You Made It! And other New Year Non-Resolutions

Each of you is perfect the way you are ... and you can use a little improvement. ― Shunryu Suzuki
 
Your problem is you're afraid to acknowledge your own beauty. You're too busy holding on to your own unworthiness. You'd rather be a schnook sitting before some great man. That fits in more with who you think you are. Well, enough already. I sit before you and I look and I see your beauty, even if you don't.  ― Ram Dass
 
Go you!  You did it.  You made it to another New Year!
 
Winter is a time of taking stock.  At least in the northern hemisphere, the natural world isn’t worried about productivity.  It’s focusing in, conserving, digging deep into the nutrients stored up from previous seasons.  We just have turned the corner of winter's heart, and though we are now in the gradual swing back towards the light, it is still a dark and quiet time, with a view both back at the year we leave behind, and forward to the coming days.  

Puzzling and crafting my year review on New Year's Eve

Puzzling and crafting my year review on New Year's Eve

The New Year tradition of my friend circle is something we call the Year In Review.  We sketch back the previous year, sometimes through story-telling over New Year’s Eve dinner, sometimes through day-long creative vision boarding and crafting, weaving a tapestry that answers this question: What are you proud of from this past year?

It can be surprising the kind of victories, large but more often then not quite small, that make up a list like this.  Big things I am really proud this year include fulfilling my dream of creating a Summer Solstice retreat (2018 dates coming soon!) and taking really good care of my body as I returned to graduate school.   Little things (or more subtle things) include being able to express and process my anger directly in such a way that was truthful but didn’t shame or shut the recipient down and kept our connection; and simplifying my holiday gift-giving to be meaningful and easy.  Even your failures or things you left incomplete can be reviewed with honesty and kindness.  I had plenty of those to include in my review!  This kind of review helps to have the loving eyes and memories of good friends.  Just think: you got enough right that you made it here!

While the culture at large is telling you in oh-so-many ways to get your booty moving to lose those holiday pounds, to get organized, sell more whatever, move up, move out, move on—consider beginning this year with a pat on the back for all that you’ve already done to get here and and a deep bow inward to that which is is already always present, to the great and inextinguishable inner fire of your heart, and the sweet home of your body in which it resides.  
 
Try this: sit a moment, listen to your breath, and notice what it's truly like to be alive in your body.  What words come to describe that experience?  Imagine what it would feel like in your body if, contrary to the messages of almost everything else out there, there was actually nothing wrong with you; nothing that needed to be fixed; nothing out of place or the wrong shape, color, size or circumstance.  And if that were actually true, what kind of New Year dedication of action would you make?  What would your thoughts, words and actions be like?  To what service could you offer your actions?  What, from that foundation of already-whole, is waiting to just naturally flow from you?

New Year's Day alter on the top of Mt Rose, near Hoodsport Washington!  I got my mantra for 2018: I Am Here.

New Year's Day alter on the top of Mt Rose, near Hoodsport Washington!  I got my mantra for 2018: I Am Here.

Flow is a water quality, governed by the moon and the Goddess.  That's why what feels ripe for me as I enter 2018 is a deeper alignment with moon magic in my work and self-care.  As I tuned in to New Year's Day super moon, she brought me my phrase for 2018: I am Here.  This felt like an up-level from last year's I am ready.  Phew!  I'm super glad for that because 2017 was challenging!  I have taken this new message as one of truly embracing who I already am, what I already have, and where my life is already full, ripe, and rich. 

If Moon wisdom intrigues you, you can learn more about living in lunar alignment here.  You can also put the dates for the Winter/Spring 2018 New Moon Dream Circles on your calendar, and if you are female-identified and want to dive deep into feminine-divine spiritual community, Moon Circle 2018 begins January 25th. 

Finally, consider using this template to write your own Year In Review, and to call forth what is waiting to naturally flow from you in 2018.  I added a couple other categories that felt helpful for me, but feel free to adapt to your needs.  Then consider releasing it ceremonially in a fire (this is what I did!) or keep it to stay inspired and check back in over the next year.  And please share in the comments!  I’d love to hear what you are proud of, what you are building on and towards as you step into the new year.

May winter’s quiet and the new year renew your body and heart, bless your thoughts and work, and enliven you with serenity and courage!

