What’s Your Holdfast?

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A note from Erin:
Hello, beautiful human.
I’m so grateful to be able to reach out to you today.
A few years back I heard from a friend who lived with the Quechua people in Peru that in their language, the way they say “thank you” is to say “a little bird flies from my heart to yours.” 🦜
I hope you might feel this missive like a little bird flying from my heart to yours. I’m beginning to emerge from winter quietude and deep internal restructuring and it feels good.
What’s your holdfast? 
A holdfast is the glue-like chemical bond between kelp and the stones they attach to on the seafloor. Kelp don’t have roots, but have this stabilizing bond to a heavy stone that keeps them anchored and steady at their base as waves and currents roll through the water, waving or whipping the long and elegant kelp bodies all around. Both Kathleen Dean Moore and Francis Weller have written and spoken about our own need for a holdfast. When times are distressing in the world – what do we cling to?
So many outcomes are possible. An essential question: Is our holdfast helping us to grow more large hearted and big minded, or are we growing smaller and tighter in our hearts and minds? It’s so helpful to remember that’s always our choice. What’s keeping you anchored and steady at your base?
During such intense times, with a heart-wrenching war and accompanying nuclear threats; with the dire IPCC report that states clearly, “Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action,” the report says, “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all and watching it largely being ignored by the powers that be as my mother heart breaks all over again; a bombing at a mosque in Peshwar, Pakistan, that killed more than 50 people who were simply there to pray; anti-trans legislation and bullying in so many places; the suffering of the animals and plants bearing these strange times in their own ways. One friend has been in touch with Ukranian zoos attempting to shelter the animals – can you imagine?  I know we could each make a long list of tragedies, not even including our personal lives. At such intense times, people are understandably looking for a place to turn, to hold onto. For a holdfast. Some reach for charismatic leaders who profess to have answers and exude great confidence in their view of things. Some reach toward narratives or groups that find solidarity and solace in blaming the “other” with intense self-righteous vitriol. That’s so common right now on all sides it’s heartbreaking. When the structures we’ve relied on for so long are crumbling and rattling all around us – it seems to me that becoming intimate with our own holdfast is wise. If we don’t choose it intentionally, we can end up in an unhelpful default mode. I bet you can relate when I say it’s so sad to watch some people I care about curdle, harden, and shrink while exuding vitriol. While it’s understandable, it’s not a helpful holdfast for them or any of us.
So what are you going to cling to? 
Your smartphone? Social media? News? Talk radio? Humor? Reverence for the holy in nature? Being right? Perfecting the shape of your eyebrows? Stylish home decor? Comfort food? Meditation? Creative practice? Compassion? There are countless directions we can turn.
A few things I’m leaning into as holdfasts for myself right now:
* Returning again and again to the direct experience of embodied presence and intimacy with life. This breath. This sitting here listening to my son play the Shire theme on his recorder with birdsong in the background, feeling my fingers on the warm laptop keyboard.  This present moment is a refuge. What a miracle that we can return to its peace a million times a day.
* I’m feeling the support of the Earth beneath me freshly, again and again and again; right now I’m taking it in through my butt on the chair and through the floor under my feet. Grateful to tune into this generous support.
* I’m lighting all my altars and sending prayers in all directions. One of my altars is dedicated to the sacred energy of sorrow. As I fill the tiny bowl of water and light the candle, it reminds me to honor it, feel it, let it move through me and let it tenderize me. It reminds me not to try to rise above grief or harden to it. In this culture of ascension, I need the reminder: Sorrow is a sacred guest who deserves a welcome.
* Overall, the most essential holdfast I’m clinging to is love. Maitri is a Sanskrit word that means courageous lovingkindness or brave friendliness. Though I don’t do it perfectly, it’s the main thing that makes sense for me to cling to. Fiercely. Always. Finding ways to be loving in this world so in need of our love.
I saw a sign in a business window in San Diego last week that says, “We thank you for your patience and support during this difficult time.” I’m assuming everyone I meet could be wearing such a sign. I’ve been sending love notes to friends and family. Feeding the birds. I’m breathing in suffering and grief, breathing out prayers for peace, trying to be a humble human air-filter for suffering. I’m meeting my own heavy-heartedness with great compassion.
As Thich Nhat Hanh said, peace is not a hope. It is a practice. “Practicing peace is possible with every step, with every breath. It is possible for us to practice together and bring hope and compassion into our daily lives and into the lives of our families, our community, our nation and the world.” May it be so.
I’m also deeply grateful to return again and again to the 5 Vows of the Great Turning which come from the beloved Work That Reconnects. I’d love to share them in case you might find them helpful. Vows are inevitably embodied imperfectly, and still they can orient us. How lovely it is to be nourished and held by our own capacity to embody what truly matters. These vows are another potent holdfast. The bracketed words were added by me.
Five Vows of the Great Turning
•           I vow to myself and to each of you to commit myself daily to the healing of our world and the welfare of all beings.
•          I vow to myself and to each of you to live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products and energy I consume. {As well as in my own body-mind and in my relationships with others.}
•          I vow to myself and to each of you to draw strength and guidance from the living Earth, the ancestors, the future beings and our siblings of all species.
•          I vow to myself and to each of you to support you in your work for the world, and to ask for help when I need it.
•           I vow to myself and to each of you to pursue a daily practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart and supports me in observing these vows.
Oh how I love to imagine a culture and a world rooted in these vows.
Friends, I hope you feel this little bird flying from my heart to yours. Let’s keep reaching toward each other and leaning toward love, no matter what. As Mary Oliver wrote about a teaching she received from some wise goldfinches, “It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.” Isn’t it? May we not miss the gift.
I’m so grateful we’re in it together.
Thanks for being here. Thanks for being you in the world. Thanks for making the world a more kind and embodied place.
Let’s take exquisite care of each other and of all our siblings in this web of life.
From my heart 🦜,
Erin
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Erin

By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.