This workshop is offered as part of the Asian American Women Artists Association's End-of-Year Fundraising Auction. All proceeds will benefit AAWAA's programs and membership.
An in-person group writing experience to connect with trees as the sacred elders of our planet, and open our imagination to their wisdom and inspiration. Monica Mody will guide participants in asking the trees what they would like to share, seeing the images that open up, and listening to tree-language and tree-rhythm. Participants will be invited to listen to their own modes of language while communing with trees.
We meet at the Queen Wilhemina Tulip Garden at 12pm, Saturday, December 10, 2022.
Bring writing materials, and optionally, any offerings you would like to make to tree spirits (such as water, milk, cornmeal, coins, alcohol), and a blanket to sit on.
For up to 16 participants. Duration: 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Registration closes November 20, 2022.
As people of culture, we have to work hard to reclaim and reimagine our ancestral traditions, navigating histories and presents shot through with psychic shadows such as polarization, suppression of spiritual knowledges, structures and relationships of domination.
When 'your blood is not in the game' (to quote a fellow healer and seer), these traditions are not yours to consume, commodify, cutify. Implying your full participation in traditions you don't carry is a way of tokenizing them. Centering yourself in cultural contexts that you are outside of is not true respect or appreciation—neither of these contexts, nor of those carrying these lineages.
Educate yourself about the continuing fictions of colonialism and white supremacy. See through your own assumptions. Know the difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. Don't step into a place if you cannot stand there on earth both as a blessing and a responsibility.
In revisiting "When Yoginis Appear With Animals: Animistic Relational Elements and the Non-Dual Matrix" to present at the Oct 6 ASWM Scholar Salon, I found myself thinking about some things:
1. Secular scholarship practises, often uncritically, historiography stripped of enchantment. What would it be like for us as historians and readers of history to be permeated with a sensing of our human past as filled with magic?—negotiations with the natural world? Instead of seeing our ancestors as imbued with the 'non-wild' subjectivity that secular-colonial historical writing would have us believe, what might we learn if we change our lens to one that that recognizes our ancestors practicing in relationship with the sacred, with nature?
2. It doesn't matter how the pathology in our cultural-ancestral stories got in. What matters is that we drop it here. What matters is that we choose to leave it behind, renewing the futures available.
"With actions I take now, I change the past." —Andrea Hairston in Mindscape (quote from memory)
3. It is amazing how so many written accounts of events focus on masculine/patriarchal histories of war, conquest, domination.
What about the feminine/matriarchal histories of cooperation? And, what about sage histories of wisdom and veneration?
How do we recast the project of history? Which knowledges—through their transmission, integration, and revitalization—could help create life-affirming cultures?
In the ancient and medieval Indian literatures I was reading or reading about, several narratives classed women—along with 'slaves,' elephants, horses, cows—as objects to be enslaved and traded—after wars; to gift to brahmins.
I do not consent to this history.
This history enrages me, makes me furious.
I want to tear down and through patriarchal histories/narratives, and replace them with pasts that give dignity to women, to nature, to our inextricable connection with the alive earth.
How much of these literatures reflect that age-old problem in scholarship: the collapse of context?
4. What would change in the present and future collective psyche of India if the transformational impulses at the root of this ancient civilization came to shape our imaginary in the form of living, extraordinary knowledge of located ecology? If the cultural histories we tell ourselves were to be informed by an understanding of our deeply intertwined-symbiotic relationship with the wild—women at the center of emergence?
5. Making lateral moves as a theoretician allows me to put forth claims that are yet to be accepted: claims that have arrived as insights.
"Going outside the accredited realm of historiography means daring to be dubbed ahistorical." —Emma Pérez, The Decolonial Imaginary
Of course it's cool that so much research literature is now available online.
But my fingers had begun to tingle at the idea of chasing down this particular book accessible only in an out-of-the-way library—leafing through archives—the thrill of adventure!—when (sigh) I found an electronic copy I could download.
In view of some recent conversations, I have been thinking about the idiom of poetry: what it asks from its readers and supporters. Generosity rooted in curiosity—not judgment, but the willingness to explore/engage/expand with. (In that way, it can make us better humans, perhaps, if we live in that way in the world.)
To me, the best poetry comes out of a force that moves outside colonial, domesticated enclosures. Can its physicality stay liberated through all the modes of transmission?—that is the question.
While reading poetry, if our bodies have not remembered the codes of energetic safety—and they come across poetry that threatens their equilibrium/status quo, they react and try to make the poetry safer.
Safer poetry is not necessarily what our soul/the world soul needs.
