Last time I sent out a Zero Point blog (an intended monthly blog) was shortly after my brother Rick died and I wrote about how we often don’t know what to say in our losses and grief. (Thank you for all the reach-outs and kind notes.) Six months later I ask myself, what now?
Should I even write a blog?
I feel an erosion under my feet and am not certain of where to step next, or how.
When I sat down to write this, Netflix popped into my in-box with: “We have a new show for you!” I have, I admit, binged watched a few shows this past year. (One worth my and your time is The Good Fight.) But, overall I am stuck with what to do. How to respond to what is going on right here in my own neighborhood and country. I texted a friend in North Carolina with the message: “I’m wondering, when I am lying in my bed too old to move, what will I wish I had done?” Not done with my life, done now, in this time of environmental, social, economic and political crisis. A time where everyone around the world lives with the pandemic. A time where we are on a threshold between something we have hardly named to something yet to be named.
I spent the weekend gardening and landscaping. Which is a passion of mine. As I dug up ferns from another’s land to transplant them into my yard, it felt good to work hard, get dirty and be outside. My yard is my canvas and this work tends to something inside me.
Am I beautifying the world and neighborhood? Or is this just an expression of my white privilege? How does it serve to do such simple and pleasurable actions in such tragic times? Is donating money, wearing a mask, making masks, giving food to the local pantry, sharing a poem or writing a blog, and simply being kind, enough? Should I join the protests? Put up more yard signs? Try and get my novel published? Or, sell my house to go join up in some real cause? Which cause? And, how will I let this whole experience change me in a good way? If I stay put I have to continue spending a significant amount of my time making a living. Is that enough?—to stay put and continue with, what up to now, has been meaningful work? I tend these questions like possible transplants. Who am I now? Where do I belong? Where is the best place for me to be?
How can we be present for both sides of a difficult conversation?
I want these questions that we hold to open us up to our imaginations so that we can see what is possible.
I guess that is my prayer now. To let what’s happening open us.
“A life that wishes to honor its own possibility has to learn too, how to integrate the suffering of dark and bleak times into a dignity of presence. Letting go of old forms of life, like a tree practices hospitality towards new forms of life.” O'Donohue, John. Eternal Echoes, HarperCollins.
John O’Donohues message resonates with me, then again, isn’t this ability to even tend to my being present part of my privilege? The thing is, dignity of presence can and has shown up in the most difficult places. Like those 5 black men who circled a police officer who got separated from his comrades during a recent confrontation. There are everyday heroes and heroic moments that are taking place, during these disturbing times. Let’s give that our attention too. Let our “dignity of presence” give us a way to contemplate the questions we need to explore, and to consider what we might do differently.
Like the plants I dig up and then transplant --- I need to tend to these rising questions while they are uprooted, otherwise they may wither and dry up. Sooner or later, they need to be replanted. Soon enough we will be called to make some choices of where to place our self. We are being called to be at this threshold with each other and live such questions. I know that most of us will cross this threshold in our own way both alone and collectively. What are your questions? What calls you to explore while at this threshold? What holds you in the old world? What draws you toward your new horizon? (What is your new horizon?) At this threshold there are opportunities to discover and recognize what it is we truly want, are capable of, and who we are, now. And who we can become as writers and citizens.
I do invite you to keep writing that blog, or poem, or book and to hit the send button. (from where ever you might be.) In my writerly soul I know that you staying in this conversation in this way matters.
“Imagine young men and women in your country and neighborhood being routinely sent to war, working in hospitals to deal with a pandemic without safety masks, or confronting such daily horrors as hate crimes, gun violence and sexual assault. Imagine further that those in power expected these young people to sacrifice themselves on the altar of the economy, false patriotism, and revenge, at a time when guns, money, and autonomy outranked dignity, community, and justice. Imagine further that you chose to act against these injustices to serve your people as best you could and defend humanity and democracy. “ –the first paragraph to my upcoming book, The Clue of the Red Thread. which I rewrote this past month.
“Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.” – Lynn Ungar
When someone I know had lost a loved one or a dear pet, I felt uncomfortable and uncertain with what to say. But when my brother died a couple months ago, I found the simple “sorry for your loss,” profoundly comforting.
I find this basic truth helpful as we navigate this critical time: Keep it simple. We are connected, and we can help each other in simple but profound ways.
PANDEMIC by Lynn Ungar.
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath--
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love--
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
I hesitated sending out this blog, again confronted with the internal resistance of what to say. Does my share and reach-out really matter?
That’s it for each of us really. Even if only one of you receive this message as helpful, you are worth my time. Reaching out, letting others know you are with them in heart, that’s important. It matters.
