Archive for ‘January, 2017’

Shaken, Not Uprooted

In my waking nightmare, a larger-than-life President Trump grabs a huge map of the United States of America and starts shaking it.  Hard.  So hard, people start to fall off the map— brown people, black people— he’s trying to shake them off.  He shakes again, more people fall— poor people, LBGTQ people, people in every kind of wild and colorful clothing.  They bump hard against the thick wall at the bottom of the map before they bounce and fall.  

But Trump isn’t finished.  More overgrown white men join him now— Bannon, Sessions, Pruitt, Tillerson, Ryan— they all start jolting and shaking the map, the country.  Now the trees start falling off, and the water is blackened by shaken oil that spilled and it all runs off, dripping across the map face, over the wall, onto the piles of dislodged, fallen people, trees, and now animals below.  

The giant men pause, and agree to shake hard all together— 1, 2, 3, JOLT!  Religions fall off, and decency.  Hope comes loose and floats down like feathers in the dust of joy and goodness, crumbling.

Trump stops.  The men stop, and step back smugly to survey.  The map is ashen white.  All the color lies beneath, in ruin.  Dust smoke clears to reveal the American landscape, barren now except for the oil wells and crosses that mark their territory.  They look like tombs.

I study dreams a little bit, sharing them with a dream group every two weeks.  We follow a form taught by expert Jeremy Taylor, who asserts that all dreams— even nightmares— are given to us for our healing and wholeness.  Although they’re disturbing, in my experience, nightmares are actually good, juicy dreams to have.  They get our attention, point out pretty accurately in dream symbols just what’s amiss, and they practically guarantee that our minds and hearts are ready and able to do something about it.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the dream!  Taylor says, “The very fact that a dream is remembered in the first place means that the dreamer actually has at his or her disposal all the courage, creativity, strength, and wisdom necessary to respond creatively and transformatively to even the worst ‘problem’ that the dream presents.”  (Read his great article.)

So I’m paying attention to this nightmare.  The image of Trump and company shaking all the color and life off of the American map is a frighteningly accurate picture of how I’m feeling about the political barrage jolting our communities and shaking our way of life.  I’ve walked away from my desk several times just trying to stomach writing this list of recent actions taken and promised:  Muslim bans, border walls, white supremacist-influenced speeches and policy, climate change gag orders, green-lighted oil pipelines, hobbled environmental and consumer protection, threats to women’s and minority rights, sexual abuse approved and glorified, free press skewed and hampered, healthcare repealed with no plan for replacement, incompetent cabinet appointments, budget cuts on the poor, prioritized corporate interests, Russian election interference, disregard for nuclear threat, nepotism, bullying, lying without regard for truth, petty tweets, and on, and on.  Seriously, I can hardly breathe in this Trump version of the American dream.  If it all shakes down in this nightmare direction, our landscape will indeed be ashen— white-only, with a narrow band of approved thought or belief, spoiled soil and water, and very few tight fists holding all the wealth in top-down power.

But this is a nightmare— remember?— meant for our healing and wholeness.  This is a juicy, important warning message asking all of us to wake up, stay woke, and get busy offering our part of a life-giving dream for the USA and the world.

Some of us have been trying to wake up the rest of us for generations now—  people of color, indigenous peoples, immigrants, the LBGTQ community, the peace movement, environmental activists, the mystics and spiritual seekers, artists, poets, writers, and so many others.  These wise, enduring, and creative voices offer powerful and vibrant dreams and plans for justice, safety, flourishing, interconnection, belonging.  Listening to them in a variety of ways helps me hold my ground and stay steady when it’s shaky.  For my whole life, I’ve found inspiration and motivation through spiritual practice, poetry, and art.  Contemplative listening, Mary Oliver’s poems, and art-making definitely give me roots and wings.  For years, the LBGTQ, peace, and environmental movements have shaped my vision for a mutually-nourishing way of living on our planet home.  I even have a favorite scientist, Brian Swimme!  Recently, I’ve felt convicted to pray more deeply and to commit more of my life to my best work as I’ve heard stories from the Standing Rock gathering of Native Americans.  African-American elders, teachers, writers, and film-makers are urging me to examine my privilege, speak for justice, and never turn to despair.  And I’m only just starting to investigate more political avenues for systemic change, like the Indivisible Guide, the Black Lives Movement Platform, and Waging Nonviolence.

