I'm nearing the end of my interfaith ministry study. Soon I'll be ordained, which is wonderful, but of course I've been dealing with those nearing the end of things jitters. What comes next?
The answer has come through the form of a different question:
. . . How in the world did I get here?
I keep thinking small things like . . . When did roasted sweet potatoes with avocado oil, salt, and pepper start tasting better than mac and cheese?
I keep thinking big things like . . . When did I stop being so afraid?
And . . .When did I start saying yes when my heart says yes and no when my heart says no?
When did this happen?
For so many years I laid down layer after layer of guilt, shame, and pain without the promise and hope of a light at the end of the tunnel. It was all darkness. One step after the other, not always feeling confident I was doing the right thing--not knowing what I'd look like on the other side if I kept moving forward, following this impulse, that idea, just trying to find where I belong in this world--somewhere at the end of the tunnel.
Somewhere, I thought, there must be an exit sign that I haven't found yet.
After a while, I started to notice that my space was getting brighter, lighter; and yet, I didn't see a great deal of external change. Same stuff. Same body. Same life.
I did not notice the fear slipping away.
I did not notice the depression slipping away.
I did not notice the transformation much at all, really. It felt as though I woke up one day and I was ready to face myself. Ready to pop the hood and take a look. As though it was as strait forward as engine trouble.
I had not realized what I was really doing during those years of shedding. Shedding shame and guilt were things I was working through without a great deal of consciousness. It felt as though I'd been lassoed, gently, by some unseen force that, without words, was leading me through release after release.
If you're still stuck in that dark confusing space and you're wandering for your center, your calling, whatever it is you're looking for, there is one thing that I did without knowing it that kept me on track through out my journey, and it's something I continue to do.
This is going to mean something different to everyone, because wholeness feels different to everyone, but here's the deal:
No matter how broken, how depressed, how afraid, how misunderstood, how neglected, how rotten you feel, somewhere within yourself in a safe haven of wholeness. Maybe it's tiny, maybe it's just a little seed, maybe it's a crawlspace, whatever and wherever it is, you can find it.
Quietness of mind will get you there. Stillness will get you there. When you find it you'll know. To me, in the early days it felt like warmth and assurance; like an exhale. Safety. Home base. Once you've found it within yourself, practice going back to it until you can go there naturally and quickly by choice. The more you can embody your own wholeness, the more wholeness will be reflected back to you. You will see the world differently. You will see yourself differently.
I want you to know that if you feel you've been pouring energy into creating a new reality for yourself and you're not seeing obvious changes, that change is happening even if you aren't seeing it right now. You are not striving in vain. You will get to thriving, and there are beautiful people everywhere who are ready to lend a hand in the right place and at the right time. Trust, and you'll see.
So as far as what comes next for me? I am trusting that I will see. I am letting go of expectations and anxiety over the future. I am embodying my wholeness as big and bold as I can, because that is what brought me here in the first place.
Many Blessings to you and yours,
In case you haven't noticed, I'm the bookish type, and I thought it would be fun this year to keep track of all of the books I've read. In part so that I can look back and celebrate all the I've learned/indulged in for the year and also because it reflects my January lesson of honoring what makes me feel at home with myself.
Books do that.
I swoon over books. Heavy duty history to heart palpitating romances that leave me wondering what my grandmother would say; I love them all. It's absurd to most people, it seems, but I know, without a doubt that I am not alone in this.
My only rules for myself are that I will share them all every few weeks or so starting today, and I will only post books that I've finished.
Since the space between Solstice and New Years is like zero time to me, and since Solstice marks the New Year more for me now than the calendar, I'm including the books I've read from then on.
As you can see I'm using Goodreads to keep track of my reads for the year. I just received Little City by the Lake in the mail yesterday (via paperbackswap.com), and being a children's book it was a quick read. As so many girls do, I loved and still love Laura Ingalls Wilder, who was a saint as far as I'm concerned. The generations stories came out after I was grown, but once I learned of them I set out to collect all that I could--picking them up here and there at garage sales, on the swap cite, and at library sales. The Caroline years are probably my favorite, although they're all delightful and sweet little reads.
I love children's books. It's the genre in which the truths of life are told most simply, and I have never grown out of my love for simple truth. It's like healing balm for the soul.
