There is something about the last weeks of February which is simply paradoxical. On the one hand, it is unavoidably the season to go deeply within one’s soul and take yet another long look at what is living there and wishes to be freed. On the other, it is also the time to stretch body and soul, crane one’s neck upwards and apply the principles of vision, orienteering and guidance to one’s life: in short, to both go deeply within and without, cleaning the house whilst mapping out new journeys of the soul and spirit.
And so I am doing both, simultaneously. My dream life has been unbelievably rich, as I have been traveling to many places and meeting many beings, both known and unknown in waking life. On a soul-growth level, lots of work is being done to clear out the underbrush and lifetimes’ accumulations of emotional abuse, pain and suffering in order to move on and ever-upwards during this evolutionary journey we all are on. During the conscious hours of the day, my thoughts are mainly occupied with looking ahead to summertime and working to map out a plan for travel and volunteering in the British Isles. It is high time to go there, says my soul. We’ll help you find out the details, while you provide the commitment and energy to sustain the vision. Okay, then, I reply, I shall!
In the meantime, I assume I am not alone in these soul-depths forays. A dear friend in the States wrote to me of a recent experience she had, where she honored and remembered her ancestors’ matrilineal line, and all the accompanying feelings of deprivation and sorrow that washed over her as she worked to release such ancient, painful memories still lodged in her own cellular memory. I read a deeply personal story of transformation by the blogger I mentioned in the last post, Venessa Miemis. I can well imagine that some of you have also been having similarly deep and poignant transformation experiences lately, dear Readers. These kind of experiences are difficult, often painful, and absolutely necessary. One thing that helps me through them is the stark realization that what I am remembering or re-experiencing, is not simply personal, but also collective. It wasn’t only me living that life, going through this or that humiliation, or carrying that life’s burdens, but I am also a conduit, doing the work for perhaps thousands of others, either in the past or possibly who are still encountering oppression, violence, dysfunction and other embodiments of fear right here, right now, in the present moment.
How exactly this works I cannot articulate, I only know that it is true. I re-experience and transform it for others as well as for myself.
Going though a dusty box of books the other day, I found again a cherished volume of poetry I got last spring while back in Wisconsin. Called Cries of the Spirit, it is a compilation of women’s voices full of powerful, moving and beautiful poetry and verse. So in the spirit of the season, and of the wider times we are currently moving through, I share with you some treasures from this book. One is an excerpt called Centering, by Mary Caroline Richards, which I posted last May, and I share with you again because I am struck again by its elegance and power. Another poem, by Marge Piercy, speaks to the theme of circle leadership, something I am thinking a lot about right now. Beginners, by Denise Levertov, speaks to hope and endurance in the struggle for the future of Earth and humanity. I hope you will read and enjoy these poems, and take some time to contemplate their messages.
Beginners, by Denise Levertov
But we have only begun
to love the earth.
We have only begun to imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope? So much is in bud.
How can desire fail? We have only just begun
to imagine justice and mercy, only begun to envision
how it might be to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.
Surely our river cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?
Surely it cannot drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?
Not yet, not yet–
there is too much broken that must be mended
too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.
We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that must complete its gesture,
so much is in bud.
Councils, by Marge Piercy
We must sit down and reason together.
We must sit down: men standing want to hold forth.
They rain down upon faces lifted.
We must sit down on the floor, on the earth
on stones and mats and blankets.
There must be no front to the speaking
no platform, no rostrum, no stage or table.
We will not crane to see who is speaking.
Perhaps we should sit in the dark.
In the dark we could utter our feelings.
In the dark we could propose and describe and suggest.
In the dark we could not see who speaks and only the words
would say what they say.
No one would speak more than twice.
No one would speak less than once.
Thus saying what we feel and what we want,
what we fear for ourselves and each other
into the dark, perhaps we could begin
to begin to listen.
Perhaps we should start by speaking softly.
The women must learn to say I think this is so.
The men must bother to listen.
The men must learn to stop dancing solos on the ceiling.
After each speaks, she or he will say a ritual phrase:
It is not I who speaks but the wind.
Wind blows though me. Long after me, is the wind.
by Mary Caroline Richards
But how are we to love when we are stiff and numb and disinterested? How are we to transform ourselves into limber and soft organisms lying open to the world at the quick? By what process and what agency do we perform the Great Work, transforming lowly materials into gold? Love, like its counterpart Death, is a yielding at the center. Not in the sentiment. Nor in the genitals. Look deep into my eyes and see the love-light. Figured forth in intelligent cooperation, sensitive congeniality, physical warmth. At the center love must live.
One gives up all one has for this. This is the love that resides in the self, the self-love, out of which all love pours. The fountain, the source. At the center. One gives up all the treasured sorrow and self-mistrust, all the precious loathing and suspicion, all the secret triumphs of withdrawal. One bends in the wind. There are many disciplines which strengthen one’s athleticism for love. It takes all one’s strength. And yet it takes all one’s weakness too. Sometimes it is only by having all one’s so-called strength pulverized that one is weak enough, strong enough, to yield. It takes that power of nature in one which is neither strength nor weakness but closer perhaps to virtu, person, personalized energy. Do not speak about strength and weakness, manliness and womanliness, aggressiveness and submissiveness.
Look at this flower. Look at this child. Lock at this rock with lichen growing on it. Listen to this gull scream as he drops through the air to gobble the bread I throw and clumsily rights himself in the wind. Bear ye one another’s burdens, the Lord said, and he was talking law.
Love is not a doctrine. Peace is not an international agreement. Love and Peace are beings who live as possibilities within us.
- Making Peace by Denise Levertov : The Poetry Foundation (daninstockholm.wordpress.com)
- The Sudden Angel Affrighted Me: God Wrestling in Denise Levertov’s Life and Art (tikkun.org)
- a mystical shift from tea to soul (makebelieveboutique.com)