Foundations Part 1: The Inconvenient Jesus

I was not intending to return to the Catholic Church.  As a queer woman with somewhat radical and visionary leanings, I like many have struggled to find my place within the religion of empire that has left such a huge scar on the planet and on my own being.  I left the church of my upbringing in 2009 to dive deeply into my own healing journey, which included a blend of intensive therapy, yoga, relational work, art, meditation, and other modalities.  A large portion of my healing revolved around addressing spiritual and religious trauma experienced within patriarchal and homophobic religious and familial culture.  Also like many, I turned to Eastern traditions (the Goddess tradition of Yoga, specifically), in large part for their more relatable imagery of the divine and embodiment practices that for the first time supported me in experiencing the Incarnation not as an abstract theological idea but as something enfleshed in my own physical body.

And then about a year and a half ago, I had a quite literal Come-To-Jesus moment.  

I was meditating in a side chapel of Santa Fe’s cathedral, ruminating on a problem I was having that I just couldn’t seem to figure out.  I’d been chewing on this situation for weeks, and as I sat in the chapel, which just happened to be the chapel of St. Joseph, I looked up and saw the image of Jesus on the cross of San Damiano—the same cross, I recognized, before which St Francis of Assisi had his conversion.  I found myself just starting to talk to Jesus—saying, Ok Jesus.  I'm sure you dealt with things like this.  How do I get through?  What am I missing?  What am I supposed to do?  

And then something happened that I didn’t see with my eyes or hear with my ears, but knew—could sense—in my very being.  A sphere of golden light surrounded me and I heard the words: Why are YOU trying to figure that out?  Don’t you know I’ve got your back?  Whatever you’re worrying about—I’m already on it.  And then these words, which will never sound as potent as I experienced them: All you have to do is open your heart to the power of my love.  

With that I felt as if 1,000 pounds had lifted from my body and I breathed the biggest sigh of relief I think I’ve ever breathed.  I had this true and absolutely certain sense that everything was getting worked out, and all I had to do from this day forward was ask for my daily assignment, do my best with it, and let everything else be handed over.  To assume more was up to me was prideful—and I finally recognized the hubris in the way I’d been operating, as if I in my thinking mind was in charge of anything.  It was the most humbling and freeing experience I had ever had and have ever had since.

I went into what I can only describe as an semi-altered state that lasted some 4-6 weeks.  I started waking up between 4-5am with just a burning heart to do my practices, move my body, and go to daily mass.  Even though the nearby Catholic church was conservative and stuffy, I felt compelled to receive the Eucharist as true spiritual food, and for the first time ever, it felt nourishing.  I felt joyful upon rising and content upon laying down for bed.  What was profound and vital on top of that, was that I had the awareness that I was in a state that wasn’t necessarily going to last—and I felt peaceful about that, like I’d be ready to let it go when the time came.  Somehow, however long this lasted, I knew the scales had tipped for good.  Jesus had become a very real and felt presence to me, and I just had this knowing that, whatever followed, I was being transformed.

Even in my state of glow, I also felt totally annoyed.  Why was Jesus, of all Holy Beings, showing up for me now after I’d just spent years and thousands of dollars on therapy extracting myself from Jesus-indoctrination?!  It felt very inconvenient.  

The inconvenience would only magnify when, about two months later, I attended an inter-spiritual meditation retreat and met a Roman Catholic Woman Priest.  I was in a small group of women, and we each took turns sharing faith stories.  I went first, sharing pieces about growing up Catholic, coming out as Queer in college, leaving the church, finding yoga, knowing I had a call to spiritual leadership but not really knowing what that was suppose to look like.  When the next woman shared, it was of a wandering journey from a Protestant upbringing to this and that, then falling in with some Catholics, taking some graduate courses.  “And then,” she said, “I converted to Catholicism…and now I’m a Catholic Priest.”  

Literally, my jaw dropped and I burst into tears.  

Looking back, I think I had known about the RCWP movement peripherally (you can find out more here), but it was as if I was hearing about it for the very first time.  I was struck with a profound sense of equal amounts purpose and terror.  I avoided this woman for the next 24 hours, but by the last day of the retreat finally summoned the courage to go talk to her.  “I think I need to hear more about this how-it-is-you-are-a-Catholic-Priest thing.”  She gave me the name of a woman priest who was closer to my home town.  I put the name in my pocket, went home from the retreat, and did nothing with it for three months.  

It’s taken me over a year and a half of bargaining with the Divine about my calling to finally give in to this unmistakable current.  I have begun the process of discernment towards ordination as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest, with lots of clear pieces to the puzzle, but not a completely clear way of how they are all going to fit together.  

