Not until late in life did I come to understand how my life is framed by white privilege. In fact, this reality influences everything in my life. And if you are white—poor or not—this is also true for you. To reveal and benefit from the paradoxical nature of white privilege, we must explore what white privilege means within the context of our daily lives and how it affects our experience as a human being—a white woman in America, in my case. At some point, those of us who are privileged need to acknowledge this dynamic if we are to live an authentic life. White privilege isn’t in and of itself a paradox; as with any dynamic, it holds within it a paradoxical narrative. And white privilege holds many paradoxical narratives. My privileged life doesn’t mean I have always felt privileged. Therein lies a core paradox: we may have shame or fear, dynamics that drive our experience, but we may not be aware we have them. Once we realize that shame, for example, influences everything in our lives, we can begin to transform our lives. We can turn shame into self-compassion. This is true with white privilege too. Once we become aware of white privilege as a dynamic, we can live more honestly. We can be more fearless and compassionate. We can challenge this dynamic and own up to it through our beliefs, assumptions, and actions. Then, the second layer of paradox arrives: we still are privileged. With shame or fear, we may actually become wholly free of its influence on our lives. This is possible. At least such dynamics no longer drive our experience. White privilege has a culturally set context and cannot simply be shaken off with awareness or practice. The color of our skin—white privilege—follows us to our grave. Still, its paradoxical nature can help us live more honestly and compassionately. As long as we first maintain an awareness of how this dynamic is part of every experience, it may no longer secretly drive our experiences. As we challenge this dynamic internally, we can help change the outer landscape of racial injustices.
Herein arrives the third layer of paradox with white privilege: We can use our white privilege. We can choose to challenge racial injustices we encounter. We can speak up when we see someone being mistreated, bullied, or denied something because of their skin color.
This particular privileged state is just one.
In the words of the poet, Rebecca Cecchini: "There are, of course, many privileged states in our world that could be paradoxically included in this thread, including male privilege, young privilege, hetero privilege, economic privilege (often stemming from the others). These and other privileges so often ride unimpeded under our awareness but affect others deeply. They are part of our social constructs and move through all of us, surfacing wounds as the many “isms” we don’t personally wish to claim. Opportunity abounds here to make broader applications of the paradoxical lessons."
A worthwhile exploration for each of us may be to identify a particular privilege that is current in our life. There are simple approaches we can use to challenge and shift our privileged states and all of our contradictions to help us find contradictions’ inherent paradoxes. Write about that.
What are the paradoxes inherent in some of your stories and experiences? Write about that.
SAVE THE DATE: Laurie Scheer and I are finishing up the final plans for what this year will be Write-by-the-LIGHT. Since the UW Continuing Studies, Writing Program is closing, last year was the last WBTLake. However Laurie Scheer, myself, Angela Rydell and Tim Storm will be offering a superb and dynamic WBTLIGHT!.
Laurie and I will be offering a full retreat/workshop experience to choose from. There will be optional sessions with Tim Storm and Angela Rydell. And an open mike night, one yoga class for writers from Molly Chanson, as well as ways to meet up with other writers. For those who live near Madison, I will hold one in person meet up “on the lake, in the light.” Investment: $225. . And! Laurie and I will be offering a consultation on 10 pages for free afterward for all who sign up.
This will be great. It will be live and ZOOMED. The dates are June 16th through Saturday (till 4:00) the 19th.
"If you bring forth what is within you
what is within you will save you
If you do not bring forth what is within you
what is within you will destroy you.
–Agnostic Gospel according to Thomas
When I first heard this quote read out loud in a 1993 psychic development class, an inward shift began. So much was within me that wanted release and expression. My gifts, my knowledge, and intuition, all qualities that I was born with that up till then remained hidden, even to me. My first book came forth. My pain stories and trauma also came to my awareness for understanding and transformation. I understood then and now that our life's journey is about bringing forth what is within us.
These stories, personal experiences and gifts need releasing from the body and mind.
Writing flames us alive and brings forth what seeks expression, understanding and transformation. All we have to do is listen. Writing is listening. Writing is an expression. Writing brings transformation because it can bring up the pain stories for further healing and acknowledgment.
