I’d love to share a beloved poem to begin this week’s newsletter:
A Thousand Years of Healing
From whence my hope, I cannot say,
except it grows in the cells of my skin,
in my envelope of mysteries it hums.
In this sheath so akin to the surface of the earth
it whispers. Beneath
the wail and dissonance in the world,
hope’s song grows. Until I know
that with this turning
we put a broken age to rest.
We who are alive at such a cusp
now usher in
one thousand years of healing!
Winged ones and four-leggeds,
grasses and mountains and each tree,
all the swimming creatures,
even we, wary two-leggeds
hum, and call, and create
the Changing Song. We remake
all our relations. We convert
our minds to the earth. In this turning time
we finally learn to chime and blend,
attune our voices; sing the vision
of the Great Magic we move within.
the new habit, getting up glad
for a thousand years of healing.
– Susa Silvermarie
Can you imagine leaning into this new habit of getting up glad for a thousand years of healing?
Can you imagine tenderly putting a broken world to rest?
Can you imagine, we who are so lucky to be alive right now at such a potent time, get to usher in one thousand years of healing!?
I can. I hope you can too.
In the modern culture, oriented toward ascension, endless improvement, and the airbrushed lives of “influencers,” we tend to want to avoid the challenges, the shadow work, the humbling and grief-heavy truths that pull us back to ground. During this season, the ugly truths of racism in the US are insisting we stop this rising above. Along with climate crisis and coronavirus, life is insisting we come back down. We must give over to the gravity of the situation. We must reckon and atone. We must grieve and listen; listen and grieve. We learn. We do better, right here, on the ground. Not up there, out there, bigger-better-shinier-faster, looking sexy all the while. We show up right here, as we are, right in the middle of the mess.
For me and Carl, it’s all so clearly connected. Becoming more embodied and present. Stepping out of the habits of dominating our own bodies and our inner lives. This cultivation supports us in potent ways to become less violent and less dominating in our relationships with each other and with the Web of Life. May it be so, breath by soft-bellied breath.
I believe this work can and must be done with love. We cannot come to this necessary reckoning from a sense of obligation or from a felt need to perform. Nor can we sustainably engage from a state of dominating, shaming, and forcing ourselves or others. None of these will lead to sustainable growth and the lasting changes that are so necessary.
As an embodiment mentor and long time practitioner myself, I know from experience in my own life and with countless clients and students – this bringing the work into the body, into the living moment, as writer and therapist Resmaa Menakem elucidates so beautifully in his book, My Grandmother’s Hands, is the humble, exacting, and lifelong path to lasting change of all kinds.
The quality of our approach is of such fundamental importance.
Here’s a perspective I find profound:
“Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. when you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.”
― Rachel Naomi Remen
May our approach be one of service and care; one of soul.
Growing the skills of embodied presence, courageous unconditional kindness toward all the layers of our experience inner and outer; including our shame and our fears with compassion and without letting them drive; and importantly – not through a lens of domination or fixing.
This is what we emphasize in our embodiment work – and particularly in this month’s theme in our online Embodiment Lab: The Somatics of Awakening: Embodying Loving Presence. (Would you like to watch one of this month’s lab videos for free? You can find it here. Then feel free to sign up for the Lab to join us for more!)
It takes practice. And more practice. We do it with good humor and deep reverence. With grounded, embodied presence; with reliable ways of self-soothing and returning to our most adult, compassionate selves.
We can bring these essential skills into all kinds of territories, from tending the grief in our hearts and our communities; into noticing and celebrating beauty and thriving wherever we see it; into anti-racist learning and activism; into simply navigating the grocery store or family life during pandemic times. What if we brought this kind of compassionate care to all of life? And why do anything less??
What makes our engagement sustainable?
A commitment to courageous kindness, inner and outer.
Skills to regulate our nervous system.
Presence in the lower belly/pelvis center: what I call being Empelvised Embellied and Empowered.
Inhabiting our breathing with presence many times a day.
The capacity to pause.
To listen without defensiveness.
To not take things so personally.
To forgive ourselves and each other generously.
To allow for a million mistakes in the learning process.
As Dogen says, “Enlightenment is one mistake after another.”
Dogen also said, “It’s too late to be ready.”
With love, humility, and respect,
I’ve included an inspiring passage from a beloved teacher and writer, Stephen Levine, excerpted from his book, Unattended Sorrow.
“A Day in a Healing Life
What might it be like to awaken each day into an increasing sense that being loving is even more important than being loved? What would your first thought be? How open would your mind and body be? How soft would your belly be?
How considerable the day would be. How graceful its possibilities. A day of forgiveness and compassion. A day of grounded kindness. Of course, love is contagious and the more loving we are the more we are surrounded by love.
To be loving is timeless, but those who are loved are very much a product of time. What a miracle it would be to make this day a day of healing grace. Some say the practice of being loving is not only the best support for our life, but the best preparation for death, leaving no unfinished business behind and no stone unturned toward the sun.
What might it be like to experience a loving that does not depend on getting what we want but on offering what is needed? To watch each day cultivate an expanding concern for the well-being of everyone we meet? An aspiration to live comfortably within even a sometimes seemingly ill-fitting world? A sense that no matter what comes next, mercy is an option?
What would it be like on a day in a healing life to open your eyes and actually see the beauty around you? To look into a world more beautiful than you ever conceived? To see into a world of possibilities beneath the one your sense have been bouncing off of most of your life? To appreciate how light dissipates shadow on the surface of that which has long been taken for granted? To listen to what you have barely heard as it passed in one ear and out the other?
Look beneath the threadbare preconceptions of what you ordinarily see to what there is to be seen. Ordinarily, all that we see is what we have previously seen. We rarely see the flower – we just see a flower. It is not the world that is old but the antiquated translation from the eye to the mind, and all that is lost in translation between thinking what we see and the actual seeing. To observe directly is to live from the heart.
When we see the present in detail, our heavy lids lift to find, beneath our ordinary grief and suffering, a beauty beyond our wildest dreams, the essential beauty of our enormity. We become grateful for the practice of mindfulness and loving-kindness toward all sentient beings and even so unlikely a candidate as ourselves.”
a photo of a page from Charlie Mackesey’s beautiful book