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A Joyful Earth
10 February, 2019
I find myself sitting alone before dawn, on the floor of a temple cradled high in the Swiss Alps. Three women trickle in with the starlight through the open air entrance. I watch as shoes are removed, as the women slowly, meticulously arrange flower petals from their silver trays around the dhuni, the cave-altar of the Sacred Fire. The fire is lit. It is the first of the nine-night celebration called Navaratri, a Hindu tradition celebrating the Divine Mother in her multitude of forms. She is Mother Nature. She is devourer and bringer of Life. She is the one who dances in Joy, both over bones and over blooming grounds. As more arrive to enter the space of ceremony, I feel into our prayers, gaze into the red roots of the fire. The outskirts of the altar space, still in shadow, are watched over by a well-fed Ganesha sculpted from wood. As the shadows of the room begin to surrender to the coming dawn, as the shadows begin to burn away from within me, a clarity rises from the Divine Mother, Mother Nature, from the belly of Earth Herself. The realization that dawns:
The Earth wants us to live in Joy.
The many faces of the Divine Mother live within us and all around us. The Divine Mother as Earth is a master of holding polarity – Birth and Death, Light and Dark, Growth and Decay, Masculine and Feminine. Presently accompanying what many refer to as a collective Awakening is the polarity of immense suffering. Earth’s body is wounded. The collective body is wounded. Perhaps Joy is the force of balance, the counterweight to this immense suffering. Or perhaps Joy is what comes when suffering brings us to the brink of what suffering can no longer hold.
In this realization that the Earth wants us to live in Joy, I saw that our Joy is the same as the Joy of Earth; we are the body of the Earth Herself. We are a face of the Divine Mother. Since we share Life, Her Healing lives through us, and our Awakening lives through Her. We are co-creators. Is it possible that in choosing Joy, we transmute not only our own suffering, but the suffering of the Earth Herself?
Since this dawning while sitting on the temple ground, learning Joy has grown as an intentional part of my practice. I am fascinated to find that it can seem more of a struggle to choose Joy than to choose the pain I hold. I begin to see some of the ways that I have grasped my pain, defended my suffering, taken pride in my trials.
It might be hard to choose Joy when judgments which hold the gravity of generations tell us we don’t deserve it. It might be hard to choose Joy when the shadows cling to us, cover our eyes, bore holes into our resolve. It might be hard to choose Joy when 150 species go extinct every day. It might be hard to choose Joy when there is so much hatred and ignorance within our systems and our structures. Or within our own hearts. Perhaps it is hard to choose Joy at first. Perhaps at first it is hard to let go of the suffering which in some ways has been a catalyst for our evolution.
Yet during the Navaratri ceremony, it felt like the Earth was asking me to choose a different way of evolving. A way that celebrates Life. Deep Joy is not about ignoring the wounds. Deep Joy celebrates Life, wounds and all. Even as the body of Earth is wounded with deep mines, drills, devastation – I hear Her laughter rising, bubbling from Her belly like ancient springs. On these Joyful waters rides remembrance of Connection, Courage and Compassion. The peculiar paradox of the deep Joy I have glimpsed is that it has the capacity both to be the counterweight to suffering and to embrace the polarity of suffering and Joy. It is a transformative force.
We have the freedom to choose. We face choices every day, often without acknowledging our freedom of choice.
How can you can choose Joy?
How can you choose to celebrate Life?
Take a moment and really take that in. It might mean taking time to contemplate what a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and gift your life is. It might mean restructuring priorities. It might mean going for that walk in the forest while there is still a pile of paperwork to file on your desk. It might mean slowing down to be present while the hot water streams down your body in the shower or while you eat a piece of cake. It might mean starting a regular meditation practice. It might mean taking a moment to really look into the eyes of a loved one. Or it might mean having the courage to face the next struggle in your life with the grace of your presence and attention. Every time you choose to celebrate your own Life, every time you choose Joy, even in the smallest way, you choose to celebrate Life itself.
