If I can let you go as trees let go
Their leaves, so casually, one by one,
If I can come to know what they do know,
That fall is the release, the consummation,
Then fear of time and the uncertain fruit
Would not distemper the great lucid skies
This strangest autumn, mellow and acute.
If I can take the dark with open eyes
And call it seasonal, not harsh or strange
(For love itself may need a time of sleep)
And, treelike, stand unmoved before the change,
Lose what I lose to keep what I can keep,
The strong root still alive under the snow,
Love will endure--if I can let you go. (Sonnet 2 from "The Autumn Sonnets" by May Sarton (reprinted in Cries of the Spirit)
Love will endure; write about that.
For love to endure, what needs to be let go of? Write about that.
Scientists now say that “this is it,” that COVID is here to stay. They also predicted a pandemic like this decades ago. And science journalists wrote about it.
“Scientists were detailing those early warning signs decades ago, and a handful of science journalists were writing about their work. I was one of those journalists.” –Robin Mrantz Henig: for full article in National Geographic go HERE.
This pandemic is both inevitable and indefinite. COVID is part of our personal and collective story now. Our written stories must take into account the before the pandemic as well as the after the pandemic. After recognizes COVID as an ongoing reality. We are at an unusual threshold of coming out of the pandemic while still being in it. To discover our way across this deviant threshold and into our future selves and lives will take love and awareness. A love and awareness that can arrive through our writing.
These shifts and changes must be part of our written stories. We must stay in the present conversations, engaged in the concerns of climate crisis, voting rights, racism and community engagement. We must support our whistle blowers by keeping their concerns alive in spoken and written word. To be silenced and to deny reality is to break us completely. To write around the realities or to exclude them is to agree to having no impact and for our writing to be wasted.
We must write to get through these shifts, loses, heartbreaks, and!, to experience the joyful arrivals that will come.
What feels strange to you? Write about that.
What are you noticing? Write about that.
We bring vibrancy and possibility, that “strong root” through our awareness and through our writing. We must too write for others. When we become aware of our experience and have realizations through our writing, the reader will too. The readers will be called to action, their awareness now expanded because of what you took the risk to publish. Stand unmoved. Let it go on the page.
And, treelike, stand unmoved before the change,
Lose what I lose to keep what I can keep,
The strong root still alive under the snow,
Love will endure--if I can let you go.
COMING UP!: Join other Writers in the upcoming 6 month series and collaboration: Embodied Writing & Living with The Writer & the Healer
First Wednesdays of the month, 6:00 PM CST till 7:30 PM, Starts Wednesday November 1st.
Corinna Stevenson, Acahk Miskinahk Iswew, (Spirit Turtle Woman) and I invite you on a journey through the inner labyrinth and medicine wheel. An embodied tour of Fall into Spring (November through April). (Then we are imagining a summer experience to round out the wheel journey). Each evening will offer a short meditation, teachings, monthly embodied contemplations and writing prompts to explore on and off the page, embodied practices through ritual and breath. Acahk Miskinahk Iswew will take us on inner journeys with her voice and drum around the medicine wheel and give us a monthly ritual to practice on our own. Come to one or all. (I recommend to sign up for all 6!). A donation (dana) is welcomed but not necessary. Email to register: HERE. Or donate and register: HERE.
Missing YOGA from the Yogi & the Writer? Find Molly and The Practice: HERE for a weekly live yoga and contemplative practice for the yogi in you.
“Sadness is an essential part of conscious life these days, especially as we age. The path is to fully accept without letting it take over. There's beauty in sadness: and it reveals what we value.” Santikaro, teachings on Anapanasati meditation, Kevela Retreat Center in Wisconsin
One of my first spiritual teachers, Collenn Brenzy, whom I took a year-long intuitive development class from in 1993 (now my on-line course: BE THE CAUSE OF YOUR LIFE ), also taught that sadness is a doorway to wisdom and self-realization. A doorway of compassion for self and others. Our emotional body holds many such thresholds for our transformation, and for our writing to take place.