Leaning into the work of inner liberation that is continually inviting us into its play and process is also perhaps one of our responsibilities, so as to grow in community with poetry. As we liberate critical parts of us from the domination-based illusion, we allow poetry to move through us with the force of liberation.
What happens if instead of considering a part of our own/another's self 'wrong,' we become curious about it?
If, instead of filling words with predetermined meanings, we become curious about each other's experiences?
What's going to moisten what has dried?—is it compassion, does it use another word?
How do we relent, reclaim, ready ourselves, persist, reinfuse?
At the introductory Women's Visionary Poetry and Fiction class (for CIIS Women's Spirituality)--
We dedicated our participation to grandmothers + our younger selves, partners + dads, teachers + foremother poets, the hidden ones. Told stories from the future. Were chosen by words carrying secrets.
Readings included Alexis DeVeaux + Alexis Pauline Gumbs + Walidah Imarisha; Cecilia Vicuña; Mary Mackey; and more.
To create a class is a little like creating a portal—and the beginning is the most exciting moment of all. Full of possibilities.
A few days ago, when I was first heard the story of Mary Ellen Pleasant, I did not know that the artist Cheryl Derricotte has been exploring Pleasant's life, biography, and legacy in her recent art projects.
I wanted to go commune with Mary Ellen Pleasant, take her offerings. When I learned there would be a day-long excursion to important sites from her life and death in Napa, I had to sign up for the tour.* This was, no doubt, an invitation from spirit!
During the tour—which was also an ancestral remembrance—we visited Pleasant's grave, made offerings of flowers and songs and poetry, poured libations and tears, told stories. I learned what an OG Pleasant was. The first Black female self-made millionaire in the 19th century. Conductor of the Underground Railroad, helper of women in travail. Practitioner of vodou who had studied with Marie Leveau. Author of three memoirs (now lost)... and so much more.
Why was I learning about her after almost ten years of living in San Francisco? Ask history: who it makes room for, who is left out.
Cheryl Derricotte's book arts print project celebrating Pleasant is a part of the show Collecting Arising: The Insistence of Black Bay Area Artists, co-curated by Ashara Ekundayo and Lucia Olubunmi R. Momoh, and up at the Museum of Sonoma County until Nov 27. Folks in the Bay Area, do visit if you get a chance - the whole show is exceptional.
(*The tour was hosted by Derricote, Ekundayo, and Momoh, in conjunction with the Collective Arising show.)
Sometimes I feel this deep restlessness in regard to writing. It's not a new feeling. I've felt it on the edge of my teeth for years now—this greasy feeling. When words swell too much with the meanings located in stale, commonplace contexts... and I want to throw off their thick rough cloak and reveal... not just another layer... but the growling, bare-teethed heart of it all. So sharp that it tears off all the stories of separation our world is awash in.
So tender. So unafraid of being not clever. Cleverness—a habit I picked up as I grazed academic writing—it was long before that, wasn't it? What have you taken on that bears you away from the white hot center of your own need? The most urgent, the most un-clever need of all is the hunger for connection to the universal, beating heart. No distraction can distract us away from it. Every distraction tries to succeed.
To go beyond cleverness, then. Is this a good question to frame about a piece of writing: whether it opens, extending in a space beyond cleverness? There is no beginning nor end to the Void. And yet, the ordinary psyche knows so well to pull back at the faintest flicker of (its) death.
Another question to ask myself when writing: Am I copying someone else's style sheet, thought forms—or letting myself interact with the forms that are arising out of the interaction of this moment with space?
How do I strip off everything I've known? All of it?
Perhaps I want to make a distinction between the knowns that take my breath away with how familiar they are—in such an epistemic relational process, I find I am recovering something of myself—and the external influences that beglamor, and seek to shift me away from my authority.
I know all too well words can create vibratory ladders. It is easy to shift them this way or that. Words can be easily promiscuous—subtle shapeshifters where something stirs just out-of-sight. It matters—the intent we bring to words. Where is our gaze resting, what has it entangled with?
Words—as crutches—can crush. May our words be bridges. Words can be exceptional connectors between personal consciousness and source consciousness.
What brick walls need to fall down to make way for all of these links?
Words have often been the tools of the architects of false realities, fear-based realities.
For words to be bridges—between silence and that other place—always becoming, divine, the source from which potential comes into form—they must be hard-won, like pressed coal. Not cleverly thought out. Nor artless. In contact.
Remember the lioness who has to live out her life in an arena that is already too small for her? Don't be like her.
Writing is a way of materializing self. Not a pre-existing self. A self that is streaming with the earthstream and starstreams. With the waters of life.
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