May you follow the sound of that spring of ancient laughter bubbling up from the deep Earth. May the laughter rise through your own belly. May you choose to laugh with, and as, a Joyful Earth!
On Pleasure, Pain, and the Balance of Feminine and Masculine Power
28 September, 2018
Take a moment to notice your response and the underlying, more subtle responses to this question:
Do you feel worthy of pleasure?
I began Layla Martin's “Pleasure Challenge” yesterday. The practice involves reflection and body awareness exercises asking ourselves about our relationship to pleasure. Do we feel worthy of experiencing pleasure? This question hints at a deep and collective wounding steeped in our experiences of culture, religion, and sex to name a few. These worthiness woundings have been festering for generations.
I believe that the wounding is, in part, related to an era of imbalance around masculine and feminine energies. When both masculine and feminine energies complement each other in wholeness, there is great potential. When there is an extreme leaning towards one polarity, imbalance makes the shadow aspects of the energies apparent (which is also a state of great potential, though in a different context).
There is a growing awareness that an imbalance in these polar energies have led to an unhealthy wielding of power, a dangerous disconnect from our environment of which we are a part, and an inability to make choices which consider long-term and long-distance effects. In such an environment, our inherent wholeness can feel inaccessible.
In many societies, I believe that this imbalance has led to a general belief in lack of self-worth. Although this is often not apparent on the surface, a sense of unworthiness can be seen reflected in many tendencies. It may look like seeking self-value in external objects, substances, or people, without acknowledging one's own inherent worth. It may look like self-judgment around appearance or wealth, comparing one's inherent worth to societal standards and not measuring up. It may look like not listening to one's basic needs and compensating by prioritizing others' needs, sometimes to the point of burnout or chronic illness: the "they are worthy, I am not" syndrome. It may look like fearing that demonstration of self-care or self-worth will be seen by others as selfish or unaligned with collective values, or a sense that feeling worthy is not safe. Do you recognize any of these tendencies in yourself or in those around you? I can see every one at play within myself. I also see that a sense of unworthiness often translates into not receiving the fullness of our vast pleasure potential.
A more balanced awareness, one that honors both feminine and masculine principles, is rising in many different areas of the collective. Yes, the awakening feminine energy has an understanding of the more chthonic realms where pain can be an initiatory experience, and perhaps this will help us see the era of imbalance as a catalyst to evolve. Yet this "Rising Goddess" energy many of us are witnessing also includes the power, intelligence, and wisdom of our pleasure potential and of our bodies. I would venture to say that our potential of pleasure as a way to celebrate and recognize our own and each other's sacred nature remains largely untapped in our current collective condition. As we take an active role in this rising energy, I believe that we will help each other reach that potential.
Within a day of beginning Layla Martin's "Pleasure Challenge", humorously enough I had my first aikido class with a theme “enjoy the pain”. While dancing with the shadow and gleaning treasures from the struggles has been a theme of my life and deep process work, I am also beginning to recognize that perhaps this tendency has left something out, reflecting an imbalanced state. What would happen if we were able to fully embrace our worthiness of pleasure, not at the exclusion of pain, but as a way to more fully recognize and receive the gifts of who we are, as a way to celebrate an expanded awareness of our sacredness, a way to access more of our potential? Would we move and connect, give and receive, or even experience pain, from a different place?
I invite you to notice, just for one day, your relationship to your worthiness and how you receive pleasure. By saying "yes" to our worthiness and to our pleasure, we not only say yes to our own potential, but we can enter a state of showing up more fully for others. If you already have a full "yes", then I bow to you!
I see that the more I am able to embrace and celebrate this divinity within myself by saying "yes" to pleasure, the more the external world is able to reflect that. There is a shift I am watching both in relationship to self and in relationship to other.
And the paradox: this process of learning to embrace pleasure, can also be a process of enjoying the pain as we break through boundaries!