Many of us feel deeply moved by compassion and are driven toward righting injustices and systematic mistreatments toward our fellow humankind, the animal and plant kingdoms, and our planet on both micro and macro scales. Being aware of and keeping informed on atrocities, can at times become incapacitating. They may pull our heart strings into uncontrollable anger, cloak us in depression, occupy our mind until we think only of hardship, or become a self imposed tool of measure that invalidates our personal hardships and devalues our joys. Sometimes these knowings leave us feeling as if two distinct realities are at play among us; “those who know and care” and “those who don’t”, and it is very common to experience helplessness, hopelessness, frustration, isolation, and become completely exhausted. How then do we continue our endeavours to live as agents of harmony and activate the righting of wrongs?
I offer up four in-the-moment inquiries and personal agreements to support navigating living in an over burdened world. They are suitable for empathic sensitives, peace creators, activists, change makers and informed dreamers alike and are intended to ensure our energy and focus stays efficiently placed. When overwhelmed with emotion and choosing how to proceed when facing a travesty or injustice, be it smaller scale within a personal or family dynamic, right on up through to larger scales of country, entire peoples, or earth as a whole, these reflections and commitments are designed to be a dependable support.
Consent in healing practice and spiritual communities is something that I bump up against very very often and yet I find is seldom spoken about. If it is, it tends to be short, vague, and encompasses the moral absolution of simply adding "for their highest good" before carrying on. To me, this conversation is essential. Not only for practitioners, teachers, and facilitators to have with those they work with, but for All Of Us. It is relevant in circumstances we regularly encounter in our day-to-day, everything from blowing out birthday candles and wishing on stars to social media pleas and conversations over tea. It plays out in a variety of ways, but here are a few common scenarios that I encounter:
I speak a firm counter stance on this and lay down strict parameters for those I am working with. There are only two.
The part I really want to speak to however is the hard truth that we can't assume to know best simply because our compassion is engaged. Humans are incapable of fully understanding the complexities, intricacies, and ramifications of any given event, particularly as time unfolds or the different realms it may affect. Heck we can't even see a full range of light and colour. Not even hear a complete array of tones and pitches. Yet a common consensus appears to be that we can freely impose our will over another when we think it is for their "highest good" or that asking the person's "higher self" or "spirit guides" for permission makes it okay. Perhaps even we double check later with that person to find they appreciated it, providing fuel for justifying this habitual response.
Myself? I believe this way of thinking to be out of integrity and dare I say, downright sloppy.
Let me explain by sharing a few true stories:
You may be familiar with the story of the man who helped a butterfly emerge from its cocoon. Essentially the butterfly could not fly because its wings had not developed the needed strength provided by breaking free on its own. I am not one to "love and light" anyone's hardship, or tell someone in the thickest dark night of the soul that "everything happens for a reason", but I also wont deny someone the transformative insights or strength of character that can only be found in our broken places. Who am I to impose my Will on another person's situation without their knowledge nor direct consent? No matter how rotten, no matter the suffering, how would I know that isn't the divine plan, pre-chosen soul path, or the exact poison needed to deliver the most potent medicine? What if our collective prayers inadvertently remove a stepping stone leading to their best life? most suited partner? invaluable wisdom? Is it okay to infringe on another's free will because we tag on "for the highest good"? What if their higher self says Yes but they themselves say No? Are we 100% certain we haven't projected our desire to fix into that divination? Is it enough to go against a conscious dissent?
What can we do?
Inquiring if someone is open to receiving your prayers or healing intentions, even if you have been friends for decades and you've done it a million times, shows respect and integrity. Every situation is different and what may have been okay before may not be this time. If it is someone you don't know well, or has beliefs other than our own on such matters, pay attention to the language used in asking for consent. If they think healing energy or divination readings are too "woo-woo" or aren't real, see if an equivalent that makes sense to them can be found. Even if it is something like, "Do you mind if I imagine you free from this challenge?" or "Are you okay with me meditating for an answer on this?"
It might be inappropriate or impossible to ask for consent leaving us with an uncomfortable feeling of "doing nothing", and sometimes we just have to sit with that. I like to check in honestly and ask myself if I am able to trust in knowing they have their own wisdom, their own senses, and their own journey in a matter or if I might actually be doubting or accidentally being condescending toward their natural abilities. Simply regarding, noticing, and appreciating someone is a powerful act. Quantum physics shows us the impact an observer can have in situations of all kinds from particle waves to ph levels of water. We aren't doing anything beyond witnessing something already present like their tenacity or the light of their life force.
What about the exception I mentioned for young children?
