not even live to see the echo return.

Moving further down the trail I reflected on recent events in our country. The echoes put out by a man are returning now, some that started over five years ago are returning as violence and unrest and meanness. I will never forget him making fun of a reporter with cerebral palsy and mimicking him. That should have ended his campaign but somehow the meanness and ridiculously bad behaviors he repeated only grew a fanatical fan base that finally felt free to outwardly be mean and violent. Those echoes are returning now through violence and death and threats. 

What we put out returns and in the going out and coming back, makes ripples in the world. Never has there been a more important time to be clear about our intentions and the energy we put out. For whatever we send out will return. 

Now is the time our skills are needed. Many of us have been waiting and diligently working on ourselves, healing our wounds, going deeper into our pain to become clearer channels of light and love. We have been in the background, working where we can to make a difference but knowing there was a greater work we were called to do. We have experienced frustration about not knowing what it was or how we would know or when, if ever, we would be able to do what we came here to do.

Make no mistake. Now is the time for which we were born. Lightworkers, healers, teachers of love and compassion, wisdom-keepers, scholars, gentle souls, artists, strong souls, scientists, those who stand up to hate and violence, Nature-lovers, priestesses, empaths….now is the time. This is the moment for which we have prepared, for which we incarnated.

Let us send out the echoes without attachment to where they will travel or how they will help in this transformational time. Let us send them out anyway. May we gather the fierce love within and allow it lead us to share the gifts we arrived with and have developed as we waited.

Some echoes return immediately. Others are eternal.

What’s Next?

What’s Next?

Recently I wrote blog posts about releasing old stories we tell ourselves. Part 1 and Part 2 were about our individual, familial, and cultural stories that keep us stuck with a limited definition of who we are. The big question is, what’s next?

We do the hard work of recognizing those abusive stories and clearing them but what happens next? As life generally provides the answer, it came for me during yoga teacher training.

We were discussing archetypes that yoga teachers exhibit and it touched something within me that had been hidden for a while. A long while. I came out of the training remembering my fascination and admiration for Carl Jung, the psychoanalyst who first wrote about archetypes. In graduate school, his psychological theory was the one that deeply spoke to me, so some of that profound explanation of the human psyche returned as I mulled over the class.

Jungian archetypes are universal symbols that originate in the collective unconscious. Archetype means original pattern. I like to think of archetypes as containers holding patterns of being. Jung defined twelve primary types and suggested that each of us has one that dominates our personality but others might also have influence.

The twelve and what they seek are: Ruler–Control; Artist–Innovation; Sage–Knowledge; Innocent–Safety; Explorer–Freedom; Rebel–Liberation; Hero–Mastery; Wizard–Power; Jester–Pleasure; Everyman–Belonging; Lover–Intimacy; Caregiver–Service.

While we might resonate with one more than others, chances are that we find many of these archetypes manifesting within our psyche in some way.

So, back to the yoga teaching training…we had a wonderful discussion about archetypes and the qualities that define them. We took turns leading our group in short meditations like teachers use for opening and closing a class and I led the one at the end of our morning discussion on archetypes. 

As I closed my eyes and listened for guidance on what to say, I found myself in a beautiful place of openness and listening to the group energy of our class. What followed was a guided meditation on embodying an archetype that spoke to each person and a way to bring that forth into the world as our gift.

One of the instructors, at the end of the meditation, suggested an entire class could be done with the archetype meditation so the following morning that’s what I did…for myself, my personal practice.

During that time I realized how much space had been cleared by allowing the old storylines to fall away and that now I was able to open to and play with different aspects of my psyche. One of the most amazing surprises that resulted from the practice was realization that the many years of study and participation with a group from the UK that works with the Qabalah was preparing me for work in the world. It wasn’t just a spiritual study to learn. It was a spiritual study to experience and put into practice in the world.

Having more inner space allowed me to clearly see the skills that have been honed through many years of meditation, study and ritual. And to realize those skills learned were not just about study, personal power or personal mastery.  The skills gained were leading me to a deeper ability to bring the work of my soul through into physical manifestation with clarity, humility, love and deep compassion.

Without doubt, this was the second most powerful yoga practice I’ve ever done. (The first one was when I was with humpback whales 90 miles off the coast of the Dominican Republic and they led me through a purple fire of initiation…you can read about that in Cosmic Whales: Mystical Stories from the Sea). 

As I have worked diligently on releasing the old stories over the past month…oh, let’s be honest–I’ve been working on this for decades….the recent clearing has opened the way to embody powerful archetypes that come directly from the collective unconscious. And the key is to embody and learn from these symbols and be flexible, non-grasping. Allow the power to come through but don’t become attached to it. Learn from it, use it to help manifest whatever your soul mission is, and then be open and flexible for other archetypes to teach us as we open to embody them.