Eleven books have been brought forth from me. Each book contains what has been "within me."
What does writing bringing forth from you? Write about that?
What themes are weaved through your life? Write about that.
What does the quote mean to you? What might destroy or save you? Write about that.
What is something, perhaps your greatest fear, right now? Write about that.
That fear will point to what you need to bring forth, what you most want. My latest book, The Clue of the Red Thread came from my abandonment anxiety, of feeling alone, that somehow I would lose everything and everyone I love (pain story). The flip side of this of course is my desire to belong. I let this desire to belong, to collaborate with others out through action. I reached out to Parker J Palmer and began conversations that resulted in this book. Over the past six years my intention and actions have been to collaborate with others, to reach out and develop community through all my interests and projects. To join in. (Which is what motivated me to sign up for Yoga Teacher Training at Kripalu two weeks ago).
How can you bring forth one of your deepest fears and its desire? Write about that.
How can you act on your desire? Write about that.
My most recent collaborations include working with Laurie Scheer to bring you a Write-by-the-Light workshop and retreat this June! I have been collaborating with Molly Chanson to bring writing and yoga together in our free fourth Wednesday nights of yoga and writing and our Sacred Thread retreats for yogis and writers.
All I see now are opportunities of collaboration.
Hidden Victims/Hidden Healers was the first book I let out from within. So much was brought forth!; the pain story of living with a brother with mental illness, the healing process of gathering with others in circle, the transformation of sharing our stories (first stage of healing) and what it meant to be a sister.
“The thing is, there is a need to deal with climate change, restore our democracy, heal the injustices close in and further out. We need to actually get that job, or finish that project. We need to connect. We need to change the conversation or let the conversation change us. We need to move forward somehow into the new next,”
- Julie Tallard Johnson, The Changing Conversation, the New Next & Clue of the Red Thread, February 5, 2021
A few weeks ago, while discussing her brilliant new book The Clue of the Red Thread, Julie said it best within the above quote - we need to move forward into the new next. She also mentions dealing with climate change and I would like to introduce you to a writing genre that offers opportunity to write within the world of the new next where your words can change our planet.
Welcome to a writing genre that you have always lived in.
When you began your day today did you notice the first bird, cloud, flower, or tree you viewed or passed by? Writers generally welcome writing prompts and this writing genre offers prompts 24/7 because it always surrounds you. The genre is known as Nature Writing and it has been around for decades.
The genre of Nature Writing is experiencing a popularity boost mostly due to the concern we have for our planet’s climate change and, in a nearly post-pandemic world, after having worked from home for a few months, we’ve been able to view and experience our backyards and common green areas in-between working on our screens more than we did when working in offices. Writing about Nature is, well, alive again.
Nature Writing often involves the love of a place, a favorite land, and/or an experience held/shared in Nature. Nature Writing is timeless, and necessary. If we do not write about our places and experiences then how will future generations know about our land, our Earth?
Sometimes referred to as Adventure Writing and Outdoor writing, this genre has its roots in the 19th century globally and continues to currently find engaged writers and avid readers – more than ever in previous decades. The genre is also welcoming many diverse voices and hence the genre is fast becoming known as a group of New Nature Writers.
More simply put, Nature Writing has found its time and place as our planet experiences unprecedented change and we as humans learn how to best maintain our home – for everyone because we are all on this planet as one. By recording your observations, researching the facts, and gathering up your enthusiasm, you generate writing pieces that can influence your readers. Nature Writing is necessary to save the planet. If we don’t share our experiences and assist our next generation in understanding the precious elements of our world, then we could find ourselves in a worse situation than we currently find ourselves in.
Your words can awaken change.
This is an arena that is as wide open as a grassy patch of land by the side of any roadside or on top of any mountain. Our environment is changing, and our voices need to be read.
Join us. We are a group of writers who take note of our first birds, clouds, flowers, and trees viewed daily. We are writing to save the world – literally. We are writing the new next.
New Nature Writers Writing Ranger
Write about a time you were forgotten.
