Light a Candle

by Judy Myerson

Recorded by author

A different view and story of who we are as a species, and a change in collective course of action are needed, and needed now.

  The news and extreme weather are bells of mindfulness, sounding daily (1). They are telling us clearly that we humans need to act collectively now and with purpose in order to mitigate the extent of the damage already done by us as a species to our beautiful planet and all her beings, relieve the suffering that is unfolding before us, and decrease the future suffering predicted to ensue. There are many “solutions” and some progress, but not sufficient or fast enough, and the backlash and divisiveness being experienced takes away focus and any forward movement. The three poisons of Buddhism — greed, hatred and ignorance, along with human-centered, patriarchal, white-supremacist, extractive view and actions — have come home full circle as collective Karma. A different view and story of who we are as a species, and a change in collective course of action are needed, and needed now. As this rapidly unfolds, however, many in the United States and in most other privileged countries throughout the world continue acting as if business is as usual…

if we do fully look at reality as it is, we are often at a loss as to how we can possibly hold it all

  Our human nervous systems, bodies, and brains are not designed to handle this ongoing, massive input and threat, and so many of us tend to turn away, as if in the Netflix parody of reality, “Don’t Look Up,” and numb or distract ourselves. And if we do fully look at reality as it is, we are often at a loss as to how we can possibly hold it all, allow ourselves to fully feel the extent of our pain and grief, and move through our despair to Going Forth – even within the Spiral of the Work that Reconnects. 

And then, I hear the voice of our root teacher, Joanna Macy, in my ear, reminding us:

Being fully present to fear, to gratitude, to all that is – this is the practice of mutual belonging. As living members of the living body of Earth, we are grounded in that kind of belonging. We will find ways to remember, celebrate, and affirm this deep knowing: we belong to each other, we belong to Earth. Even when faced with cataclysmic changes, nothing can ever separate us from her. We are already home. The practice of mutual belonging is the medicine for the sickness of the small self and can accompany us through the bardo, through the hard times ahead (2). 

In March, 2022, I attended a Garrison Institute online forum with Thomas Hübl on “Healing Collective Trauma through Relationality, Attunement and Presence”. The term he used, “Bearing Witness” – a universal practice or tenet in many spiritual traditions including the Zen Peacemakers – struck a chord. As “Bearing Witness” continued to resonate in me over the following months and I reflected on our history and evolution as a species, a poem and vision of a new collective ritual for holding and honoring our communal pain for the world began to emerge. All we really have are our actions (3).  This remembrance, along with the knowledge that we are not separate selves, that what we each do – if done with love, true presence and moral integrity – has meaning and impact in widening circles, was also the inspiration behind “Light a Candle”.

I have a vision of candles lit in windows all over the world shining continuous light, bearing witness to our collective grief and loss, and illuminating our path

I share this poem with you in hopes that if it speaks to you, you will join me in lighting a candle and placing it in your window every evening – or if that’s not possible, then on Sunday evenings. I have a vision of candles lit in windows all over the world shining continuous light, bearing witness to our collective grief and loss, and illuminating our path— a path to a new story of our collective evolution as a species that lives in harmony with and for the benefit of all people, all beings, and Gaia, our Mother Earth.

Along with your candle, if you are so moved, please also place a sign in your window that speaks to your aspiration – a single word or statement of intention, such as “I light this candle for (peace, kindness, justice)”, or “With this candle I honor my commitment to our shared planet”.  You might also choose to place in the window a picture of a loved one – perhaps a grandchild, an ancestor who guides you, or a treasured place.  

Please feel free to share this writing and poem, in whole or in part, inviting others in your circles to join in shining light. If anyone would like to work with me on helping this vision manifest, including those with social media and some tech expertise, please email me at [email protected]. All are invited to share in the comment section about your experience of placing a candle in your window, bearing witness and shining your light.

A note on the use of “we”:

The “We” I am referring to is the human species, collectively.  While some groups, cultures and individuals are clearly more responsible and culpable than others for the current situation we are in, and many, especially indigenous cultures, live in more harmony and reciprocity with the Earth, it is my understanding that all humans have the capacity for violence, perpetration, otherizing, extraction, turning away, etc. Just as all humans have the capacity for love, compassion, connectedness, generosity, working together, altruism and more.

What we do is dependent on causes and conditions. Please see Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem, “Please Call Me by My True Names” (4), and his commentary on his writing of the poem for more clarification of this: https://plumvillage.org/articles/please-call-me-by-my-true-names-song-poem.

 

References:

  1.  Thich Nhat Hanh, The World We Have, Parallax Press, 2008, pg.1
  2.  Joanna Macy, A Wild Love For the World, Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time, Stephanie Kaza ed., Shambhala Publications, 2020, pg. 360
  3.  Thich Nhat Hanh et al, Chanting from the Heart, Volume 2, Parallax Press,  2023 (revised edition), pg. 228
  4.  Thich Nhat Hanh, Call me by my True Names, The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh, Parallax Press, 1999, pg. 72 

 

Recorded by the author


Light a candle

 
tonight
and 
every night
 
please
 
bear witness
to
the suffering 
 
and
to that
which will 
ensue
 
the climate chaos
violence 
 
here
now
 
to 
the birds
bees
butterflies
animals
plants
fungi
and tiny creatures
yet unseen
 
as
they 
disappear
 
and to us humans
as 
we continue
to run
hide
deny 
distract
 
delude 
and
destroy
 
each other
and
this beautiful world
given to us
 
a gift
that 
we just…
 
took
 
Light a candle
 
tonight
and 
every night

please
 
bear witness 
to our grief
at what 
and who 
we each
and all 
treasured
and loved
and
have already 
lost
 
and to our rage
 
and 
regret…
 
it did not have to be
this way
 
Light a candle
 
tonight
and 
every night
 
for those 
in fear
 
seeking 
safety
shelter
food
future
 
for those we 
harm 
turn our back on
use
abuse
brutalize
bomb
extract
and
throw away
 
not knowing
that
when we
cut off their humanity
we also cut off
ours
 
and our ability to feel
anything
even 
joy…
 
Light a candle
tonight
and 
every night
 
please
 
for all those
who
each in their way
big 
and small 
shine the light of
love 
and 
compassion
 
who
speak up 
step up
show up
reach out…
 
act
protect
and
create
 
bear witness
to
their 
caring 
courage
creativity
commitment
 
and know
that 
this too…
 
is you
 
Light a candle
 
tonight
and 
every night
 
and… 
 
when we each
 
all
 
place our candles
in our windows
and
open our eyes
and look
and see…
 
we will know
we
are not alone
 
or separate
 
and that 
the 
lights
that we see
also
shine 
from within
 
glimmering
reflecting
connecting
 
beacons…
 
illuminating
our path
 
as together
we
find 
our way
 
on
this
 
New Day
                                                         
© Judith Myerson 2023 — Permission granted to reproduce and distribute widely


recorded by Erin Holtz Braeckman

photo by Mia Bieber

Judith Myerson is a retired Psychotherapist and Order of Interbeing member in the Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism, receiving transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh in 2007. She practices and facilitates with various sanghas and initiatives, including the Earth Holder Community, Deep Roots Beloved Community Circle and at Blue Cliff Monastery. Judy trained in the 2019 WTR facilitator development program and as a Trauma Resource Institute’s Community Resilience Model teacher. She is looking with new eyes at how she can best serve to create a more just and sustainable world for her children’s children and all future generations. She also finds much joy with the birds at her feeders and at the Bashakill Marsh, not far from her home in Pine Bush, NY.