I recognize that small dependent children turn to their parents for all of their needs and it is up to us to draw on our skills and supports to do so. Whether it is applying aid during an illness or keeping them safe. It is expected of us. Wanted. Needed. Prayers and healing work included. I say "limited exception" because in my experience folks tend to want to push those boundaries toward pubescent and full grown adult children or stretch into areas that are life or behaviour controlling. Removing a troublemaking friend of theirs during a fire ceremony is different than praying for their ability to make wise choices. It can be exceptionally difficult for parents to honour a child's autonomy, resiliency, and need to make their own way through the dark woods. It can be hard to know when it is right to hold their hand, when we should stand beside or behind, and when to plain stay out of it. Clarity is good. Ask them.
This has been a long one. Much gratitude to readers who have made it this far. It is an area that I am passionate about, aim to follow, and am quite firm on since it comes up so often in my work and gatherings. Of course it is not always appropriate to broach in the heat of a moment either. It was time to put it all in one place and share out from here.
My bubble buddy, and new friend at the fine arts centre has watched me patch up "clay fails" and creatively tend to mishaps that would make most potters cringe and scoff. Generally the idea of being so attached to a piece that one tries to save it is relegated to noobs who could use practice in 'just make another' don't waste your time and learn through the doing. Most serious potters tend to toss imperfect greenware into the Reclaim Bucket, or smash Bisqued and Glazed pieces into the ceramic graveyard of mosaic hopefuls and archeologist dreams.
I create with intention but keep very close the knowing the life of a piece may be found short at any moment. But I can't say it is non-attachment, for surely it isn't. One swift movement, jerk of a hand, hidden air bubble, too hot and dry air too soon, too cold air too soon, a poor dip or drip, a fusion to a kiln shelf, catch of a finger nail, an exploding kiln neighbour, ripped out bottom or snapped off handle, each can spell death to a piece, and I will love each for as long as they live just the same.
And just like those parts of ourselves that feel broken or dreams we thought were destined for the reclaim bucket or graveyard - sometimes we can put our perfectionism and consumer conditioning aside and love it back - again and again if we must.
I remember being very small and looking closely at a plastic horse that I had, noticing how the eye paint was askew and there were chunky bits along the mould seam. I knew that no one had touched it when it was being made, no one had cared for it or noticed its details. There was a sad vacancy and I wanted to love that little horse more to make up for it somehow. I hadn't read it yet, but knew Velveteen Rabbits were real.
Perhaps that is why I hesitate to toss so easily into the reclaim bucket, why I slow-cook and hand stitch aspects of my life together. If you know me though, you know I am a strong advocate for letting things die when it is time. Perhaps surprisingly so. But some things quietly call for being loved back to life.
This piece was gifted to me half a foot away from the Reclaim Bucket. As you can see, so far it has been resuscitated at least twice and it certainly isn't out of the woods yet. Some of my pieces hold this story of reclamation with them and I softly wonder if anyone might feel it. If they don't, that is okay. I do.
I didn't hyperspeed this up because reclaiming by way of loving takes a little time - as it should.
In the lead up to our monthly circles I spend time listening, with all of my senses, for incoming messages that support our moving in a good way through unseen, "felt", energetic currents that are always present and perhaps go unnoticed.
Something that came up last week was the invitation for us to pay extra attention to the portals we pass through. The thresholds we cross. The transitions we experience. Everything from actual household doorways to shifting between sleep and wakefulness. The portals we pass through when we work with Spirit, the veils that we part, the auspicious moments in time... like a Full Moon or Samhain (or as the case is this year - both!) Have you ever walked into a room and completely forgotten why you are there? It is called the "Doorway Effect". Our brain is triggered into forgetting. There can be great medicine in forgetting, but there is also much to be had in remembering.
What came through was an invitation for slowing things down enough to reallllly notice - mostly that we are in fact crossing a threshold, but also, since we are noticing, to mindfully experience the qualities and stages of them a bit.
~ Standing at the doorway. Is there trepidation? Expectation? Preconceived assumptions? A leap of faith? I'm sure we all know the 'hand on the doorknob steeling up to actually enter' feeling, or that chest flutter just before declaring a final decision. Are We opening it or is something else? Can we choose to keep it closed? Did we prepare?
~ The sometimes very brief moment of being In a liminal state, neither fully here nor there. Is there comfort in this? Discombobulation? Can we hear/see wisdoms easier or feel more blind? Perhaps we are here longer than anticipated, it can feel dizzying and fast or sometimes a timeless limbo. Is it solid and sturdy or is our safety in jeopardy?