So we clear the old stories and realize our families rarely are what we think we need and often are the sources of great pain as we push against them to grow into our full potential. Yet a friend of mine reminded me many years ago: the family you chose before you incarnated is here to help you grow into your potential…they offer you resistance, something to push against so your growth is more rapid, deeper. And so even though we might grieve what we thought we never had, perhaps we had something even better…other souls willing to challenge us to become more fully who we truly are. 

We learn self-care, we learn how to nurture and love ourselves and we learn to refuse to allow further abuse to ourselves–from our self or others– all with appreciation and gratitude for the lessons learned. And we walk forward knowing that as we open to the inner space, our ability to embody who we truly are grows with every old storyline we drop, even the one about being an orphan surrounded by a complete family.

The Stories We Tell Our Self–Part 2

The Stories We Tell Our Self–Part 2

The yoga teacher training I am enrolled in has been a powerful catalyst for healing and one of the tools we use is myth. Since yoga is based in Hindu tradition, the mythology is Hindu which is a culture that is unfamiliar to my western psyche. And honestly, I haven’t resonated with it. The story content is thus far quite patriarchal and while the stories can be illustrative of the human condition no matter the cultural upbringing, they have mostly served to point me to other stories and traditions that I do resonate with and most importantly have helped me uncover a personal mythos.

Recently I wrote about the personal myth–the story we tell our self about our self based on life experiences. I suggested that we are capable of releasing the negative story of judgment and criticism and feeling the freedom that comes from living outside a ‘storyline.’ Another element of that potentially damaging personal myth is the family myth and it can be just as wounding and is quite likely the foundation of our individual story.

When I was in my early twenties, nearly four decades ago, my grandfather said, ‘God won’t love you if you do this.’I was making a decision that my entire family thought was wrong and rather than support me or help me through it, they cast me into hell. Literally. In my family, if you did anything outside their acceptable parameters you were not only wrong, you were quite literally going to burn for it, cast away from God. My grandmother suggested I go into a hospital to regain my sanity. I’m not kidding. If you dared to do anything outside what was acceptable by the ‘family’ you were a bad, bad person and no longer were held in the family embrace…but they loved you anyway. 

The family mythos…We love you even when you are less than what we expect. Love you when you when you break our rules, when you are not perfect…and look how good and virtuous we are because we love you even when you are displeasing God.I’m certain my family wasn’t the only one with a direct line to God about every other family member. What about your family? And yours? Does your family say…I love you, but….I love you, anyway?

If family mythos is the foundation of our life then cultural mythos is the foundation of the family storyline. Cultural myth is powerful whether it is based in religious or secular stories. As we grow we see our life reflected in the stories so we can evolve spiritually, emotionally and mentally from applying these myths to our life. And yet, if we take the myth as fact we can easily become stuck in it. Just like the family storyline, the cultural stories can harm us if we take them literally.

For instance, Cinderella was saved by the prince from a life of servitude. Does that mean women have to constantly be rescued? That’s a dangerous precedent to follow yet that’s one of the stories feminism has helped debunk. A mentor of mine led a workshop on faery tales many years ago and taught a wonderful way to apply them.

Dolores had us become various characters in the same story during guided meditations. In the story of Cinderella we were Cinderella, then the next time Prince Charming. Or the wicked stepmother. The benefit of myths is that we can see each character as our self and thus gain understanding of various parts of us. The inner feminine needs a powerful inner masculine. The inner wicked stepmother needs to heal jealousy and anger. The inner stepsisters need to work on their selfishness.

If cultural myths are taken literally, they can become methods of control and create a destructive patterns of behavior. When we use them to examine our life, they can transform our life.

A small cohort of women in my yoga training recently presented the story of Kali after I rewrote it. It was one of the most powerful experiences in the training thus far and it resulted from several of us finding the patriarchal myths irritating. We were able to work with the story of Kali and apply it to our lives as a way toward inner transformation. 

Life isn’t static. Life is flow. Life is creative and evolutionary. It is time to rise up and question the stories we tell our self about our self whether they come from family, culture or our own patterns of thought. 

When we embody the limited mythology of the family and culture and use it to abuse ourselves with criticism and judgment, our story becomes very dark and scary. If we assign our self a role to play and limit our self to that one role, we stop the possibility of personal evolutionary growth. When the message we receive is that we are failures if we don’t adhere to the family mythos, the cultural mythos, or the religious mythos we began to give ourselves conditional love…I love you but you are a total disappointment. I love you even if you are a failure. 

It’s not, I love you, anyway. It’s I love you. Period.

Until we can let go of our personal, family and cultural myths as ways to define our lives, we are destined to remain stuck in the same storylines, never evolving past the limiting stories and never realizing the unlimited potential that can chart the course of a lifetime if we have the courage to stop telling our self the same, old stories.