we practised to love all the people

by Tet Koffeman

English recording by author

we practised to love all the people
sometimes we loved trees more
we were angry and actually desperate but
we hid the latter behind our lampoons
we knew our rights and wrote our lawyers’ 
names on our arms we used political 
words and nonviolent words and book words 
until we were voiceless with hollow eyes and 
torn banners we talked with the police and 
shared with them tea and chocolate until security 
asked us to continue our demonstration about 
fifteen metres up the road due to local regulations

breathe

I’m afraid I gave up hope

seeing young people who know things
being scared and sometimes desperate
standing with them
behind them
or even in front of them if needed
like a wall, becoming a blanket, an improvised
rooftop, a tent made out of sticks, 
a maternal body, the earth

breathe

walk 

breathe

losing faith
going back
walking the path backwards on muscle memory
refinding faith, putting it away, watching it more closely
putting away the word actually in case we really need it
applying the word really cautiously

make tea

breathe, especially out

walk

weed

continue walking

step out of the stories
be lost without the stories
raise up the stories, recalibrate
were our parents actually hopeful?
did their bodies believe in the ideals
carefully constructed in their worried heads?

breathe

weed

pour tea

sit

give up hope

breathe

Dutch recording by author

we oefenden om van alle mensen te houden
soms hielden we meer van bomen dan van mensen
we waren woedend en eigenlijk wanhopig maar
dat laatste verborgen we achter onze pamfletten
we kenden onze rechten en schreven de naam van
onze advocaat op onze arm we gebruikten politieke 
woorden en geweldloze woorden en boekenwoorden 
tot we stemloos waren met holle ogen en onze doeken 
gescheurd we praatten met de politiemensen en
deelden met hen thee en chocola tot de bewaking 
ons vroeg ons om de demonstratie vijftien meter verderop 
voort te zetten in verband met de plaatselijke regelgeving
 
ademhalen
 
ik heb eigenlijk geen hoop meer
de jonge mensen te zien die dingen weten
die bang zijn en soms wanhopig
naast hen staan
achter hen
of vóór hen als het moet
als een muur, een deken te worden, een
geïmproviseerd dak, een tent van een paar stokken,
een moederlichaam, aarde
 
ademen
lopen
ademen
 
de moed verliezen, teruggaan
het pad achteruit aflopen op spiergeheugen
de moed hervinden, opbergen, beter op letten
het woord eigenlijk wegleggen voor als we het echt nodig hebben
het woord echt omzichtig toepassen
 
thee zetten
ademen, vooral uit
lopen
wieden
verder lopen
 
uit de verhalen stappen
verloren zijn zonder de verhalen
ze weer oprakelen, herijken
waren onze ouders eigenlijk hoopvol?
geloofden hun lichamen in de idealen zorgvuldig
geconstrueerd in hun bezorgde hoofden?
 
ademen
wieden
thee inschenken
zitten
de hoop opgeven

ademen


Tet Koffeman (they/them) is in love with mother earth. Tet sings, writes poetry, educates, coaches and transforms. They are a Buddhist practitioner and member of the regenerative circle of Extinction Rebellion Utrecht. They work as a teacher and action researcher at the University of the Arts Utrecht, (the Netherlands). Deepening their ecological understanding through the Work That Reconnects, their mission is to develop new forms of higher arts education where arts and ecology meet. Tet senses a deep urge to build a regenerative culture within education with imagination, resilience, ethics and compassion at the heart of it.

Resistance, Reskilling, and Re-Membering

An Interview with Michael Wellman by Molly Brown

Original recording of interview

Editor’s note:  Michael Wellman recently wrote a PhD. dissertation titled “Rewilding Activism: Weaving Resistance, Reskilling and Re-membering” for the California Institute of Integral Studies.  After seeing how thoroughly the Work That Reconnects is woven throughout his dissertation, I wanted to interview Michael to bring his insights and perspectives to Deep Times readers.  Part One of the interview appeared in the March 2023 issue of Deep Times.

Part Two focuses on Going Forth in the Great Turning. (We edited the transcript for readability, but not the audio recording of the interview.) 

Molly:  Michael, you said that you wanted to address honoring our pain and the need to be with those feelings. But you also wanted to look at where do we go from here, using the Great Turning as your framework. In your dissertation, you have three things under that section: Resistance, Reskilling, and Re-Membering. Do you want to say a little bit about each one of those?

Michael: I’ll mention, since we’re on the Work That Reconnects, that there were several Honoring Our Pain practices at that [WTR] intensive I did [with Joanna] in California that really helped me move to the next phase [of the spiral]. I remember the “Open Sentences” practice, and looking in my partner’s eyes, and watching my partner who had tears and then making space for my own tears. Another practice was the “Truth Mandala,” and being able to grab that stick and trying to break it and having permission to express my rage in front of a group of people. I feel like allowing those emotions to move creates space for new feelings and fresh energy to circulate in. 

I had this connection with my lineage of family as farmers and being rooted in the land through that connection.

  I twice have done one practice with Joanna that gave the most direction to my work. It was “Harvesting the Gifts of the Ancestors,” where we’re walking back through time, and we get to more or less the beginning of time — Deep Time, Big History. Then we start walking forward, the other way. The first time I did it, I had this connection with my lineage of family as farmers and being rooted in the land through that connection. The second time I did this exercise a few months later, that first experience came back to me, and I remembered the connection I had felt to my earliest human ancestors. I think Joanna took us all the way back to the plains of Africa, coming down out of the trees, and starting to expand outward on the savannas. During the group share, several other people mentioned that somewhere in the transition around the Neolithic or the beginning of agriculture, not wanting to keep moving forward, wanting to hold on to those oldest ancestors, and not wanting to say their goodbyes.  There was something that I felt there that really rooted my dissertation in a land-based connection. 

 

 what is it like to look at the Great Turning model through three land-based dimensions?

I thought, “Well, what is it like to look at the Great Turning model through three land-based dimensions?”  For the first dimension, Resistance, Joanna Macy’s “Holding Actions,” I asked, “What is it like for us to do land defense, water protection, these anti-pipeline and anti-extractivism campaigns?” What I think is now really associated with Standing Rock, Mni Wiconi, Water Is Life, and the LandBack movement. Recognizing that our social movements — like we’ve seen with the George Floyd Uprising or even some of the resistance to Trumpism, MAGA, and the white nationalist currents — they’re all one and the same movement, and yet, I focused on the land and water components.  

Then, Reskilling was based on Joanna’s “building alternative systems,” looking at the resurgence of  land-based lifeways, both in the more traditional sense of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and indigenous land management practices, as well as  some of the more current threads of permaculture, ancestral skills gatherings, and agro-ecology.

Molly: Yeah, huge, huge area! Yes, there’s so much going on in that respect.

…what is a non-extractive or less-extractive way of living?