Writers who listen to their sadness and let their heartbreak open them rather than shut them off are more likely to write authentically. Some of the best writing comes from the brokenness and suffering we writers have encountered in our life. To write well we must travel and write in and through our bodies. And where there is heartbreak, writing can help us break open even more to our truest self and what we want at this time in our lives. Opening to the stories and words means to admit and embody our sadness. Like how the air fills with a certain caution and sweetness before a storm, we open our senses up, as we prepare for the rain.
Sadness and heartbreak are so current with our collective suffering with the pandemic, political warfare, climate crisis, and continued social and racial injustice. Then when heartbreak comes closer in, when someone betrays or disappoints us, our sadness and heart can open up to anger, courage and , ideally, action.
We must tend to our own sadness and the heartbreak so we can do our work in the world. As writers, our work is to share our stories.
“There’s beauty in sadness, and it reveals what we value.” Write about that. Where’s your sadness? What is the sadness revealing about what you value? Write about that.
“And it’s like, how do I take in breaths that give me rest, knowing that there are still several more pushes before this new world, this next phase, this next era that we are responsible for bringing into existence, actually comes into existence?” Closing the Loop: adrienne maree brown on Harm and Accountability
Our heartbreaks and sorrows often take our breath away. This breathlessness is a craving for a true and deeper breath. For a fuller inhale and a complete exhale. Just so! Sometimes our sadness and our heartbreaks create a way out for what no longer serves us and a way in for what might.
Without apology or hesitancy we can write: This broke me.
Because you don’t remember it that way
And you have a wife and daughters
Who you would never harm, or
A dear mother who recently passed
Away. Because lately I have noticed that
I work harder and you get paid
More. Because you are given special attention
for being a father, while mothers are watched
Carefully. Girls are told to be careful
Because you are like so many
Men. You see the affections won or lost
You don’t see the desperate, trapped women
Escaping the right questions
You proclaim, it is not personal
Because you don’t know me
But you feel your wounds, your needs
Are personal. Because
You are the subject and I am the object
Because you have a narrative
And I am left narrating this story. –By Jackie Redmer, MD, Poet, Narrative Medicine scholar, Mother
Such a radical gift this brokenness can be. Noticing those places we cannot breathe. And where there is a lack of air, of breath to take in, recognizing this as a place to leave and a place to write about.
Where are places you can’t take a good breath? Write about that.
Where are places you knew you had to leave (but stayed)? Write about that.
What stories are you left alone to narrate? Write about that
When we are broken as writers we are given the possibility of a deeper knowing than we had before something broke us. In our writing, and living an embodied life, we can discover the newest, shinning arrival of our next story (on and off the page). We can confront the perpetrators and break the silence. The chards of the self that have fallen at our feet become soil for future stories. And lives. Pick them up. Take a look at them. Write about the broken chards.
And something now can come in where there was no room before, be it a line, a love, an emotion, a breath or another part of self.
“Change is a given and always results in a shift of consciousness. Processing it well is what results in transformation. Although you will never hear me say I am grateful for having cancer, multiple myeloma has been and continues to be an important teacher in my life. The healing potential within crisis, illness, death, and grief is in the possibility of these life altering moments to enhance how keenly a person feels the sacredness of life. Through my broken heart, something amazing happened. My grief and vulnerability shaped me and gave me new life and purpose by increasing how powerfully I felt and still feel love. This shift opened my heart and allows me to see beauty and interconnection that I did not before. This gives purpose and meaning to my life which in turn helps me to better serve myself, others and the Earth. –Corinna Stevenson, Acahk Miskinahk Iswew – (Spirit Turtle Woman)
Meet Corinna: a good friend and spiritual comrade to me. She is a Canadian writer and indigenous woman. As well, she is the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence. She has published articles on rites of passage and mental health for the BC Schools Counsellor Association and BC Métis Resilient Roots magazines. She holds a master of arts degree in transpersonal psychology with a concentration in ecopsychology from Naropa University. For more than twenty-five years Corinna has guided people through personal transformation in the wilderness of Vancouver Island, BC. As a therapeutic wilderness guide for youth at risk she has hiked and kayaked some of British Columbia’s most remote destinations. In 2010 Corinna was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a terminal plasma cell cancer. One outcome of this diagnosis was that she was no longer able to withstand the rigors of the wilderness expeditions she had so frequently undertaken. Today she navigates the wild terrains of the soul instead. To contact Corinna: HERE
Room for you in my Spring WRITE BY THE LIGHT, month long, live, on-line class. Set aside a month to really dive in and bring forth your stories, your writing. If you have taken the 5-day version of Write by the Lake through the UW, Madison Writing Program (now closed), taking this month long version will once again enrich your writing and writing life in new and larger ways. More information HERE.