Then again, there are the days when I want nothing more than to race through a romance novel. A few years ago I used to insist that I'd never, not ever be a romance novel reader (I'll call it my snooty phase). Don't get me wrong, I love a good classic, but you can only read so much Dickens before you need to lighten the bleakness with the story of the perfect man falling for the imperfect woman and watch their relationship build a strong foundation of good sex and....good sex. I blame Barbara Bretton for my downfall. She can write a deceptively good story around her mad hot love scenes. It all started with the Sugar Maple Chronicles last year. I know it doesn't seem very feminist or moral or intelligent of me, but roll with me here. There are many things I am not and perfect is one of them.
Anyway, here's to a beautiful year of reading and to honoring what makes us feel at home with ourselves!
If you'd like to, find me on Goodreads, make a 2013 reads list for you and we can honor the way we care for ourselves through the page together.
About a couple of years ago, I read the book How God Changes your Brain. It was really about meditation and structuring your brain in such a way that is evolutionarily advanced, or at least that's how I remember it. One statement that really etched itself in my memory went something along the lines of this:
The way you see God matters. If God, to you, is a judging, angry tyrant, it's going to cripple your brain.
It didn't really blatantly say that, but that is what I remember most from the book. That and meditation is good...and yawning on purpose--this I am skeptical about. It's an interesting read, so if you're into that sort of thing, check it out!
I'd been meditating sort of off and on before I read the book and continued to do so, then suddenly, a little over a year ago, meditation sort of clicked. After settling into the practice of mindfulness, I spent a week trying to center in with myself and my monkey mind, and then, *SNAP* there it was. All of a sudden meditation was changing the way I approached life.
Suddenly I was braver, and more sure that I wanted to face my darkest secrets and fears and just get on with life already. And so I did. That, in a nutshell, was 2012.
I had no clue when I was making those decisions just how radically the way I approach the world would change. I had no clue that new people, lovely, wonderful, heart-centered people would show up with so little fear and so much love and would drop hints about this book or that book, each of which invariably loosened the grip of the old conditioning in my mind and began planting seeds for new growth. This latest read, though, put the nail in the coffin of the old conditioning.
I've written fairly openly here about my journey away from fundamentalism, which last Spring seemed to be reaching its climax after 5-6 years of studying religious history as well as the wide array of human thought on spirituality. For the rest of the year, I focused on developing a new sacred walk, one that honored the vastness and limitlessness I'd begun to associate with the divine.
Something always seemed to be missing, though I could not say what. Like something wrapped up tightly with bubble wrap, it was safer, but not accessible. The full fleshing out of the sort of skeleton of understanding I'd laid out as I'd stripped away the lies one by one wasn't feasible yet because that last layer of protection was getting in the way. Let's call it the last stand of the old conditioning, which was being challenged and pricked at every day; a bubble here and bubble there.
Even with the new approach to and ideas about the sacred, I was still experiencing a seemingly endless span of questions that started, sometimes ended with, "But, why?" Intuitively, I knew there was still something I needed to learn to come full circle to a new beginning. That last layer was going to have to come off, but the tools hadn't shown up yet.
Over Summer and into Fall, a friend kept encouraging me to check out Riane Eisler. I was intrigued, and then when both she and her husband suggested reading The Chalice and the Blade in the same week. I finally checked to see if it was on paperbackswap.com, which it was, and promptly ordered it.
Reading the introduction took an entire month. Not because it was long or anything, but because I always tend to be reading lots of books at once , and my hands kept gravitating toward the other books on the "in process" shelf. Then, last week hit. I picked it up over and over again. Over the weekend our three year old walked into the kitchen where I was reading while watching over dinner on the stove and promptly stated, "Mama, you always have your nose in a book." Indeed, Little One.
It is far too much book to even summarize in a blog post, but what is most important is that in its pages I found my missing piece, my bubble wrap removing tool set:
A bit of pre-history that in all of my reading I'd never happened upon beyond short references that I just routinely breezed over since they were far outside the realm of my conditioning.
Recently I'd run across many references to Crete and to our ancient ancestors who, rather than being beastly beings needing to be tamed by religious and social reformation, were peaceful agrarians, creative and devout, passionate, intelligent, and well-evolved (not Utopian, though, we're still talking humans here).
They also, it turns out, revered the divine as feminine, as the goddess Nature. In time, they were taken over by rogue, violent, male-god worshiping tribes from the outskirts of their civilizations who came in with their might and power, stripped away the rights of women, revised sacred myth to demonize women and the sacred feminine and to celebrate the masculine, warrior god. Thus began modern history, from which we are taught that women have always been objectified, have always been "weaker vessels," and have been the cause of the downfall of man from Eden. Now, this is terribly, terribly simplified, and I would encourage every human being alive to read The Chalice and the Blade themselves.