What practices, beliefs, ideas, and resources ground your spirit and inspire your actions?

In my dream of a vibrant, alive, colorful America, we must grow deep, strong, unshakable roots in truth, kindness, creativity, playfulness, wisdom, care for all other people and ourselves, healthy relationships with all of earth’s beings, etc.  We don’t have to fall off of that nightmare map.

In what do you grow your good roots?  

In my vision for who we are as a country and a global community, we do call out nightmares and evil when and where we see them.  Yet always and more:  we pray or set our sacred intentions, we listen beyond our quick judgments, we speak out and say what we’re for, and we show up and do what we love.  Each of us lives these out in a different way.  And all of us can live these together in a united way.

What life-giving visions for our future do you see or imagine? 

How do your visions and dreams invite you to respond?  

In my waking dream of who we as Americans can become, our love and creativity keep us rooted and alive when politics shakes us to the core.  We protect and support our vulnerable neighbors when injustice rocks them and us.  And we choose to listen to the planet and its wisdom when the climate speaks.

May it be so.

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Our Rising Orders

This is my intention, my prayer, and also the sign I’ll carry for the Women’s March in Albuquerque on January 21, 2017:


If you’d like to carry this sign too, hurrah!  I welcome you to download the file and print it yourself locally (for non-commercial use only, please):

Download the printable PDF sign here:  WOMEN’S MARCH SIGN

(You don’t have to join DropBox to download– click “No Thanks” at the bottom of the pop-up screen.)

This winter I invited my workshop students to consider the spiritual practice of clearing out and listening in, to make space to hear inwardly what right action would rise up.  In that spirit, I sat down one morning this week to get quiet and listen for inner guidance on whether I would attend the Women’s March in Albuquerque, and what message I would carry.  Speaking out for human rights and care for the Earth is deeply important to me, but I wanted to listen beyond whether I should go and what I should say.  With my limited energy and my particular gifts and skills, what would my inner wisdom know about the best way for me to respond in this moment?

After a while in the silence, I was surprised to remember a fantastic question my friend Sue asked me a couple of years ago.  When I felt all heavy and stuck around something important, she wondered aloud, “What if you could only do something fun about this?”  As her question rang again in my heart, I felt a new clarity rising: my political and social actions need to embody joy and goodness, not just anger and fear.  Yes, I would go to the march– for the grown-up fun of it— for the chance to join others and lift my voice for justice because love and hope pull me forward, gladly.  And with this joyful orientation and spiritual conviction, I would practice integrating the courage and fierceness I admire in dedicated non-violent activists.

So I played with words in my journal, then played with those words on my computer to make a sign that tried to say something about all that.  You’ve seen the result here, and I’m delighted that some of you might also want to carry this message too.

This is the way I want to continue to practice– again and again– as I engage our political and social challenges:  Center Down, Clear Out, Listen In, and Rise Up.  (I have some art that goes with that, and I’ll do my best to get that photo up on the website soon.)  My heart and my convictions worked together as I opened myself in the sacred silence, cleared out my shoulds, and let the right action and perspective rise up within me.

For now, I have my marching orders, literally, with sign in hand.  Or as my students and I said this winter, these are our Rising Orders.  There is much to heal, my friends.  May you joyfully listen to your heart and wisdom to find what rises for you, too.


If you’d like to carry this sign, hurrah!  I welcome you to download the file and print it yourself locally (for non-commercial use only, please):

Download the printable PDF sign here:  WOMEN’S MARCH SIGN

(You don’t have to join DropBox to download– click “No Thanks” at the bottom of the pop-up screen.)

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