Sorry for your loss.
How can I help?
I am here.
Times such as these can bring forth the best within us: our generosity, our humanity and our knowing that we are in this together. We can choose to learn and evolve from such frightening encounters with crisis, or not.
What I understand about this situation is that it’s not whether we get through it but how. And that this health crisis is likely to happen again, in some form or another. There will be losses. But let not the losses be our compassion or connection to one another.
I invite you to consider what you can do, to go to that uncomfortable but resilient place of reaching out to neighbors, strangers, and loved ones. I invite you to bring forth the best in yourself and others through simple acts of generosity, connection and service.
On my to do list?: Purchase a book from my local bookstore. Write uplifting messages on my sidewalk with chalk. Send out this blog. Share poems. Set up a virtual writing circle. (Email me if you want to be part of it.) Take a virtual yoga class. Write letters to friends and family. Write on my book. Check to see how I may help in my community. Meditate a bit more. Make phone calls. Offer my on-line classes for free to people who can’t afford them. Check up on the elderly in my life who are confined. Deliver a care package from Amazon to a few people. Contemplate how I might be of help to someone today. Walk my dogs. Get caught up on stuff. Smile at everyone, from a distance. Write some more.
I am here.
How can I help?
“Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)”. – Lynn Ungar (Check out and purchase her lovely poetry book!)
My on-line classes: Be The Cause of Your Life
The Initiated Writer
I am available for phone or ZOOM sessions during this time of confinement. Email to schedule. Julie@julietallardjohnson.com Fee is based on your ability to pay.
Email me and let me know how you are doing! Julie@julietallardjohnson.com
It’s been awhile since I sent out a blog. It’s been awhile for a lot of things, actually—some that matter, some that don’t. Big changes in my life over the past several years along with the tragic narrative of our nation right now made me stop putting myself out there in ways I was accustomed to.
But that’s okay.
Because here I am—I’m back.
I took an accidental sabbatical from this blog, from offering my monthly transformational circles, and from working on my Red Thread book. (I had finished it about three years ago.) Pivotal shifts in our lives are good times to reflect, take a break from our routines, and assess what no longer serves us or fits . . . to explore and try new things. Transformational times can be good for detours and what might feel or appear to others as the wrong way to go.
In this interval I wrote less. I walked a lot and found yoga again. I took on a teaching job through the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I became a proud member of Al-Anon. I moved to Mount Horeb from our forty acres outside Spring Green. None of these are better or problematic, right or wrong, just paths taken.
Along with our sabbaticals and breaks in routine, I find that we may make choices that look wrong and are certainly a detour from our usual path. For example, I realize that sometimes compassion has a fist. Sometimes we need to risk being in the wrong company so we can sit at their table and remind ourselves that we have nothing to prove but everything to share and learn. We don’t need to be with people (for very long) whom we don’t like. (And it’s okay not to like someone!) Be yourself even when it makes others uncomfortable. We don’t owe anyone anything (and vice-versa). We can allow people to come and go as they choose. It’s also okay to try something out only to reject it; to start something up and decide to not finish it.
We can break promises and move on.
A few months ago, I decided to reclaim my place in the bigger story. And no matter how discouraged or tired I was, to bring something to the communal table. I also needed to let myself do things the wrong way. (What others might consider the wrong way.)
On my walk through Stewart Park the other morning we (my dogs and I) were detoured to a path that had signs that read “WRONG WAY.” We went on this detour because the path through the marsh was being reseeded.
So, in order to do the right thing, to protect the regeneration of the marsh, we had to go the wrong way.
This got me thinking (and writing this blog once again), on just how important it can be to take a detour from our typical way(s) of doing things. Even if a path has been made for us, we can give it time to reseed before we walk it.
I believe it’s important for each of us to stay active in our own personal narrative as well as the national narrative and not to become numbed or silenced because the negative overwhelms or discourages us. Or, we feel that we have to become like the monsters that we fight. And there are monsters. Over the course of my life I’ve learned how to confront and challenge my internal monsters, however, the outer ones at this time appear undeterred and relentless.
Our republic and our democracy is at a very real risk of failing. Violence is on the rise and racism and hate have larger platforms than ever before. In the past I’ve found ways to navigate relationships with those who are narcissistic and vengeful. Now we have a sitting president whose ugliness brings out the ugliness in us and around us. He also mirrors our internalized racism, which no one in America has escaped.
What do I, what do we, do with that? What can we do?
To deal with the bullies in our lives, to let the good get reseeded, and to remain in the conversation we may sometimes have to take a detour and go the wrong way for the right reasons.