Michael: Yeah, I’m trying to give land-based lifeways more space and normalize it a bit more. So often I feel like people see movements that are not rooted in more technology — or that maybe look like we have to give something up — as unattractive. If resisting extractivism is important — and we need to save old growth forests, we need clean water, we need to slow down the fossil fuels and stop the pipelines — then what is a non-extractive or less-extractive way of living?

Molly: Right, and that takes us to reskilling. Yes. I live in acorn country and I’ve learned how to make acorn meal; it’s very labor intensive! Boy, it tastes good, too!  I put it in tortillas or bread. Even just knowing that these nuts are falling from the trees and it’s free food. But it takes some skills to know how to use it.

…humans as a species, until very recently, ate more acorns than all other food sources combined.

Michael: Yeah, there’s actually an essay in my dissertation on acorn processing. My wife and I were guest lecturers in a land ethics undergraduate class at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville last semester, and we took acorn flour that we had processed. My wife mixed it with maple syrup that we had harvested from our maple trees during sugarbush and made small cakes for the class. There was only one person in this class of maybe thirty-two people that even knew that acorns were edible. One piece of information that has been really empowering for me was learning that humans as a species, until very recently, ate more acorns than all other food sources combined. Acorn eaters were very much demonized as empires and agricultural civilizations began to expand, because they were able to live outside of taxation, they were able to live outside of the control of the empires. I believe that even if people aren’t actively processing acorns all the time–because like you said, it’s very laborious, it’s one of those skills where you have to do it in community. But just knowing the skill and knowing that if you ever had to, you could use that skill, I feel that’s a source of liberation. 

I look at this healing through land-based rituals and ceremonies, traditional rites of passage, expanded states of consciousness

  I’ll just mention here, the last dimension, what I call Re-Membering, what Joanna has called “shifting consciousness.” I look at this healing through land-based rituals and ceremonies, traditional rites of passage, expanded states of consciousness (such as solos on the land, plant medicine ceremonies, and sweat lodges), through a lot of what we would call shamanic modalities, which land-based cultures have been using for time immemorial for healing, for connection to Source, for all sorts of aspects of their culture. So I look through this lens, recognizing that healing is a foundational part of the Great Turning.

MollyI like the way you’re spelling re-membering, like reassembling, in a sense. Re-membering is much more biological; reassembling sounds kind of mechanical.

Michael: And that comes from healing, the same root as wholeness. In traditional cultures, the role of the shaman was to travel into other worlds and bring back those lost parts of ourselves. What we know in modern trauma theory is that when someone has a traumatic experience–an experience that’s outside of the body’s (or nervous system’s) capacity to integrate–that part of the psyche is fragmented, broken, or severed…

the re-membering is very literally the re-membering of all those lost and forgotten and disassociated parts, of moving back towards wholeness.

 Molly: or dissociated.

Michael:  Exactly. And so the re-membering is very literally the re-membering of all those lost and forgotten and disassociated parts, of moving back towards wholeness.

Molly: Is there anything else you want to share? I want to just comment that the amount of research that went into the dissertation is truly admirable and amazing. It covers such a large area, and so many different movements and movements within movements. I am really, really impressed. No wonder it took you eight years!

I am a body within a movement body on the body of the earth.


Michael:
For me, it was important that “I am a body on the body of the Earth”—which came to me  from Janine Canty, who is a teacher at the California Institute of Integral Studies  now, and who was on my [dissertation] committee. I expanded this concept to be “I am a body within a movement body on the body of the earth.” And so I really chose to immerse myself in these movements, not just as some sort of participatory observation but as an observant participant. I put my body on the line in the movements. I went to a lot of skills gatherings and convergences, did organizing, and participated in my own healing through ceremonies. And so my stories are really written in a way of embedding myself within the larger social and cultural story, what academia might call “auto-ethnography.” It was important for me to really share my own learnings as my own body within the movement body.

Molly: I was reading this morning where you even describe the details of how you got up the tree, into the sky pod, and how you climbed the rope to get up there. So it really is very much your experience, embodied experience with these different movements, not just something you’ve read about, or talked to somebody about; you’ve actually done it.

It’s that praxis at the edge of theory where our practices keep influencing our theories.


Michael
: Yeah, I appreciate that feedback, because the embodied experience is the only way forward, especially in this time of planetary crisis. We can have all the theories in the world, but if we’re not putting them into practice and getting our hands dirty in the soil, we can’t improve our theories and keep working towards where we want to go. It’s that praxis at the edge of theory where our practices keep influencing our theories. And we need both. But especially as an academic, it is really important for me to practice what I’m preaching and preach what I’m practicing.

Molly: That sounds like a great final remark, but maybe there’s more that you would like to say before we end?

Michael: I feel it [the dissertation] was written for activists. And so I want to keep true to that. And again, that idea from Joanna Macy, where she looks at each of these three dimensions as a form of activism. So our healers can be activists and our gardeners can be activists; we can all all be activists if we recognize that all three dimensions are inherently political. And so claiming the politics of the Great Turning is important.

Molly: and no one person could do it all. It takes all of us with our particular skills and resources and life situations to do what we’re called to do. I’m very big on the idea of calling, because I think the calling is  from outside. It’s not just from inside; it’s that inside/outside connection.

Michael: Yes, the purpose and passion to show up. 

Molly: The calling changes, because circumstances change. “Oh, we need somebody over here to do this thing. Oh, this person is the perfect person for that. Come on, do this!”

how do we find those areas of symbiosis and mutuality so that we can amplify our work together?

Michael: And that’s actually the last thing I’ll add, because I do think it’s so important. Joanna Macy teaches that these three dimensions are overlapping, right? There’s the three intersections of the three dimensions, and then at the very center there’s the nexus where the three dimensions meet. The three main chapters in my dissertation look at the three intersections of the three dimensions. So many people are doing work within each of the three dimensions, and it felt really important to me to ask how do we start bringing these different conversations into conversation with each other so we can leverage each other’s skill sets to strengthen and build an alliance. That to me is really the exciting part of the work at the edge of our callings. Even if they seem different at the surface, how do we find those areas of symbiosis and mutuality so that we can amplify our work together?

Molly: And rather than, “You should be doing this instead of that,” we can be supportive and joyful about other people’s different contributions, and seeing that all as contributions rather than, “Oh, you should join my team.” My team is playing basketball and yours is playing baseball, and we have to appreciate the different things that need to be done, and that various people are doing them. 

Michael: There is no shortage of things to be done.

Molly: It’s not just up to me. And being “up to me” is part of that individualism or separation that has to melt away,

Michael: And the centralization and hierarchy that needs to melt away. Trusting the decentralization, the network model, being in mutual aid, and recognizing that we need to trust each other that we’re showing up and doing what we need to do. And how can we continue to lean on each other? Beautiful.

Molly: Yep.  And on the more-than-human world as well. Yes. Well, thank you so much, Michael.


Michael Lynn Wellman is a recent doctoral graduate from the Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion program at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Michael’s dissertation, “Rewilding Activism: Weaving Resistance, Reskilling, and Re-Membering,” is inspired by his time working with Joanna Macy and the Work That Reconnects. Michael is a father, husband, activist, and guide who lives on the shores of Gichigami (Lake Superior) on occupied Anishinaabek lands.