Sign up for Embodied Writing Wednesdays starting in November. Bringing together the path of transformation and creativity in embodied writing practices.
"Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit—such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony—which brings happiness to both self and others. While ritual and prayer, along with the questions of nirvana and salvation, are directly connected to religious faith, these inner qualities need not be, however. There is no reason why the individual should not develop them, even to a highest degree, without recourse to any religious or metaphysical belief system. This is why I sometimes say that religion is something we can perhaps do without. What we cannot do without are these basic spiritual qualities." The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millennium
For those of you who noticed, I haven't gotten back to my 3-part series around toxic spiritual teachers and programs, being safe out there, and my personal experience of leaving a recent Kripalu yoga teacher training. I found myself deeply impacted by what happened. I since did some in depth research while holding conversations with others around toxic teachers, unsafe programs, and what it means to be a teacher or leader.
What do we do when a teacher, such as Chogyam Trungpa (and then his son, Mipham’s) sell a powerful spiritual program, and "is recognized for playing a pivotal role in the transmission of genuine Buddhadharma to the West," do not live by what they teach? In fact they abuse students and their role as teacher. I do explore this in my next blog since there are too many examples of yoga teachers, and other spiritual and self-help teachers who lived in significant contrast to what they claim to be teaching.
Because my latest book, The Clue of the Red Thread delivers a clear message on the importance of the inner journey for those in leadership roles, I found myself deeply saddened by a promotion of inner work at Kripalu with what I considered a serious lack of attention to honest conversations and shadow work. There are an overwhelming amount of yoga teachers and other spiritual teachers that not only do not walk their talk, they abuse their roles. And there is a sickness of silence that is encouraged in certain programs because they don't believe they can sell their product (yoga classes or spiritual development) if they own their shadow (past and present).
"Pema Chödrön responded by stepping down from her clergy position. In a letter posted to the group’s news service in January, Chödrön said that she was 'disheartened' by Mipham’s (Chogyam Trumpa's son) announced return. She had expected him to show compassion toward the survivors of his abuse, she wrote, and to do “some deep inner work on himself.” But it was the support from the board, she added, that distressed her more. 'How can we return to business as usual?' she wrote. 'I find it discouraging that the bravery of those who had the courage to speak out does not seem to be effecting more significant change in the path forward.' from, Survivors of an International Buddhist Cult Share Their Stories: An investigation into decades of abuse at Shambhala International By Matthew Remski , September 28th, 2020
The research and conversations I have had over the past few months will show up in (I hope my next) blog (now enough material for a small book); I just haven't felt ready to share. Part of my reluctance is that we are all dealing with so much difficulty and suffering with our climate crisis, the PANDEMIC, divisive politics, racial injustices, hate crimes, gerrymandering and voter suppression, and the very present-day threat to women's rights. (I will say here that because we have all these difficulties, teachers and leaders should be held to to the highest accountability and integrity).
So in the meantime . . . know that there are remarkable souls who are showing up and offering true paths, who are breaking the silences and speaking out to power (be it to a board of a spiritual center or to the local legislators) and who are doing their own inner work. Who recognize that there is always shadow work to be done. Always.