~ Emerging on the other side. Is it a jolt to the system? Do we feel welcomed and in the "right place"? Did we come out standing on our own two feet or crawling on raw hands and knees? Do we need a rest now or feel invigorated? Have we really made it fully through? Are we where we expected to be? Did we kick the door shut or did it lovingly, gently, click closed behind us?
Did we even notice?
We pass through so.very.many. Every day. All day.
But perhaps the great forgetting is upon us.
Think of all the stories we have known, stories of ornate doors with missing keys, stories of secret words to clear blocked passage, the tunnels that are stumbled upon, fairy rings bumbled into, forbidden rooms that force one into an initiation of sorts, creatures of myth who cross boundaries and worlds and realms. These stories have long captivated our attention, and there always seems to be an aspect of "the human" and an aspect of "otherworldliness" to them.
This week and into the next, if you are inclined, I extend this invitation from somewhere trusted on "the other side", to notice the portals that you pass through. Be they your front door, a video call, into/out of meditation, spirit journeying, creative state, ritual acts, or ceremony space. Between daydreaming and presence. When you get in and out of the car. Heck even half asleep midnight bathroom trips.
We don't need to over analyze.
I am not one who feels compelled to know the Why or How behind every mystery. I am not quick to label, designate, or categorize. But I do recognize patterns and I make associations through experiences. I pick up on similarities, threads of potential, and unseen streams of feeling. Sometimes I'll follow them through to articulation and hope it lands somewhere helpful.
These past weeks I have been observing the various ways people have been moving through our current global experience. Some are stepping into high gear productivity and creativity. Some diving into ceremony and prayer. Some crumbling under overwhelm or simply maintaining and existing. There is calm. There is tension. There is violence and acts of incredible beauty. The parallel that I can sense, no matter how our situations are affecting us, is with that of an Initiatory Experience. More precisely, the sort of initiation that was unexpected and goes largely unrecognized. This is not the community supported, planned and prepared for sort. Rites of Passage, Vision Quests, profound Healing Ceremonies, Warrior Homecomings, or the culmination of an intense period of Spiritual Apprenticeship, ideally, are supported by wise medicine keepers, elders, or the already initiated, and tend to be witnessed by close community. Necessarily unaware of what challenges it entails, the initiate often feels it coming and prepares, strengthens and readies, but they certainly may not always. If fortunate, those surrounding them are aware and have watched their slow unfolding, and quietly are preparing in their roles for what lies ahead. They know the protocols, hold the space, and set the pace. We see it naturally when experienced parents pass wisdom to expectant mothers and the midwife and doula arrive. It is there when an Uncle brings a boy on his first hunting trip. When a young girl enters the tent for the first time after menarche or as the family gathers to the bedside of a passing elder. Significant times of change that leave a very clear sense of life Before as being distinct from life After.
Unfortunately, unrecognized initiations occur in individuals and groups quite often. These are times when we move through life altering events that shake us to our core, without guidance of a medicine person or wise elder facilitating a conscious process, without knowledge of what is afoot, and without even a sense of preparation. It might be a near death experience through illness or accident, coming of age without stories of foretelling, becoming lost alone overnight in the woods, or even the untangling from a toxic relative or abusive spouse. If we are lucky, we at least have a quiet witness to the magnitude of a profound shift within us.
Previously I wrote an article on the 3 Stages of an Initiatory Experience describing the phases as I know them to be. It paints a picture of a full and complete process from the initial stages of severance or removal from all that we know, into the discombobulating challenge of an intensity that brings us to the brink - be it facing fear, maxing out our physical strength and endurance, testing our faith, or near breaking of determination and will power - and into the final integration of the knowledge we gained from such challenge, where life is reassembled in a new, course corrected, improved, and harmonious way. Which is far from how light and easy that might sound.
The trouble comes when one begins this process, intentionally or not, and stalls or stops partway through. Usually when the going gets roughest, and most often when without recognition either from the initiate themselves or from a network or facilitator to help push through to completion. It feels like the bottom has dropped out from under our feet, circumstances become intolerable, but we don't make it to the other side with newfound resilience and instead stay in a painful place where the emotional wounds don't seem to heal, dysfunctional patterns continue, and the shit just keeps getting kicked up without true resolution. We end up not knowing how to fully return from our challenge. We don't know how to process what we experienced or what to do with the thoughts that we walked away with. For some, it might even result in a chronic trauma response.
The sneakiest pitfall that I have seen many times over, is when the challenge itself runs its course, the initiate(s) complete their hardship in whatever form it took, the sigh of relief is breathed - and everything goes right back to the way it was when it all started. There is a false sense of completion. A lull into complacency just before the actual finish line. The wisdoms gained during the ultimate "moment of truth" is not applied to life After after all.