Metabolizing Grief in Mental Health: A Provider’s Perspective

By Sara Thorsen, LMFT and Krista Gaston, LMFT

Recorded by Sara Thorsen

Grief offers a wild alchemy that transmutes suffering into fertile ground.
    ~ Francis Weller The Wild Edge of Sorrow

Introduction

It’s hard to describe the experience of providing mental health services in the last few years. This has always been heartfelt work, but unprecedented levels of grief, loss, sadness, panic, confusion, rage, and despair amongst the backdrop of a global pandemic and our ever unfolding climate crisis was harrowing to hold. Whether working in schools, jails, tech startups, community agencies, or in private practice– we all felt how hard this experience was and continues to be. Truthfully, it seemed that everywhere we turned, not only were our clients struggling, but our colleagues were struggling as well: inaccessible education, exams that gate-keep our profession, increased licensing fees, wide spread dysfunctional systems of care with ever higher demand for services, poor pay and benefits, unethical supervisors with little recourse, labor theft with minimal opportunities to collectively organize, the loss of hard-earned hours for those unable to complete their training in the specified 6 years, and widespread burn out. There is no infrastructure for our care– a truth that became painstakingly felt throughout the pandemic.

what can mental healthcare look like at this phase of the Great Turning?

The path to becoming a licensed mental health provider and sustaining oneself in this field is challenging and we have reached our tipping point. We can no longer maintain this wholly dysfunctional and traumatizing system of care– for ourselves, our clients, nor for the greater benefit of our society. We know that our experience as part of this system is a mirror of our client’s experience in getting care. Once we take this perspective, we can only then begin to ask in earnest: what can mental healthcare look like at this phase of the Great Turning? 

The Bloom + Grow Collective

The Bloom + Grow Collective is a collaborative of mental health professionals passionate about advocating for and supporting the well-being of providers.

Dreamt on a windy hilltop patio in Ramaytush territory (aka San Francisco, CA) in 2021, The Bloom + Grow Collective is a collaborative of mental health professionals passionate about advocating for and supporting the well-being of providers. 

Members are enlivened about systemic changes in licensing, a reorientation to healing-centered practices, and improving working conditions for those serving their communities as mental health workers. We need and deserve care and investment to sustain us in our work, particularly at this phase of the Great Turning. Bloom + Grow is cross-pollinating with other community collaborators to orient to a more regenerative system of care and put it into practice. Turning towards this wounding is essential as we move forward given the collective psychological distress accumulating in our experience. Our immediate priorities are to continue showing up. We are gathering thought partners and kindred spirits, facilitating spaces where people can feel supported and plug into our work, gathering information and stories to inform others of our experiences, and getting ready for direct action.

Metabolizing Grief and The Great Turning

Inspired by Joanna Macy’s work, several members have found solace in the Work That Reconnects framework and community. We value the honoring of our emotions and the sacred relationship between humans and our ecological world.

The distress we experience is in direct and reciprocal relationship with the distress of the Earth.

  The distress we experience is in direct and reciprocal relationship with the distress of the Earth. We look to living systems theories to understand our unique placement as mental health professionals within the context of healing. 

With this in mind, Bloom + Grow has integrated the spiral to move us through metabolizing our grief. We are rooted in gratitude for each other, our skills, and our knowledge base as intuitive social-emotional guides within our collective’s mycelial network and beyond. We have held intimate space for each other’s bottomless grief through community care opportunities and compassion. This grief cannot be truly understood alone, it demands witness and time to see its full terrain. Honoring our pain is a foundational piece of the spiral and many folks engage with the collective for an opportunity to share their pain in community.

the spirit of the wild alchemy that Weller describes as our outdated values and beliefs decompose to give life to something tender and new.

The Spiral framework provides a container to move beyond our grief by sharing diverse perspectives that are seen with new eyes. Witnessing our collective pain supports us in moving into imaginative possibilities for engaging in change that might ameliorate our situation. When the fog of our disillusionment clears, even momentarily, we can see a few steps forward. The Bloom + Grow Collective is our offering in going forth– our metabolized grief in form and action– the spirit of the wild alchemy that Weller describes as our outdated values and beliefs decompose to give life to something tender and new.

Orienting to Active Hope and Calls to Action

We are currently cultivating a diverse network of support to build sustainability, catalyze our work, access active pathways and conversations for change, and imagine new pathways for change. This project can only grow in alliance with others and we honor that support comes in many forms. To stay updated about our work follow us on Instagram or join our newsletter. To learn more details about what motivates our work, check out Fractals, a Bloom + Grow Collective podcast series featuring interviews with mental health providers utilizing the Spiral framework to metabolize disillusionment into active hope. To plug into our work more directly, check our website for community process groups, clinical consultation, town halls, and workgroups. 

having more organizing power can be one pathway toward systemic change.

One of the alliances that Bloom + Grow has been cultivating involves increasing access to unionization in mental health and breaking down barriers for collective organizing. The ability to organize collectively is limited due to existing antitrust laws and our fragmented system of care. However, as we can see from the efforts of Northern California and Hawaii’s Kaiser mental health providers in the historic 2022 strike, having more organizing power can be one pathway toward systemic change. 

 Bloom + Grow is exploring this avenue further and excited to highlight a new opportunity to join the conversation via the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW)’s Behavioral Health Associate Membership. Through this new membership, mental health professionals from different licensure paths and workplaces can gain knowledge on how to catalyze our public health expertise into political power to impact change while advocating for mental health parity in our healthcare system. 

Orienting towards living systems theory, and in particular leaning on the concept of open systems, we look to and are influenced by those having similar conversations. If you or someone you know has already begun or would like to join the conversation on creating sustainable pathways for change, healing the healers, and metabolizing the collective grief we carry for our neighbors and the environment around us, reach out to say hello. If you are a mental health professional who is experiencing compassion fatigue or other barriers to feeling successful in the mental health field, we want to connect with you! The longevity and health of a community is informed by how it cares for its members and its responsiveness to collective needs to catalyze action. 

Reimagine mental health care by joining us in community!

 


Sara Thorsen (she/they) is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Eco-therapist with nearly a decade of experience supporting youth, families, and emerging adults in the Bay Area, CA. Her areas of focus include: nature connection, liberation, trauma, and ethics/philosophy. Sara is passionate about fostering the Labor Movement in mental health and is a founder of the Bloom + Grow Collective. Outside of clinical work, Sara nourishes herself through writing, plant medicine, and community organizing. She has a long-standing dream to be a steward of land and is forming a group of collaborators to make this dream a reality.

Krista Gaston (they/she) is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist in CA and TX, a certified Eco-Therapist and Trauma Informed Systems Specialist. Krista has worked with youth and families for over 20 years, in community mental health for 8 years, and in private practice with young adults 18-25.  As a therapist activist, Krista is passionate about reconnecting to sustainable life practices rooted in collective care and emergent strategy. Bloom + Grow Collective is a loving offering for other mental health providers to orient to their own healing as well as marking a trail head for action.