In the meantime know that there are new species being discovered, that there are farmers farming, that there are immigrant stories to celebrate, that generosity comes in many diverse packages, that there are many simple ways to connect, benefit others and add to the beauty of this shared world.
In the meantime, take care my dear friend. And let me know what you are up to so that I can share that in my next blog (2 of 3!) in our Community Conversation section.
You Know When It's Time to Go
when it’s time to go:
what only looks
like a movement
in the broad
to hear the
such a clear
of what you
Even in the midst
never be ready
you have never
a single speck
in what you want
lifted your ear
to the morning
out the door,
down the road
round the corner
and on your way.
–From David's forthcoming book of poetry, Still Possible. To be published in winter 2021. © David Whyte and Many Rivers Press
BE THE CAUSE OF YOUR LIFE (rather than the effect) on line class. Click HERE for more information.
“Don’t mistake my finger for the moon.” The Buddha
Buddhism offers a myriad of formulas, teachings, practices, sutras, and meditations. Three major Buddhist texts (like bibles), with their own countless sutras and teachings. Most are multi-layered and complex. Many emphasize awakening to your True Nature; all rely on practicing kindness toward oneself and others. My personal practice, found in the Mahayana tradition, is the Lo jong teachings, which is translated into 59! pithy slogans. And this is just in Buddhism, then there’s all the other religions, spiritual practices, yogic traditions, psychological and transformational programs, healing therapies and self-help formulas. There are even books and classes on how to be an atheist.
Each approach worked for at least one person.
“Don’t mistake my finger for the moon;” don’t mistake the teachings or formulas for direct experience.
Don’t practice meditation to wake up; wake up to the practice of meditation.
Don’t write to prove something; write to explore, discover and express yourself. Write to share yourself. Don’t force a scene or try to make something happen. Let the mystery unfold as you write. (You have nothing to prove and everything to share).
Don’t try to write like someone else or follow someone else’s “sure” technique of success.
My main message to writers is this: let the writing prompts or teachings take you where they will. Open to your own personal experience and knowledge. Your own ideas. Your moon. Trust your personal experience above all else.
With teachers (from the Buddha to William Strunk jr.,) notice what they have to say and what resonates with you, let the rest go. Don’t mistake their finger for The Way. Be brave. Fumble and discover as you go. There really is no there to get to anyway. Yes, you will complete a poem or book, but that is in no way the Nirvana or finish line of one’s writing life. And the poem or book is just a pointing finger for someone else to go find their own moon; their own experience.
I walked at sunset last night. The sky a brilliant orange messenger, a reminder that the moon the Buddha pointed to is right here in this sky.
That moon is in my heart.
And in yours.
Write about that.
As a writer you are a Buddha pointing. Your words are pointing to something for you and your readers. What are you pointing at? Write about that.
FREE Writing RETREAT: FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 10th
I am offering a Free Virtual Retreat. We start with an hour LIVE talk on The Truth About Lies: Writing Fiction that sends a Message. 9:00 am . I will give several writing prompts for the day. This will be just for my writing tribe, you, and we will follow with a half day (optional) retreat! Then we will meet up for another hour at the end of day to share in a closing circle. You in? Simply RSVP to me. I will be at Stewart Lake pavilion from Noon to 3:00, come visit and write! Meet up in a closing circle at 4:00 via ZOOM.
A monthly EMBODIED Writing & Living Series
1st Wednesday of each month, 6:30 to 8:15 CST. Live. An evening of writing prompts with a transformational theme, meditation and breathwork, with simple body awareness practices. Starts Wednesday NOVEMBER 3rd (Please contact me to get on list). Donations welcome but not necessary. (6 month series).
FREE webinars through Oregon Public Library: Writing Your Story series. A popular webinar/U-tube on Embodied Writing: Click HERE.
My Write-by-the-LIGHT class & workshop in October is full, so sign up for this month-long class in MARCH
All Write Wednesday blog: Some Wednesdays and my COME AS YOU ARE blog are some Friday's.
Read the past posts.