All becomes for nought.
There was no integration and we might not even know it.
The big game is talked, didactic pontification ensues, wounds are declared healed, and blindspots are cultivated and sidestepped.
Until the next initiatory experience brings another chance.
What I have had brewing on the back burner of my awareness, is no matter how easily or painfully we might be moving through these pandemic days, regardless of "enlightened" or conspiracy concepts as to the Whys of it all, despite any desire for or knowledge of potentially being in the midst of an initiatory experience - both individually and collectively - there is possibility of inadvertently missing those 3 key steps.
Severance. Threshold. Integration.
We have clearly said goodbye to life as we knew it. We appear to be at the threshold. How it looks and what we learn here is deeply personal and widely varied. If it is right, that these times are indeed following this ancient structure, integration will look differently for everyone. Some will actively work at it. Some will not even realize it. Let there be no sidestepping. Let us be guided by innate wisdom and latent medicines if not by Initiated knowledge keepers. Sometimes they seem far and few between. But at least if we get lost, we know these 3 steps.
Today's podcast guest, Juliette Woods, is an incredible mix of mystic, mother, spiritual guide, creative, and earth spiritualist.
In our conversation we talk about...
We cover a lot of ground in this long-form conversation that feels like a lengthy stroll down the beach on a drizzly day...picking up wise little stones...giving the selkies a wave hello and wink or two...remembering the seal skin tucked away in our own closets.
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I'll Have What She's Having! is a visionary interview-based podcast highlighting the real-life experiences, embodied wisdom, life path stories, and inspirational creative offerings of WONDROUS women. This podcast invites women from all walks of life (and men too!) to meet at the beautiful intersections of our unique lived experiences. Joining together in a quantum circle for laid back, fireside, magic-at-the-kitchen-table, no-holds-barred JUICY conversations about everything from creative projects, community innovations, business, sex, intimacy, relationships, motherhood, grand adventures, dark nights of the soul, self care, intentional life ways, sacred practice, necessary rebellion, and those hilarious *this-legit-happened* stories that will have you laughing. We hope you'll feel at home. That you'll laugh enough that it'll count as an ab workout. That you'll heal and soften a little bit. That you'll feel deeply connected. And certainly, that you'll celebrate each other. Welcome to a podcast where conversation becomes medicine.
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One aspect that I have noticed is that when we do not fully immerse ourselves in the season at hand, we can begin to fall out of alignment, or out of step, with the natural cycle of energy present all around us. This will contribute to S.A.D., lead to frustrations, longing, and have us either scrambling or working against the natural flow of life. Returning to synchronicity and reverence is perhaps easier than one might think! June's Return to Reverence column in the PRL magazine offers up some simple practices that can be incorporated into even the busiest day seamlessly ...
April's Powell River Living edition of Return to Reverence encourages us to dive into the realm of sound. For those who know I like to time such things with the seasonal wheel of the year might pick up on the correlation between the element of Air, Spring, sound waves ;)
When I wrote this article the air was full of Robin song and the increasing outdoor joyful activities of uncharacteristically warm and dry days, at this moment of posting however, I definitely am comforted by constant soft rain. There is a quality to it that brings me to many times and places all at once that have the same strong vibration of feeling cozy, small in the world, and somehow more connected to mother earth.
I am inside digging deep for the gumption to tackle much needed projects - and the sounds outside and that of my tea kettle boiling suggest I tackle slowly and mindfully. My outer world reflecting my inner.
Here is the March edition of the Return to Reverence column in the Powell River Living magazine; full of easy to do practices to help align us with the balancing forces of the Equinox to recalibrate our nervous systems. From now through to Summer Solstice we have an increasing amount of vitality available to us - keep checking in for different methods anyone can do for connecting more deeply to the natural world!
"Return to Reverence ~ working with the elements of the natural world" is a monthly column that I write for the Powell River Living magazine. The articles shared aim to help guide us in cultivating, enriching, and deepening our living experience through wisdom sharing and engaging practices available to us all.
February's article touches on stone spirit medicine and how we might support ourselves by entering into relationship with these ancient teachers. You might find this a most welcome practice at this time of year if the wildness of life feels a bit much ;) I have converted my Stone Spirit Medicine workshop into a full online available offering should anyone wish to take this old, near global practice deeper. Find it here http://www.3foldbalance.com/online-courses.html
A bean feasa of Celtic lineage shares stories & insights from her animist and 'shamanic' practice on the West Coast of Canada.