Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I Choose Peace

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the lives taken in Charleston, South Carolina. For the first time, I haven’t cared to read about the shooter’s background, whether or not he had a rough childhood, or how he learned to hate. I have no pithy statements. My heart is too heavy. Knowing his specific circumstances won’t revive the dead.
I thought differently a year ago when I decided to read Eliot Rodgers’ one-hundred and forty plus page manifesto last May. I’ll never get the hour of horror back as I kept saying, “This can’t get any worse.” What I took away from it was he was wrong in the head. Not mentally ill wrong. He believed he was entitled to certain things, simply because he was a man. And I really mean, entitled due to the fact that he was born. When he couldn’t have the things he felt entitled to (i.e. other people), he got angry and took it out on the world.
He didn’t know what he was doing was wrong because he didn’t believe it was wrong. And that’s what happened, again. So what do you do with people who don’t believe racism or sexism is wrong? What do we do with people who are angry at the world because it doesn’t exist the way they think it should? In my opinion, that is not mental illness.
I no longer believe knowing everything about what the shooter was thinking will give us any insight to help stop the next act of senseless violence. I am certain there will be more. [I agree with Jon Stewart, that this wasn’t a tragedy. This was an act of American terrorism.] There will always be circumstances and explanations. There will always be a “reason” that makes sense to no one but the murderer. And in the end, we will still be left with the loss and grief.
Nine precious lives were snuffed out, in their sacred space, in their temple. And that is where my heart is, with the loss of those lives and the realization that a twenty-one year old thought nothing of taking them. One young man stepped into his place in the world as an adult by taking nine lives. It boggles my brain, like I don’t even understand the words I’m writing out. They stretch out and twist in my gut and I am wary of others who display violent anger.
Anger isn’t a mental illness. Racism isn’t a mental illness. Excusing a murderer as mentally ill because they were angry is a disservice to the people who handle their anger every day. In our culture anger is easy, and we all work our way to the place of why we need to handle our own anger and stop making it anyone else’s problem.
I understand anger. I used to have an angry heart, like anger-ball, explodes-in-milliseconds heart. Beneath that I wanted peace, but I was so broken by my experiences in the world I thought it was impossible. I didn’t want to be angry. It was eating me up from the inside and it was infecting my relationships.
I had a small awareness that I was looking at the world and waiting for it to make itself better for me, so that my sensitive soul could fit in it. I didn’t realize that if I wanted the world to be a more peaceful place, I needed to feed it love, not fear. I needed to feed it peace, not hate. I needed to feed the world peace.
You can change your wiring. You can change your emotional responses to stimulation. It’s not easy but I’ve done it. The trick is you don’t let go of your anger and fill it with something else (like reparations or justice). It isn’t a give and take. You transform that anger into something new. You can’t expect to receive anything in the place of letting it go. You don’t let it go. You change it.
It doesn’t make being in the world-as-it-is easier, but the more I release my anger, the more I sink into our interconnectedness. The more I sink in, the more I see every life as the same, the more kindness I have for strangers. After all, if I want to live according to my beliefs, I have to accept that everyone else I see does, too. The only belief I think we must all share is that we cannot harm other living beings.
These shooters, these American terrorists, are disconnected from that web. They don’t see everyone as the same. They don’t give everyone the same worth. But we do. We can. And it starts with feeding the world our kindness, patience, and peaceful hearts, and allowing that to heal our angry, vengeful, anxious hearts, so that we may walk the earth leaving peace in our wake. Wakes ripple outward.
When faced with anger or love, I choose love. When faced with violence or peace, I choose peace. When faced with teachable moments, I speak up to diffuse angry moments before they can escalate.
I have had violence and rage directed at me. I do not want to be the cause of that pain and grief in anyone else’s life. When I anger, I feed it down to the earth through the soles of my feet, not out into the air with my words and breath.