To get a seat at the table (or to keep one), to be a voice in the room, to make a difference (or at least try)—these are my reasons for writing you, for sending this blog. This is one small way I reach out and make contact.
This is part of my process of reseeding my path so that I may walk forward on it.
After some time spent in detour mode, I finally did get a publisher for my Red Thread book, which will be released in April of 2020. I am starting up my monthly transformational circle based on that book this September (see below), and I am finding ways to be part of the needed reseeding that our communities and country need. We can't; I can't keep taking the worn path.
In all of this, I’m keeping my seat at the table and finding new paths to take, both on my own and together with others.
Monthly Transformative Circle: The Red Thread: Touching Reality (and being Heroic) in our Everyday Lives at Healing Services on the River in Prairie Du Sac. Learn more and sign up. Starts this September 12th.
TO BREAK A PROMISE
Make a place of prayer, no fuss,
just lean into the white brilliance
and say what you needed to say
all along, nothing too much, words
as simple and as yours and as heard
as the bird song above your head
or the river running gently beside you.
Let your words join
one to another
the way stone nestles on stone,
the way water just leaves
and goes to the sea,
the way your promise
breathes and belongs
with every other promise
the world has ever made.
Now, leave them to go on,
let your words
carry their own life
without you, let the promise
go with the river.
Have faith. Walk away. TO BREAK A PROMISE from
THE SEA IN YOU:Twenty Poems of Requited and Unrequited Love’ © David Whyte and Many Rivers Press
Now Available at davidwhyte.com
The Long Night Moon
I cast my spell
on this eve of the Long Night Moon
To be graced
of you of us
as we truly are
This moon knows me well.
How I have prayed to Her
to end my stretch of sorrow.
A spell this time to be known
My feeder with chickadee
And Her song
To be graced and lit
to be met
in darkness and in light
with stranger and friend.
to know you
and be known
The spell is cast
the door opened
I prepare my life for your arrival.
A meal for two or more
An empty coat hook
A pair of house shoes, your size
And my heart
set next to the built-in writing desk
A place for you
and for The Other too
when you arrive.
“Long Night Moon Ritual” by Julie Tallard Johnson
Buddhist teachings reveal how distraction from the moment, and the reality of the moment, leads to confusion, apathy and misinterpretation of reality. But too many pasttimes are just that – built in to distract us.
One of the great distractions is television, now extended to the screens of our computers and phones. Advertisements brag how we can watch our favorite shows any where, any time. Why wait in line in silence, or in conversation with those around you, when you can watch the little screen on your phone? I remember when going on a road trip meant we shared in conversation and games as the scenes and landscape changed.
And our landscape is changing, right now.
We writers and spiritual pilgrims are world builders, shape shifters; we make heroes, and, we identify and fight villains. We can be the hero in our own lives and stories. We discover personal truth where ever we are courageous enough to explore; we can consider any possibility. We can risk everything or risk nothing.
Over the past few weeks I have heard a certain reference multiple times: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
In my writing, teaching and counseling, as well as in my own spiritual and relational life, the shaping of my experiences gets down to a willingness to keep an explorer’s mind. Instead of going into something all sure of what it is about, we open our heart and mind to the experience. I do the same as I write. Even as I write this blog for you I maintain a curiosity about my subject. I explore. I hold a conversation with my ideas. This way I discover a lot more than if I came in with a set idea of what is suppose to happen, or what I “should” write about.
Life at its essence is conversational.
Most important is to have your own thoughts, build your worlds and views. Establish a foundation and communication with your true self, your heart and soul. For this, John O’donahue recommends that we develop a language of, and with, our own soul. My book, Wheel of Initiation helps each of us create our own soul language. “We must find ourselves in ourselves,” as Dostoevsky said. Too many people do not know the sacred language of their own souls. They don’t know what they are truly saying to themselves. Because we are an “eternal essence,” (John O’donahue, Anam Cara), a spiritual being having a human experience, the Mystery of who we are cannot be limited to our work, roles or whatever scam our ego may be selling us. And, it can never be who others say, or insist, we are.
“Some nights stay up till dawn as the moon sometimes does for the sun. Be a full bucket, pulled up the dark way of well then lifted out into the light. Something opens our wings, something makes boredom and hurt disappear. Someone fills the cup in front of us, we taste only sacredness.” ( -Thirteenth-century Persian prayer, translated by Robert Bly)
Want help with your exploring? Contact me for a session. For the month of May and June I am offering discounted consultations for my blog readers.
All Write Wednesdays: World into Word
All Write Wednesdays is a blog about living the writer's life. Everything in our lives is material to explore & write about. Here, the spiritual path meets up with the writer's path. Read the All Write Wednesdays posts.