On Taking A Poem For A Walk

by Barbara Whitfield

Recorded by author

One afternoon I was waiting for a friend who was late. I wasn’t bothered; I was in a cafe overlooking the beach, and had the entire afternoon to dedicate to my friend, so what were a few minutes? Ordinarily, I would have spent the time reading, but some inner voice stopped me. Luckily, I listened. 

I had been struggling to find ways in which I could actively work to support nature in the face of humanity’s unceasing onslaught.

For a while, like many others, I had been struggling to find ways in which I could actively work to support nature in the face of humanity’s unceasing onslaught. While all the habits I had formed as a matter of course–cycling, upcycling, recycling–gave me some sense of rebalancing, they equally felt inadequate. I felt powerless. How was I, one very flawed human, supposed to make a difference that felt transformative in general and meaningful personally? I couldn’t even change the environment immediately outside my backdoor, let alone on a global level. It was easy to lose heart.

Photo by Barbara Whitfield

I live in a beautiful part of the world, surrounded by fields and hills and streams, a quick hop to the sea and yet, even here, the local community is facing polluted rivers, dying trees, and the loss of insects and birds. On a warm day when the sky is high, the spring’s hum is missing. Apple trees that used to sing with bees as though vibrating as you passed are silent. Nature should not be silent. The meadow behind our house which used to fly upwards with wildflower-coloured butterflies is now more often a flat, unmoving green or worse, brown through lack of rain. 

“What does nature need from me that feels hopeful?”

Over time, in seeking answers, I came to realise that I was asking the wrong question. What would it look like if, instead of asking “What can I do for nature that feels useful?” I were to ask, “What does nature need from me that feels hopeful?”

Often, help is given in the way we think is appropriate without considering the recipient’s needs. This is something I’ve observed  both on a personal and community level and across the wider context of international aid and politics. Help is given top-down. While it may make us feel better about ourselves and we have sound motives, often our efforts have unintended consequences because we have paid scant attention to what the recipient is saying. 

Take a poem for a walk. What the hell did that mean? 

So, with the luxury of those stolen minutes in a cafe by the sea, I decided to write down all the ways in which nature was asking for help and which I hadn’t tuned into. Using the back of a plant list I found in the bottom of my bag and begging a pen from the cafe owner, I covered the paper with what I hoped was nature’s voice. Some suggestions were practical–don’t take more than you need; replenish what you take. Some were big and vague–bear witness. One, which I didn’t remember writing down, struck and stuck. Take a poem for a walk. What the hell did that mean?

I hadn’t thought of poetry for decades, not since earnest teenagehood. But the idea would not be ignored. Where to start, though?  How do you walk a poem? Why would you? Wouldn’t people think you were mad? Where would you even find poetry? I nearly gave into cynicism— that postmodern protection from our own cowardice–but I was compelled, or rather propelled, by a force outside my will. 

A  key element of this practice is that it is carried out on behalf of others.

Over the next few weeks and months, the idea developed: I would choose or write a poem, walk somewhere that suited that poem, read the poem into nature and record it with voice and image to pass on. A  key element of this practice is that it is carried out on behalf of others.

My first literal and figurative step came on a hoar-frosty morning here in West Wales just before Christmas. I was out of bed early and knew I had to walk up the hill behind our house and speak Christina Rossetti’s poem, In the Bleak Midwinter, into the clean, clear air. As I spoke those lines, it felt like a bird call, a breath out into nature, honouring the season, honouring giving and giving over. It was a small thing, a slight connection, but it was my thing. Something I could do. Anywhere, anytime. And it didn’t feel like a small thing at all. It echoed Rossetti’s words–Yet what I can I give…Give my heart.”

I receive unexpected blessings in return

Since then, I have walked other poems for other people–some at moments of joy or gratitude, some at times of confusion or despair, once a Kaddish for a Jewish friend whose father had recently died. People send me poems from all over the world and we wait, the poem and I. I never know which day and which place will instruct us. I wake up some mornings knowing that on that day I will walk here or there and release the words into nature. Once, Poe’s The Raven took me on my first night walk, which scared me almost senseless, but which not only felt right but opened a different engagement with the world around me. And, for all this practice feels as though my energy is being called outwards, I receive unexpected blessings in return. I look more closely, I listen more intently, I travel to, and walk in, places I would not have done before. There is never a moment on these walks where I don’t feel a deep sense of peace and gratitude and, even more deeply, a connection with the great everything. 

I am healing myself, those whose feelings I carry, and the land, water and air into which I speak the words of poets.

I’ve come to realise that what I am doing is not revolutionary, much as my ego would relish that. It is simply a reimagining of the tradition of mediaeval sin walkers who were paid to carry the burden of other’s sins along the great pilgrim routes.  I am not paid by the way. And it is a continuation of those who sing or leave art in wounded places to heal them. I am healing myself, those whose feelings I carry, and the land, water and air into which I speak the words of poets. 

I have also discovered that poetry is infectious. Those who encounter this practice begin to notice poems left around them–it’s there in the unlikeliest of places–and send poems that speak to them, to be breathed on their behalf into all creation. I’ve been on walks with friends who have said, “If you don’t mind…” having brought a poem with them to read into the wild Welsh wind. Once on a crowded city street many miles from home, my dearest friend read a poem for me and for that moment we were united. Strangely, happily, no one passing found her recital odd. Usually, people pass by with a smile and so the poem’s spirit moves along with them like an opportunistic plant on the pelt of an animal. 

Photo by Barbara Whitford

Taking a poem on a walk may not be for everyone or even anyone else. Asking for a poem to be walked and spoken into nature may not sound useful or even hopeful to many. But for me, this practice feels like a victory over complacency or despair and is joyful in the face of indifference or despondency. It connects the community of those who have requested a voice and myself with the resonance of all that is and can be. Hopefully, words spoken on the wind in the wild west of Wales play in the air far beyond these shores.


Recorded by author

Barbara Whitfield:  I am currently living on a small holding in West Wales. I write and perform poetry and, with a partner, novels, plays and screenplays. Before moving to Wales, I was a researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary. Since moving, I have been a non-fiction editor for Parthian Books. I am currently developing a forest garden alongside other small-holding undertakings. I believe in an animate world where all things are equal and, thus, to be respected and protected. I have completed the Active Hope Foundations Training (https://www.activehope.info/free-training) and I am a member of the Walking Artists Network.

Ways of grieving

by Nicholas Tippins

Recorded by Kevin Lay

1. Place a river stone on top of another. Feel the water’s touch, the embrace crafting smoothness. Soft like butter, like cat’s noses.

2. Sit by the stream. Breathe in the smell of watercress, wild mint–teachers whispering secrets to your blood. Feel all you feel. Remember the water, the smooth rock. Now, feel more.

3. You may think of her if you like. Recall the memory of twisted hair unraveled by a comb. The weight almost more than you can bear. 

4. Hold the image like a stone. Allow the cold water to flow around it. 

5. Better to feel her. Heart beating in the molten core of the earth. The threads of her body woven into trees, goldenrod, river. 

6. Go to the supermarket. Love whoever needs loving. Talk to the old man with velcro shoes buying a 24-pack of soda and white bread. 