“Sometimes we wait for others and think that Martin Luther should raise among us and Nelson Mandela should raise among us and speak up for us but we never realize that they are normal humans like us and if we step forward we can also bring change just like them.”  ~Malala Yousafzai, 17, Nobel Peace Prize winner from Pakistan

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Be a Good Ancestor Now

I’ve been doing my own genealogy for years, and recently I have begun to help others search for their ancestors. I have literally seen the lines, uninterrupted, of parents and children, and parents and children, stretching out and down from the past into our waking present. I cannot see that without also being able to envision my parents’ names at the top of that tree, with the unknown generations who will stretch out past us. But what world are we leaving to those who will come after?
I can no longer think of the future without wondering which generation of my family’s children will run out of fresh water. Do I care? Should you care? After all, I won’t be here. Yes. Yes I should. Yes you should. Anything else is selfish and human selfishness is killing the planet.
Human selfishness is killing the planet. Which means it’s also killing us. We need to cultivate the mindfulness that the planet we walk on is part of us. Our blood, bone, and tissue evolved from the life that crept out of the oceans. We carry the earth within us. We are not separate from it.
The way Western culture lives is not sustainable. Most of the people I know work hard and get little in return for it. I know they often decide not to care, because they don’t think they can make a difference, and if no one else is sacrificing, why should they?
Big Corporation wants us to think that. They want us to feel like we can’t make change. That’s part of the problem. We all need to make hard choices or the places we love, that feed us, will keep disappearing.
Make choices like your decisions will decide the fate of the next seven generations of your descendants. Because they will. This week I am sharing some photos of my favorite places in nature, places I hope those who come after me will be able to experience for themselves. Included among the photos are quotes on sustainability

The supreme reality of our time is ...the vulnerability of our planet.
- John F. Kennedy

One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, "What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?"
- Rachel Carson

Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.
- Henry David Thoreau

We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to.
- Terri Swearingen

Anything else you're interested in is not going to happen if you can't breathe the air and drink the water. Don't sit this one out. Do something.
- Carl Sagan

One planet, one experiment.
- Edward O. Wilson

There is a great need for the introduction of new values in our society, where bigger is not necessarily better, where slower can be faster, and where less can be more.
- Gaylord Nelson

Reducing our levels of consumption will not be a sacrifice but a bonus if we simply redefine the meaning of the word 'success.'
- David Wann

Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum.
- Kurt Vonnegut

Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.
- Cree Indian Proverb

Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.
- Albert Einstein 

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
- Native American Proverb

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.  
- John Muir

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.  
- Edward Everett Hale

The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.  
- Archibald MacLeish

Again and again
Some people in the crowd wake up.
They have no ground in the crowd
And they emerge according to broader laws.
They carry strange customs with them,
And demand room for bold gestures.
The future speaks ruthlessly through them.  

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Quotes Contributed to:

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) was the 35th President of the United States of America. Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was an American marine biologist. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, and historian. Terri Swearingen, a nurse from Ohio, was the 1997 Goldman Prize winner. Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, and author. Edward O. Wilson (b.1929) is an American biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist, and author. Gaylord Nelson (1916-2005) was an American Democratic Senator and Governor from Wisconsin. David Wann is an author/speaker of sustainability. Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) was an American writer. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist. John Muir (1838-1914) was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher. Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) was an American author, historian and Unitarian minister. Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982) was an American poet, writer, and the Librarian of Congress. Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was an Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Someday I Will Go to Europe

Someday I will go to Europe.
Many of my ancestors have walked these lands since the Mayflower landed. But before that, and after, they came from foreign, European lands. The cities in America, even the oldest ones, are young in comparison to their ancestral cousins on the other continents. At a recent retreat, we met a wonderful woman from Spain who attended our Ancestor Devotional. She said that her mother’s family has lived in the same city for one thousand years. One thousand years!
I almost can’t even imagine that… But I have experienced the layers of time overlap in a place that has held many generations. I have gotten a taste of that magic.
Years ago I visited Philadelphia for the first time, a city rich with history. Taking a night stroll through old city, I stopped in the middle of a cobblestone street. It felt as if I had crossed time zones. Only instead of hours of difference, it was decades. I opened myself to the moment.
While the street I walked down was dark and silent, I heard horses clip-clopping past me, as well as old cars chugging along. I heard three different kinds of music playing at the same time. Someone on the street was playing classical piano, someone strummed a guitar on a stoop, and somewhere a small jazz band performed a set. I couldn’t see any of them but I could hear them.
Time stitched itself together and I could feel in my flesh and bones, how many generations of people walked those streets. I could fell all those who have laid down their energy, and anchored it into the earth there. I dream about the lands where my ancestors layered their lives into the earth.
I keep a list of the countries, cities, and towns known to me. If I could feel the intersections and layers of time in a young place like Philadelphia, what could I tap into in England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Poland, Germany, Wales, the Netherlands, and Spain?