As I was nearing the mid-point of the book, I began to realize how my ideas about the divine had shifted over the years, and about how it had transformed my life from one of fear and domination to one of joy and liberation. I thought about how my mind had been molded, how I'd been taught sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly about the greater weakness of women and my secondary, limited role in the world as one.
The sections on Christianity were absolutely painful to read. Of course, I'd read before about the Gnostics and the equality of women within the early church and about how that, too, was torn to shreds by power hungry men, but in this context, it finally hit home.
It became alive through honest history. Whole history. Not the history of man, but the history of humanity. Ancient history, dug up from under the earth. It reached in, confirmed, cleaned and aired out old wounds then sat me back squarely in the present moment having transformed and organized the ideas and questions in my mind into a living breathing realness. It was the mother of all validations.
It finally all made sense--disturbing and frustrating sense, but sense indeed. And what also made sense is that as my ideas about the divine changed, so did the way my mind works. Ten years ago this book would have had my scared, powerless self in a fetal position wishing I'd never read it (if I'd even been able to understand it at all).
Today, I am grateful to be standing where I am. I am thankful to my former self for being so brave and asking the big questions. For making the transition even when it was painful and frightening and seemed to be moving at Snail's pace (or Cheetah's). For listening and watching for guidance along the way. For trusting my intuition and trusting that unseen guidance to this person and that person, this book and that book, this place and that place.
I am grateful to the person who said to me, "God is not afraid of your questions, Anna." I am grateful for the archaeologists that uncovered destroyed civilizations. I am grateful for honest, brave historians and physicists. I am grateful for people who walked away from institutions and then told the truth about them. I am so grateful.
I trusted then that it would be worth it, and can confirm today that it was.
It so was.
Of course I am not done yet. That is the beauty of things. We are never done. I'm so glad we're travelling together.
I'm noticing that January has brought with it a sort of sub-word with it. Over the last week the word honor has come up over and over and over in my mind.
Honoring of, first and foremost, my intuition and impulses. Such as that impulse to sew on January second when I was up to my ankles in stuff everywhere. Even so, in went Anne of Green Gables followed by the sequel. I sewed my big ole heart out that day; cut, pieced, layered, backed, finished and tied the most favorite blanket I've ever made, and that's saying something since I've made a lot, a lot of blankets. Plaid flannels -- pink, purple, black, grey and a color I'm going to call electric sky blue, all backed with denim flannel. It looks like something I would have owned in the 90's, my childhood.
Since I made it, just 8 days ago, it has protected me from chill, coaxed me into a much needed early bed times, covered me in fever and in heartache, and has begun to serve as my yoga mat. This thing is with me people. Truth be told, I think it's my blankie, well the adult version at least--I'll not be dragging it through the grocery store or anything.
I realized this yesterday, and my initial thought is, "Cripe, Anna, you're 29 and you sewed yourself a blankie?" And then the response...the one I'm getting used to this month. Honor it. So instead of going into my usual self analysis I honored the gift this blanket has given me in the 8 days it's existed.
What I was taught as a child about honor went like this: Honor God (the male, patriarchal figure). Honor your Father and Mother. In that order. God, Father, Mother. Honor, to me, meant holding something up higher than myself. It also, and more pointedly meant servant-hood, obedience, and self-effacement.
This month, though, I am learning something totally different about honor. The initial message was this: Honor what makes you feel at home with yourself.
At home with myself.
Like an assignment from heaven, there it was. I started to think about what makes me feel at home with myself. The answers seemed almost too simple, too childlike. Warmth, the relationship between the indoors and outdoors, comfort, beauty, music, poetry,and stories in the form of books, audio books, movies, myth -- no matter -- stories are my pulse, the rhythm and the mover of my life force and the best ones are the simple ones, the ones that don't try to be clever.
My initial reaction was one of resistance and feelings of self-consciousness and embarrassment. And when it became clear that I needed to honor my desire for a home, shame crept up, and another belief came out that said, "I should not desire." Honor your desire, speak your desire, came the answer. And so I am doing.
In honoring what nurtures my soul, I say to my soul, "You are worth it" instead of saying, "oh that's for children," or "these are just material objects," because, let's face it, some material objects are so much more to us than we think they ought to be -- like the childhood books that gave me shelter and awakened my individuality when I was still very young that still have the power to transport me today even though they're not classics or well-written or heralded or anything. They are sacred to me. They play a vital role in my life and I honor them in my heart. They are welcome and respected here.
