I am sitting with an old wound today... around losing my voice.
In part ancestral, in part structural and systemic, in part because of planets in retrograde, this wound alchemizes into a place within me that has painstakingly learnt to bead together silence and words—no wonder it was poetry that first gave me voice—and, more recently, to open up to not knowing, trusting that the words will come—a path of surrender.
But sometimes it appears as if the words will not come, and I am back to that old flounder/wound, looking at another layer of healing ready to emerge.
So, even these moments of disconcertedness are sacred moments. I am here for it all. May both the words and the silence be true.
I am remembering that it is okay to not know, to not know what to say, to speak words that are not perfect, to risk disapproval and even indifference, to not be perfect. There is permission for all of it in the void at the heart of the world.
Spreadsheets are great to collect, organize information, but cannot take the place of interpersonal communication. Any collaboration that hopes to rise above the purely functional must make time for process.
Information stripped of the element of interaction cannot replace, within complex systems, what Nora Bateson terms "warm data"—data that keeps the nest of relations intact.
It is a testament to the influence of the machine paradigm that we have come to see giving time to the uncertainty, emergence, and complexity that experiencing the relational process brings us face-to-face with as unnecessary to co-creating with each other.
Co-creation—as the instinct of play—asks of us eye-gazing—the ability to connect and synchronize and align with how each of us partnering is moving. Anything else is a low-value offering that is operating in a paradigm that sees us as discrete entities, and promotes disconnection as well as low trust.
While I have worked in a variety of settings, I acknowledge I have different expectations from people who come to me speaking the language of wanting to challenge white cultural norms. I confess to having my heart broken a little when, even there, I see characteristics such as transactional communication, perfectionism, individualism, and fears of open conflict play out. (See characteristics of a white supremacy culture, as adapted from Tema Okun.)
To acknowledge the other's sovereignty.
To acknowledge that Spirit is always steering me in the right direction, and if a collaboration constructed on apparently similar values collapses, it is not a bad thing at all.
I move into the knowing of my own commitments, contribution, and values. It is upon the other to know how they did or did not show up—where they turned rigid.
I move into taking in the learning that I would like more clarity from potential collaborators early on about how resilient they are when intentions and stated values come face to face with the "slippery mess of variables, changes, and ambiguities." I take in the reminder that I find it hard to move well with rigid people, and that this speaks to hidden forces within myself that, for now, come into play to founder my own equanimity.
How do we dive into the depths and go beyond the reach of naysaying inner/outer voices to access our creative knowing? What surprising wisdom already lies within us? Or images? How do we expand the notion of family to include the Earth, ancestors? These were among the questions we looked at in today's writing class.
Writing is not therapy—but in this class I do hold writing within a psychospiritual container. Which is why it warmed me to get this message from a student as we were wrapping up: "This class is like therapy tonight, only useful therapy, gut deep." El cenote is available to us to redream the world!
In preparation for tomorrow's lecture for the Writing Spiritual Memoir class, I have been struck by the following definition of culture from Seneca First Nation member and psychologist Terry Cross: "culture is one group or people’s preferred way of meeting their basic human needs.”
I wonder what basic needs a dominator culture tries to meet—the authoritarian, repressive, warring strands that have been showing up in culture.
Retaliation is not a basic human need. Love is.
Excluding is not a basic human need. Belonging is.
Punishment is not a basic human need. Understanding is.
How do we meet the deeper needs for love, belonging, acceptance, and peace that are foundational to being human—or, shall we say, to having a human experience in a sentient, interdependent universe—when there is fear around claiming them? How do we return to a remembering of our interconnectedness when the paradigm we inhabit emphasizes cool individualism, and our lives have only partially retrieved our true relational embeddedness? Without such a relational paradigm to uphold us, we are all trying to survive—having arrived into a canny illusion of such lack, such incompleteness--sometimes striving merely to complete the picture, close the gaps.
I feel the grief. And then something rises up: a memory, a welling up.
Even if it seems that the world is constantly trying to take away or push back on our wholeness, it is a good thing wholeness is there, always—without beginning or end—sourced in a stream that resembles most closely, perhaps, love. Even with all the unresolved/unaddressed grief from the illusion of alienation, this is our inalienable right—beyond any frameworks of knowledge. Can we shape our cultures to reflect it?
My talk from #2021PoWR. The video of the talk is here. On the panel with me were Dr. Alka Arora, Kimberly J. Davis, and Kris Malone Grossman.
In 1893, Swami Vivekananda started his opening speech at the 1st Parliament of World Religions thanking the sisters and brothers of America. And, I was thinking, how amazing it is that this interfaith convening has been happening since then, recognizing that the solutions to the problems that the world faces will not come from any single entity or tradition, but from the space of dialogue and collaboration.
In the face of what we are facing globally today, there is often a tremendous pressure to act.