It's within this current that my work emerges.  Read more here about some of the core pieces shaping my vision, vocation, and the founding principles of my work: Sacred Feminism, Intersectionality, Bridge-building, Embodiment, Deep Ecology, and Visionary Community.  

 

Sacred Self-Centeredness

We’ve all heard it, I’m sure: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Wise words, to be sure, we find them repeated in some variation in spiritual traditions worldwide.

However, I’d like to bring attention to two potential problems with this principle.  The first is this: if our gauge for treating others just how we want to be treated, then doesn’t that keep us at the center of the equation still?  The particulars of what we’d like and how we’d like to be treated may not be something universally shared.

Secondly—and this one to me is more important—this presupposes a kind of wholeness of being that would allow a person to give in such a way that isn’t just as a way to fill their own need-hole, which actually ends up feeling more like taking than giving.

Let me illustrate with my own story.

When I was 21, I came out of the closet.  I had fallen in love with a sweet lady while I was studying abroad and when I returned home I decided I wasn’t going to close up that part of who I could see myself living into.  I identified (and still do) as queer and told my friends and (slowly) my family.  

This was the first what is becoming a lifelong practice of “coming out”—of discovering and being willing to live into deeper and truer aspects of my being.

About a year later I came out again—this time, I came out as someone who was living with severe depression.  In some ways this one was at least as hard.  I was one of those peppy thin white 20-somethings who “did it all”.  I was a strong academic, I had a position in student government, I had co-founded the campus peace and justice group and a community garden project.  I was acquainted with everyone (it used to annoy my dear friend that we couldn’t walk across the campus together without me stopping a dozen times to say hi to people I knew).  

And on the inside I was completely empty.  

When I finally admitted to this emptiness, it was both relieving and terrifying.  One day, as I was standing in my apartment staring blankly out the window, I was struck with the realization that this whole outward show of do-gooding was in response to a deep and hidden insecurity that went something like this:  

Everything I’ve done has been to earn the love I don’t deserve.  They think I’m good because I do good things.  It can’t ever be found out that actually I’m bad.  I’m not good.  I’m bad.

mandala.jpg

It would take years for me to identify these as the thoughts of a much younger version of myself, struggling to make sense of her own emotions, her body, and later, her sexuality.  There are a lot of moments throughout a humans development where, in a moment of trauma or turmoil, we crystallize a belief about ourselves or the world deep in the unconscious psyche where it directs and motivates our thoughts and actions without our knowing.  

Accepting the reality of my depression and becoming conscious of this deeply held belief got me going on a long road of healing (I’m still on it).  

My depression was what I would call a functional disfunction.  The way it manifested was in ways that were culturally acceptable and even earned me a lot of positive reinforcement.  

I realized that, even though ostensibly I was “doing service”, my need-hole was loud and proud out front.  The need-hole is what I’ve come to know as any way we feel incomplete or un-whole in ourselves.  This is not to say that we don’t truly need each other—we do very much!  But we need each other the way an ecosystem needs every species and element—as whole, individuated AND interdependent beings.  

The need-hole is also addressed by most spiritual traditions.  The tradition of yoga calls it anava mala, or the having forgotten our truest identity of oneness with the Goddess.  Christian spirituality often alludes to the “god-shaped” hole in the heart.  

I decided to take care of my own need hole through a careful cultivation of my own sense of wholeness and well-being.  My hypothesis is that if we all tend to our own need-holes, than when encounter each other and our world, it isn’t from a place of needing to suck on the world in order to fill our own needs.  Rather, we can encounter the world as whole beings, and from that wholeness, we can truly give freely, in the ways that are being asked of us, out of overflow without the need or expectation of getting anything back for it.  This is sacred-selfcenteredness: loving yourself the way you want to be loved, a willingness to put yourself at the center of your universe as mirror image of the whole cosmos so that the healing that is done there, the ways you treat your body, the ways you listen to the parts of you that have been neglected, the ways you clear shame and shoulds—all of that connects you to the direct experience of fullness of being alive that, in my experience, can’t help but spill over into doing unto others the way they want do be done unto them…or something like that.

This, I find, is a particularly important practice as a queer person and as a woman, who's physical existence has for millennia been devalued and considered less then, and this day is still under daily threat of abuse and erasure.  To elevate and prioritize, then, the love and care of this queer female body in which I dwell takes on the quality of a subversive, revolutionary, and gospel-inspired life-generating act.   

Let’s carry forth with the prophetic words of 15th century Sufi poet, Hafiz:

"With That Moon Language"

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this: this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a moon in each eye,
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?