In paying attention to the way I treat the things that bring me home to my Self, I have been acknowledging a more honest vision of how it is that I actually treat myself, what I actually think of myself. I've redefined honor, which was necessary for me as I continue to correct my ideas about the nature of the Divine. It has required me to do some internal rearranging, which I am still working at.
It's a good kind of work, this honoring business. It is the work of re-centering my Self, or returning my Self to her rightful place at the center where she can be supported and connected, of finally dethroning false ideas and fears. They must move to the side where they will eventually dissolve.
With this attentiveness to honoring what I am honoring, most of all, is that within all this inter-connectivity, we must, each of us, individualize. We must fulfill our callings. We must realize what is inside of us; to realize our gifts to the best of our creative ability. We must create our face and our energy and allow it to flow out into the world where it can be recognized.
In honoring what nurtures our soul, and in tending to these things--in tending our soul and it's need for them--we swell and expand and give birth over and over and over again. We fill up and run over and over and over and over and over......
Is there a word that is reaching for you lately? Popping up in your head or elsewhere over and over again? What kind of work is your soul asking you to do these days? Are you honoring it?
I've been avoiding this site like the plague. Mostly because my world has changed so drastically over the past month...or rather, because I've changed so drastically in my world.
It all started when I finally followed my intuition and shaved my head. It was (and is) everything you've ever heard anyone say about it. Liberating, euphoric, empowering, grounding.
It is a story in and of itself, but the most important thing about the story, the only part worth really sharing, is that not only did I step into courage that day, but so did my oldest daughter, for whom courage sometimes presents a challenge. I am all chills and gratitude just thinking about it. It was one of those truly epic days.
Soon after the hair came off, I received a box in the mail -- my Christmas gifts from my husband -- which I've come to call a box full of the Sacred Feminine.
I'm not kidding or exaggerating when I say that my hairs (well, me little prickles) stood on end when I opened that box. I knew the contents were going to change my life. (Why do I always think December is going to be a sweet, simple month when it always manages to pack an entire year's worth of shifting into itself?)
The first thing I grabbed was Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. I thought it was going to be just another "my life inside fundamentalism was bad and I got away" story. Even so, I felt drawn to it in that way that lets me know I better not pass it up and asked Ollie to get it for me for Christmas.
I had no idea.
By the end of the book, while Ollie was out ice skating with the girls, it had me floored (literally) in the kitchen, weeping over the feminine wound. Weeping for all of the women I love who've been abused simply because they are women. Weeping for all of the women I love who buy into patriarchy, who feel it is their duty. Weeping for myself and the hole I dug myself into when I was living as a "good daughter of patriarchy," and how I'd depleted myself as the "many breasted mother". I had worked to heal my feminine wound for years and years, but never had I named it and never had I mourned over it. That, I thought, would be a waste of time.
That day, though, after days of knowing it was bubbling up, it surfaced, not to be restrained or ignored. That day, it purged itself.
I'd done so much of the work to remove myself from patriarchy without really knowing what I was doing. I researched, I self-soothed, I changed. This book helped me to name the process, to acknowledge and name what I had not allowed myself to acknowledge and name before, to look at it for what it is, and to look at the feminine wound for what it is.
And then, now, it is helping me to get up and dance.
Before the book came. Before the hair came off, I woke up to the words Sacred Feminine, and, Ascension ringing through my head. My words for 2013 had landed. I didn't know whether to celebrate or be afraid. Those words seem so big.
I am learning already, that my job with these words is to open my heart and keep my ego out of the way. They are already doing their work.
Acknowledging and naming things makes them seem so much more real. It has challenged everything. Mothering, my marriage, my relationship to myself and to so many other people.
Even here, since, now, I feel I must speak differently, write differently, be more fully in myself. These things can feel complicated, though I know they are not really. They are as simple as saying Goddess and I am sacred, and we are all connected, we are all divine.
Maybe I've said them before, thought them before, but now these words are alive to me. Alive like myth is alive. Archetypes living in me--in all of us that guide us to living from our own core. I always knew this was the goal. I did not expect my core to look like this. After a lifetime of expecting to find a hairy old man there (or nothing), it was quite a shock to find a vibrant woman and her mate. It may just take the entire year to adjust to.
Here's to exploring the Sacred Feminine. I hope you'll join me!
Anna Turner is the woman behind Little Hearth. She's an ordained interfaith minister, a writer, a believer in purposeful living and healing, a perpetual student, and a full time feminist mother.