7. Sit on a park bench. Throw pigeons pieces of white bread. Imagine each is the mouth of the world’s hungry. Imagine all beings at peace.

8. Or, not. Or, let your heart weep. Or, combust into dance. In the park. In the grocery store. In your living room in your underwear.

9. Embrace Her. The one you have sought all your life. 

10. As everything unravels, see Her face behind it all. The supermarket. The pigeons. Your sister. The going away.

11. Remember the stone. The water. That third thing, where they meet.

 


Recording by Kevin Lay

Nicholas Tippins is a writer, educator, and soul initiation guide. His greatest love is guiding young adults on journeys to mark the passage into adulthood. For more information, join his mailing list at nicholastippins.com. He also teaches courses on sacred poetry for writers of all ages and experience levels. His forthcoming book, “The Mystical Poet’s Journey,” will be released in the fall of 2023. To learn more, visit sacredpoetryworkshop.com.

Grief-related Poems on the Web

Poetry editor Karina Lutz comments on three poems published elsewhere for your inspiration.  We hope you will read them and share them in workshops.

Recorded by Karina Lutz


Jeff Conant’s “Bestiary for the End Times”
There’s a new bestiary on the block. Most of you know “The Bestiary” as Joanna Macy’s poem and the Honoring Our Pain ritual that uses the poem as both a liturgy of mourning and a prompt for a group’s own public grieving. The ritual is described in Coming Back to Life and here: https://workthatreconnects.org/resource/the-bestiary.  The poem can be found in the book’s Appendix or heard read aloud online here: https://soundcloud.com/deanetr/joanna-macy-bestiary 

Inspired by the poem and the ritual, Jeff Conant has written an extensive new bestiary: a poem sequence with most poems focusing on one endangered or extinct species. “Bestiary for the End Times” can be read  here: https://jeffconant.com/bestiary.

Remember to breathe through, and revive the love that lies beneath grief.


Ugandan artist Maya Adams’s work focuses on climate justice. Her visual poem “Climate Changed,” online at https://www.mayaadamsart.com/climate-changed, illustrates destructive, devouring systems in angular, abstracted figures inverted in self-consumption. The figures of humanoid bodies appear disjointed and riveted in on themselves at the same time. The motif and metaphor of eating recurs throughout the series of images and the stanzas of poetry that link them. Strikingly, and in contrast, the metaphor of eating appears in several poems and articles in this issue of Deep Times on metabolizing grief. In this visual poem, though, the pain of being devoured does not seem to be transformed like compost but self-perpetuates: the devouring of Earth is destructive, and not redeemed into new life, as denial of the effects of our actions does not allow us to feel our grief, to honor our pain. And yet, the poem bears witness to denial.

Maya offers a free “Roots and Resilience” climate cafe for people who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Colour.  www.mayaadamsart.com/climatecafe


In Natalie Diaz’s poem, “Alchemy Horse” (https://poets.org/poem/alchemy-horse), grief is a central current of history, it is the proper response to current and historical indigenous colonialism and genocide, but it is also grossly misused and insufficient. From her indigenous perspective of a Mohave tribal member, her people’s collective grief is barely washed through when its systemic causes repeat, generating a funereal drumbeat syncopated by fierce and necessary resistance and revival. Yet this is not within the circle of the tribe alone. The dominant, industrial growth/colonist culture likes to watch.

“We professional mourners + + /crying for our lives + for hire + + +/From dark-colonies +” Diaz writes, invoking Hollywood caricatures and true life at once. She reminds us that to be used as entertainment by the dominant culture is to have one’s most personal and private griefs telegraphed, mimimized, and externalized, that is, re-colonized and commercialized. 

And yet, there is beauty: “We weep the saguaros to bloom + Eastward/+ and moonwhite + + soft-petaled wounds +/circling their night-wrists and crowns + + +/Grief is our lush and luxury—” Tears are water, and water is life. But it is not enough to grieve or to have one’s grief observed to be free of the causes and conditions of continued oppression. Diaz’s surrealism reflects the absurdity and contradictions of the current historical moment. And her sardonic voice, so central to her alchemical and horsepower-y book Post-Colonial Love Poem as well as this poem, seems to express anger simmering on a heat low enough to avoid inviting even more violence (hopefully), but simmering steadily enough to keep her passion for justice alive and engaged in the world. If grief is our lush and luxury, it is also our love poem to a just, life-sustaining world. A world once known and sometimes still glimpsed, as when the saguaro blooms, and a world we must reclaim and relive to be relieved from constant grief and further degradation. 

To truly honor this pain would be to stop the perpetration and perpetuation: for dominator cultures to honor the treaties, honor the rights, honor the inherent dignity and sovereignty of indigenous people worldwide, to make reparations, in short, to stop dominating–to step out of the power-over paradigm.


 

 

 

Embracing Extinction and Stubborn Optimism

by Matt Streit

Recorded by author

Author’s note:  The use of “we” and “our” in this essay refers to humans living in the Western Hemisphere’s industrial growth society who have been embracing what Joanna Macy calls the “business as usual” approach to daily life. I recognize that there are people on the planet who are living with a larger awareness of humanity’s ancestry and inheritance, and the precariousness of human life. 

Instead of despairing and fearing the future, we can embrace all possible future outcomes.. …even embrace our extinction.

The future is uncertain.  There are many possible scenarios for our planet and species.  Climate change could lead to human civilization falling apart.  Our planet could become mostly uninhabitable.  Artificial intelligence could take over.  The human race could face extinction in the not-too-distant future.  Even if these outcomes don’t happen, our future way of life will likely be very different from today.  And yet, realizing this doesn’t prevent us from doing helpful actions right now.  Instead of despairing and fearing the future, we can embrace all possible future outcomes.  We can even embrace our extinction.  This radical acceptance frees us to act.  We can protect and restore our planet because it’s the natural and appropriate thing to do, regardless of what happens in the future.

In a Tricycle Magazine article entitled “Embracing Extinction,” Stephen Batchelor describes how embracing our extinction can release us from the fear of extinction (Batchelor, 2020).  We normally don’t like to talk about our own death or the death of our species.  We’ve been told that morbid thoughts lead to despair and hopelessness.  But facing the fact that we will all die and opening to our fears about death can help us appreciate life that much more.  Awareness of our actual situation helps motivate us to act for the benefit of all beings.  We can help make the situation better, even if we don’t achieve our desired outcomes.  This freedom of acting without the need for results can bring peace to our frustrating, chaotic lives.

We can have hope and optimism for the future, but we also need to face what is happening now and act now.

The idea of hope is fine, but too much hope can pull us out of the present.  There’s nothing wrong with having hope for a better future, but ultimately we act now, in each moment.  If we’re just hoping for things to get better in the future, we’re not facing what is happening right now.  We may be missing out on an opportunity to work now for the benefit of our world.  There needs to be a balance.  We can have hope and optimism for the future, but we also need to face what is happening now and act now.

We can accept the eventual extinction of our species, just like we can accept our own future death.  The timescales are different, but both our species and our own body will die sometime in the future.  We often distract ourselves and ignore this inevitability, but realizing what life truly entails can lead to immense gratitude for this moment.  Stephen Batchelor describes the wonder that arises when we embrace our extinction.