Someday I will find out. Someday I will follow the threads of those whose journey ended in me. I will go to Europe and find the spaces where their journeys began.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ancestor-Walking Beneath the Stars

Photo of the labyrinth I walked by Amy, 2015.
The best thing about a labyrinth is that it’s a physical meditation of your body in motion as you journey internally. You can walk the same labyrinth every day and feel like each day is a new journey. Sometimes I use the labyrinth as a means to petition my ancestors, and the seven-circuit labyrinth is my favorite.
I recently attended a candle-lit labyrinth on the beach, beneath a starry sky, organized by a woman I have had the great pleasure to study with and work with, Tracy Andryc, a Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator. I emerged from the woods after leading an Evening Devotional in the Ancestor Shrine and travelled across the sand, bringing my ancestors with me. I stepped into the labyrinth with a purpose.

As I put each foot in front of the other in the first circuit, I allowed myself to sink deeper into the earth. I sank down through the layer we trod on, through the layer the burrowing animals and insects live in, through the layer where the bones and ashes of our dead are buried. At this layer, I began to call to them.
In the second track I called to my grandparents, to the four who have crossed over, two of whom I knew, beloved to me. I thought they would live forever. Specifically, I called on my father’s father. I have one solid memory of him before his death when I was seven. And I called on my father’s mother, who died when he was a young boy. I focused my thoughts on them, and the other Rustons and Eatons in their lines.
In the third track I opened to my eight great-grandparents, to the Rustons and the Wickers, the Eatons and the Smiths.
Then I reached out to my sixteen 2x great-grandparents on the fourth turn, those who saw the Civil War and the beginning of the new century, the Rustons and Irelands, Wickers and Whitchers, the Eatons and Tenneys, Smiths and Dutchers.
In the shortest track of the labyrinth I called in my thirty-two 3x great-grandparents, those who forged new wildernesses in a newer land, the Rustons and Richardsons, Irelands and Lentons, Wickers and Lusks, Whitchers and Loziers, the Eatons and Treadwells, Tenneys and Targees, Smiths and Sears, Dutchers and Birds.
In the sixth circuit, I felt my sixty-four 4x great-grandparents join me, the spirit door wide open. The Rustons, Richardsons, Irelands, Lentons and Wilsons, Wickers and Morgans, Lusks, Whitchers/Whittiers and Kittredges, DeLoziers and Raymonds, the Eatons and Goulds, Treadwells, Tenneys, Targees and Smiths, Sears and Dubois’, Dutchers and Feagles, Birds and Marshes… and those lines unknown.
On the last path, I opened to all one-hundred and twenty-five of my 5x great-grandparents. The Rustons, Richardsons, Irelands, Lentons and Wrights, Wilsons, Wickers and Parkers, Morgans, Lusks, Whittiers and Dows, Kittredges and Baileys, DeLoziers and Erkells, Raymonds and Richmonds, the Eatons and Skiffs, Goulds and Arnolds, Treadwells, Tenneys and Darbys, Targees and Tourgees, Smiths, Sears and Andrews, Dubois’, Dutchers and Palmers, Feagles, Birds and Colemans, Marshes… and those lines unknown.

I was at a threshold, crossing over with two-hundred and fifty-four ancestors beside and behind me, the collective spirits of the first seven generations of my family tree. I made two hundred and fifty-five. I walked in ancestral fire. At the center there was a door. I am the door. In the center and called my father’s parents into the center of labyrinth.
They came immediately, young together in my vision, holding a baby made of light. I had meant to petition them to be with the family, to watch over my uncle, their son. I was prepared to sweat through the work and will them in from the ether, and I laughed to find them waiting. They were already holding him, watching over him, encircling him in love and healing light.
Ruth looked at me. Ruth, the grandmother whose line I take after genetically, the grandmother I never knew. Her face was warm and full of love and gratitude. Her eyes smiled. I saw myself, and my sister, my father and my uncle dancing in her face.
But when she smiled at me, I saw her. Only her. In the center of the labyrinth I felt the love of a woman I couldn’t know. Death is not the end.
Mark and Ruth smiled at me. The baby in their arms clapped his hands in something akin to original joy. I knew he was being watched over and I felt overwhelming peace and love fill my heart. I stepped out of the center and stared up into the sky, at the stars in the mountains, dusted across the black expanse and I cried, tears of joy and tears of release.
I walked out of the labyrinth lighter, crossing paths with other journeyers. With each step I took I thanked my ancestors for walking with me. And I know they are with me in all the moments of my life.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”  ~Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.