And, what’s needed right now is being able to act from our inner guidance—that our actions be vitalized by knowing rooted in embodied, holistic modes of cognition. Women’s spirituality emphasizes multiple ways of knowing. For too long, the dominant, often androcentric verbal/intellectual/analytical modes have been seen as having all the answers.
We can see that these give only incomplete answers. Acknowledging this, we need to practice and get comfortable moving differently, from a place of embodied, depth-based intuition. Instead of letting ourselves be pressured by external codifiers that signal we behave in certain expected ways, it time we find, grow, trust our inner authority.
The old pacts that divided our world into camps of right and wrong—us and them—have proven to be inadequate. Insofar as they are affiliated with models of justice that are often rooted in a colonial/western metaphysics, they have divisive aftereffects. We need to break these pacts, and realign ourselves with a different way of moving in the world, seeing me/us/them not as right or wrong, but holding the recognition of our deep interconnectedness—that we are part of the same becoming--stream—that the same energy that created every other form of the world made us, and vice versa.
Any real influence we can have on each other’s thinking and actions must also come from this place—this confluence—of interconnectedness. Such a notion of activism sees us as braided—not only with other humans, collectives, tribes—but also with the nonhuman and more-than-human elements embedded in our pluriverses. The remembering of our interconnectedness is a remembering of who we are. When we know who we are, we can draw on the power to create change from a story that stretches back and forward across generations, across cultural/geopolitical formations, across the membrane of memory, across species.
It is time, also, to look at all the ways in which we have been socialized to see ourselves as powerless; to ask ourselves, who is invested in keeping us powerless, who benefits from our experiencing powerlessness? Which systems? It’s time to divest from those systems, and to create new systems that come together not as linearities—as blocks—but as movements. Borders of movements are continually shifting—making possible crossovers into heretofore unknown/unborn freedoms.
It’s time to revision dualistic philosophies—every ecological node where the imperative of perceiving phenomena through an either/or lens created splits in our own being.
In Saktic Tantric philosophy, it is the dance of the still and the active principle—Shiva and Shakti—continuing since time immemorial—that gives birth to life as process. This dance is the mystery at the core of All-That-Is, it is the story of wholeness—the incipient, in potentia, unformed, as well as the potentiated, the formed, at different stages of dissolution. Shakti—as the primordial cosmogenetic energy—forms the ground of the Absolute. Every wave or vibration emanating from the ground re-creates the pluriverses. The Absolute is eternal, and changing.
Every activation—creative action—mirrors the inexhaustible stores of possibility and energy in the Void, the dark face/phase of the Mother. Every ripple of energy arises from the desire-body of Shakti, aspecting three forms of the Goddess: sthula (material), sukshma (subtle), para (supreme).
In the tremendous need of the world, it is not the size of the action that matters—it is how we open our hearts to the world, embodying the mutability—the seasonality—that is an intrinsic part of our arising from the Source.
Sibyls on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michaelangelo (photographed today at the Sistine Chapel Exhibition).
The first Sibyls—the "Black Doves"—came from a long lineage of African prophetesses. A decolonial perspective on art history would talk about the bodies in Renaissance art. Decolonizing herstory would mean bringing the story back of women whose prophecies were appropriated by the Church.
Elder Malidoma passed in the early hours this morning. He was a key influence in my life at one time, my teacher of ritual and divination, almost a father figure. His name meant, "to make friends with the stranger/enemy."
So many were touched by the glint and spool of his medicine. He spoke to our longing. He poured spirit into arid places—bringing the elegance and lucidity and sophisticated wordplay of the otherworld, weaving these into the medicine of transformation. Malidoma knew how to speak to the inner ear of the heart. He knew how to whip up the spirit. He knew the old ways to the ancestors. He built new templates. He saw in you what you were not willing yet to see. He saw a community's gift of seeing and remembering. He roused us into the initiation of our ancient selves. He was a match-lighter and catalyst. Silver of tongue, magic and promise. Promises cannot always be kept. But look how many he kept. Failure is part of the risk. Yet look how he succeeded. Look what he completed.
There will be none other like Malidoma. Undoubtedly he will be welcomed with open arms and fanfare to the land of the ancestors.
To all whose life he touched, may we express our grief passionately. "Grief is in fact owed to the dead as the only ingredient that can help complete the death process." And, may we give gratitude for the gift of his life.
I have a poem up today as part of Dusie Collective's Tuesday Poem series. My thanks to Rob McLennan for the invitation.
I am donating three copies of my poetry chapbook from above/ground press, Ordinary Annals, to the Asian American Women Artists Association's first online auction, as part of their end-of-year fundraising campaign (November 5-15). With a limited print run and personal inscriptions by me, these are collectibles. If you would like to bid on this gift set, you can register here. Ordinary Annals is one of forty artworks and art experiences featured—in case you are looking for gift ideas for the holiday season—and of course this is a wonderful way to support AAPI women in the arts.
Whether your bid contributes $50 or $500, your bid will go a long way in supporting AAPI women artists and art professionals lead the narratives of their own stories and legacies. Register and start bidding now.
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