Just as death focuses attention on what matters most for you as an individual, extinction focuses attention on what matters most for us as a species.  In embracing extinction, we become intensely conscious that we are complex thinking, feeling, sensing, caring creatures who emerged from millions of years of evolution by natural selection.  For self-aware animals like you and me, to contemplate extinction can open up an astonished, quasi-religious wonder at the grandeur of being alive at all. (Batchelor, 2020)

It is astonishing that we are alive.  Whatever happens in the future, we are alive now.  Billions of years have led to our lives right here and now.  Unfortunately, our current human actions are causing widespread, irreparable harm to our world in a geologic snap of our fingers.

We are at a crossroads for the human species.

And yet, what an important time to be alive!  We are at a crossroads for the human species.  We can help protect our fellow humans and our world instead of living in ignorance and inaction.  Joanna Macy has worked tirelessly for social justice for over seven decades.  Joanna’s activism didn’t always have the desired outcomes she wanted, but Joanna still views human life at this time as an amazing opportunity.

And who would not want to be here at this time?  I would hate to miss out on this!  I sometimes imagine Buddha-fields out there in the universe with long lines of people applying to be born on Earth now to take part in this evolutionary moment. (Macy, 2020, p. 360)

…we can play our role now in this drama of human life with dignity and compassion.

This is a special time to be alive.  We can fully face our troubling environmental possibilities and do our best to live in harmony with our world.  Our actions may not lead to the outcomes we desire, but that doesn’t change the value of the work itself. Regardless of what happens decades, centuries, and millennia from today, we can play our role now in this drama of human life with dignity and compassion.

In the book The Future We Choose, Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac describe how we can shift our environmental perspective from one of helplessness to one of helpful action.  In their “Stubborn Optimism” chapter, they weave together ideas similar to those of Joanna Macy and Stephen Batchelor.

When it comes to climate change, the vast majority of us have a learned reaction of helplessness.  We see the direction the world is headed, and we throw up our hands.  Yes, we think, it’s terrible, but it’s so complex and so big and so overwhelming.  We can’t do anything to stop it.

This learned reaction is not only untrue, it’s fundamentally irresponsible.  If you want to help address climate change, you have to teach yourself a different response…

You are not powerless.  In fact, every action is suffused with meaning, and you are part of the greatest chapter of human achievement in history.  Make this your mental mantra.  Take notice of how your mind tries to insist on your helplessness in the face of the challenge and refuses to accept it.  Notice it, and refute it.  It will not take long for your thought patterns to change. (Figueres & Rivett-Carnac, 2020, pp. 42-43)

Even though our helpful actions may not be enough to stop the catastrophic effects of climate change, it is still true that our actions make a difference.  Climate change is not an either/or scenario.  Different levels of devastation will happen.  We can do our best to lessen that harm.

Even though the situation is serious, we can act with stubborn optimism.

Our helpful actions can also inspire others.  We don’t need to get preachy and judgmental when we see others not doing their part.  Instead, we can be role models in the face of these great challenges.  We show our concern for the planet through our actions.  And when we help our world, we don’t have to be overburdened and grim.  Even though the situation is serious, we can act with stubborn optimism.  Figueres and Rivett-Carnac describe how stubborn optimism “drives your desire to engage, to contribute, to make a difference.  It makes you jump out of bed in the morning because you feel challenged and hopeful at the same time.  It calls you to that which is emerging and makes you want to be an active part of change” (Figueres & Rivett-Carnac, 2020, p. 46).  This stubborn optimism is not something only a few of us have.  Stubborn optimism can be practiced and cultivated by all of us.

Stubborn optimism is not deluded and unrealistic.  We fully see what is happening to our planet.  Our head is not in the sand.  We know that climate change is happening and that climate change will continue to get worse.  But we don’t have to give into despair.  We don’t have to be tied to the results and outcomes of our actions.  We don’t need praise or superficial successes.  Our motivations are deeper and more sustainable than that.  We are working for the value of the work itself.  We are working for ourselves, our neighbors, the world, and future generations.

We can speak truth to power, while we also listen to and work together with people who have different perspectives.

Just because we are taking personal responsibility to protect our planet doesn’t mean that we can’t also hold others’ and our  government’s feet to the fire.  But we can do this with wisdom and compassion.  We can demand action from our governments and nonviolently protest.  We can work for environmental justice in a wise, compassionate way.  We can speak truth to power, while we also listen to and work together with people who have different perspectives.  That’s how real change happens.  That’s how we make situations better and not worse.  Figueres and Rivett-Carnac describe how we can use our own unique talents and circumstances as we face these daunting social and environmental challenges.

We need both systematic transformation and individual behavioral changes.  One without the other will not get us to the necessary scale of change at the necessary pace.  We all sit at various points of society: members of families, community leaders, CEOs, policy makers.  No matter where you sit, we all can and must exercise that responsibility in favor of the common good.  No one is irrelevant. (Figueres & Rivett-Carnac, 2020, p. 54)

All of us can help with this critical endeavor.  We can use our skills, talents, and occupations to fight for the protection of our planet and to work for economic and social justice.  We can act with wisdom, compassion, selflessness, and optimism.  Yet if we want these wholesome qualities to stay with us when times get tough, we need to cultivate and practice using these qualities.

It’s ironic how many of our current solutions for our environmental crisis are actually practices our ancestors had figured out long ago.

It’s ironic how many of our current solutions for our environmental crisis are actually practices our ancestors had figured out long ago.  Local, organic agriculture, simplistic living, and sustainability initiatives have surfaced in the last few decades, but our ancestors used these practices for millennia before we “discovered” them.  Countless wise teachings of the past have pointed to harmonious ways of life, but generations of us have ignored what our ancestors had to say.  Joanna Macy and Molly Brown remind us of this ancient wisdom in Coming Back to Life.

The view of reality offered by systems science and deep ecology is remarkably convergent with ancient teachings of our planet’s people.  At the same time that we are rediscovering the process nature of our works as a dynamically interrelated whole, our appreciation deepens for how spiritual traditions from East and West, North and South, have carried this understanding through the ages.  … Perhaps only we who are shaped by the Industrial Growth Society have forgotten our embeddedness in a larger, living whole. (Macy & Brown, 2014, p. 46)

Wisdom and harmonious ways of life are not isolated to any specific religion.  Most religions, including and especially indigenous traditions, guide us toward selfless, wholesome actions that benefit our world and all of humanity.  We can rediscover and practice what these ancestral teachings are pointing to, while we also filter out the warped messages of those using religion and ancient wisdom for their own selfish and financial benefit.

Deep down, we know what needs to be done.

We can open our eyes and see what is actually happening to our planet.  We can learn about less examined problems and rethink commonly held beliefs about what is “good” for our world.  Most of this learning is remembering what we already know deep in our hearts.  Deep down, we know what needs to be done.  We just get distracted and forgetful.  It doesn’t help that our consumer society encourages us to live out of selfishness and distraction.  But we can do better.  We can slow down and wake up to reality.  We can live in harmony with our planet and we can act for the benefit of all beings.


References

Batchelor, S. (2020). Embracing Extinction. Tricycle Magazine.
https://tricycle.org/magazine/stephen-batchelor-climate/
Figueres, C. and Rivett-Carnac, T. (2020). The Future We Choose: Surviving the
Climate Crisis. Knopf.
Macy, J. (2020). A Wild Love for the World: Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time.
Shambhala.
Macy, J., & Brown, M. (2014). Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work
That Reconnects. New Society Publishers.

This article is a chapter from Matt’s book, A More Monastic Way of Life.  Matt is currently working to find a publisher for A More Monastic Way of Life.


Recorded by Rebecca Selove

 

Matt Streit is a Zen priest-in-training at Minnesota Zen Meditation Center.  Matt teaches middle school for Minneapolis Public Schools, and he is a certified facilitator with Joanna Macy’s “Work That Reconnects” network.  Matt lives in Minneapolis with his two amazing children.

In My Undoing

by Joshua Davies

Recorded by author

In my undoing is my making.
The green worm of life burrows through the wound,
a healing fuse in every aching

Somewhere an ancient beast is waking.
It ravages, ravishes and strips me nude;
in my undoing is my making

A stone inside this heart is breaking.
The break reverberates – a universe of sounds; 
and healing fuses every aching

There’s no escape: the earth is quaking.
Structures are leveled, every cord unwound.
In my undoing is my making

Three nights fasting; my thirst is finally slaking.
I drink the silence, nourished by the moon.
And healing infuses every aching

A shattered vase, inside this jar I’m baking.
The shards dissolve, annealed. The break unruined –
as healing suffuses every aching. 
In my undoing is my making

 


Joshua Davies came to this work through dance and eco-collective theatre. Sponsored by Earth First! and rooted directly in John Seed and Joanna Macy’s Council of All Beings, the collective developed and toured the interactive production “Standing on Fishes” with playwright Martha Boesing throughout 1991. As a practitioner then teacher of healing arts modalities since adolescence, Joshua currently participates in ongoing workshops on healing ancestral trauma through Thomas Hübl’s Pocket Project. He also curates an ongoing poetry/music series close to his home in the Saint Croix River Valley. His volume wound & shimmer will be published in early 2024.

Lament of the Bones

by Osnat Lev Ari

This poem is presented in the 1) English translation by Yakov Azriel and Melanie Landau, 2) Hebrew original, and 3) Hebrew transliteration.

Recorded by author (English version)

from The Wild Lament cycle

Why did you take us out of the earth,
why did you keep us in shrouds?
Why did you put us in pots, in coffins,
why did you embalm us?
Why did you burn us?
Why don’t you let us crumble into pieces
let us fossilize sink and melt
in a million future years 
why don’t you hear
our lament?
Once we had
a long time

Oh,
who will hear the old bones of the dead
that were not allowed to suckle
from the layers of fossil of the earth?
Why do you stop the flow of 
unbroken life,
why do you think some are more,
why don’t you allow,
why don’t you nourish life
with bones,
why are you afraid
to let go, to release, 
to let flow?
Why do you hide,
why are you hungry worms?
why — damn it

Oh,
listen to our lament
return the bones
 back to the earth

 

A transliteration of the original version of the poem in Hebrew

Recorded by Osnat Lev Ari (Hebrew version)

Kinat  atzamot

Lama hotzatem otanu mehadama?
Lama shamartem otanu betachrichim?
Lama samtem becadim, bearonot?
Lama hanatetem, lama saraftem?
Lama atem lo notnim lanu
Lehitparek lahatihiot.
Tnu lanu lehitaben lishkoaa lehinames
El toch milyoney shanim atidiyit,
Lama atem lo shomeim
Otanu mekonenot.
Haya lanu paam zeman aroch

Oy oy oy
Mi ishma et ha atzamot hazkenot
Shel hametim shelo natnu lahem
Lahazor linok
Mishchavot hameubanim shel haadamot
Lama atem otzrim
Et zerem hahayim halo shvurim,
Lama atem hoshvim ni yoter,
Lama atem lo metirim,
Lama atem lo mezinim hayim eem atzamot

Lama atem pohadim
Levater, leshachrer, leharpt.
Lama atem mithabeem
Lama atem zehalin reevim
Lama lehol haruhot.

Oy oy oy
Takshivu lanu mekonenot
,ahaziru laadama et ha atzamot

 

קינת עצמות

לָמָּה הוֹצֵאתֶם אוֹתָנוּ מֵהָאֲדָמָה
לָמָּה שְׁמַרְתֶּם אוֹתָנוּ בְּתַכְרִיכִים,
לָמָּה שַׂמְתֶּם בְּכַדִּים, בַּאֲרוֹנוֹת.
לָמָּה חֲנַטְתֶּם. לָמָּה שְׂרַפְתֶּם.
לָמָּה אַתֶּם לֹא נוֹתְנִים לָנוּ
לְהִתְפָּרֵק לַחֲתִיכוֹת.
תְּנוּ לָנוּ לְהִתְאַבֵּן לִשְׁקֹעַ לְהִנָּמֵס,
אֶל תּוֹךְ מִילְיוֹנֵי שָׁנִים עֲתִידִיּוֹת,
לָמָּה אַתֶּם לֹא שׁוֹמְעִים
אוֹתָנוּ מְקוֹנְנוֹת.
הָיָה לָנוּ פַּעַם זְמַן אָרֹךְ
 
אוֹי אוֹי אוֹי
מִי יִשְׁמַע אֶת הָעֲצָמוֹת הַזְּקֵנוֹת
שֶׁל הַמֵּתִים שֶׁלֹּא נָתְנוּ לָהֶם
לַחֲזֹר לִינֹק
מִשִּׁכְבוֹת הַמְּאֻבָּנִים שֶׁל הָאֲדָמוֹת
לָמָּה אַתֶּם עוֹצְרִים
אֶת זֶרֶם הַחַיִּים הַלֹּא שְׁבוּרִים,
לָמָּה אַתֶּם חוֹשְׁבִים מִי יוֹתֵר
לָמָּה אַתֶּם לֹא מַתִּירִים,
לָמָּה אַתֶּם לֹא מְזִינִים חַיִּים עִם עֲצָמוֹת
 
לָמָּה אַתֶּם פּוֹחֲדִים
לְוַתֵּר, לְשַׁחְרֵר, לְהַרְפּוֹת.
לָמָּה אַתֶּם מִתְחַבְּאִים
לָמָּה אַתֶּם זְחָלִים רְעֵבִים
לָמָּה לְכָל הָרוּחוֹת.
אוֹי אוֹי אוֹי
תַּקְשִׁיבוּ לָנוּ מְקוֹנְנוֹת
תַּחֲזִירוּ לָאֲדָמָה אֶת הָעֲצָמוֹת


Recorded by Karina Lutz

Osnat Lev Ari lives in the north of Israel, above the sea of Galilee, in an ecological and arts community.  She is 45, married and a mother of two daughters. She is a social worker, a psychotherapist and a facilitator of family constellations work and African grieving ceremonies. She mainly works one-on-one with PTSD and anxiety, and witnesses daily the heartbroken time that we live in today, on so many levels of existence. She also volunteers with activists and offers them the African grieving ceremony as a way to renew their life force and find courage and hope within a safe community.