Take a story or scene or essay that you are writing on and turn it into a poem.
When you go on your writer's walk today (in search of an idea or to make contact with the natural world), notice three new images or encounters that you have not noticed in the past. Write about these.
Throw out, donate or recycle something today that you find you have been moving around the house but really it's just clutter. Write about this object and its journey with you. (Or write from the objects perspective).
Write about how COVID intersects with your writer's life. Use the images found on your walk.
Write about an assumption you hold about someone you don't like. And about someone you love.
Write about an assumption you hold of the world or others that holds you back or makes you want to give up.
As in all my writing prompts, let them take you where they will. My writing prompts come from an intuitive place that invites us to explore and discover what it is we truly want to write about. Let go of expectations and assumptions you hold of yourself or your writing. And notice the pilgrimage itself and where you arrive.
Join me and other writers for FIRST FRIDAY WRITING RETREATS. This coming March 5th, Friday we will explore more on the theme of Vulnerability through and in our writing. On the First Friday in April we will have a wonderful day of writing and yoga with me and Molly Chanson! Send me an email, and hold the dates. email@example.com. These will be live through ZOOM until we can safely meet up in person!❤️
The Clue of The Red Thread is now available on Amazon.🌈
I am currently reading a biography called Maxwell Perkins: Editor of Genius written by A. Scott Berg. It depicts the life and career of Max Perkins of Scribner’s publishing house who brought forth the works of powerhouse authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Wolfe, and others.
Perkins was not a writer himself, but as an editor he had nearly inexhaustible sympathy, respect, and dedication to the craft. He coached, encouraged, bolstered, and supported his authors when they stumbled and despaired, which was often.
He well understood that the writing life was plagued by solitude, toil, and self-doubt. Then, if a work of great art (or even just okay art) was successfully printed and critically esteemed, the writer was sentenced to the depression and struggle of producing another work of equal or greater value, as was the case with Fitzgerald following The Great Gatsby. Tom Wolfe scrawled reams of pages of description and character sketches while standing beside a refrigerator which he used as his preferred writing surface. He produced prolifically--and had no idea what to do next with his material. Marjorie Rawlings, author of the perennially beloved novel The Yearling toiled for a year on the project, then threw the manuscript out.
In each of these cases, Max Perkins pleaded with and implored the authors to continue, to not give up. To one author he wrote, “Just get it all down on paper and then we’ll see what to do with it.” And ultimately, the authors muddled their way through mess, muck, and morass to create something that was publishable and could be put into the hands and minds of readers forever after.
So, I take heart in the familiar struggle of some of the greatest writers of the 20th century. They were both brilliant and fragile, brimming with both insight and uncertainty. They were like us. Let us, then, find our own Max Perkins--someone, something to cheer us on and force us to continue the painful effort. The end makes the means possible, even when the means feel impossible. Or, as Perkins himself put it so well, “I feel certain that it will end very well indeed, if you can endure the struggle. The struggle is part of the process.”
Camilia Cenek is a writer, consultant, and editor. She delights in working with both emerging and experienced writers to bring their stories to life. In 2020, she won first place for nonfiction in the Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring contest. Contact Camilia at firstname.lastname@example.org
an instagram post by Holly Whittaker:
"We do not speak or create or share for our shit to be understood, liked, loved by all. We do these things as an offering. Our art isn’t our own, our words aren’t our own; they are borrowed things that choose us, that knock at our door and ask to pass through the portal of our hands, lips, brains. And then they are gone, no longer ours, out there, someone else’s. We are the faucets, we are not the water. And the pain comes when we confuse ourselves with being the water.
It took me a long time to get this. I still struggle with it. Just not even close to how much I used to.
We speak not to convert the masses into our belief systems; we speak our truth so that others can find theirs. And people find their truth often by absolutely hating and disagreeing with our truth."
So, once the water flows out from the page to the world, it is no longer yours. Let it go. Let it nourish, entertain, make good trouble. Water like sunshine knows where to go.
My intention now with my latest book is to let it go. Not so much direct it's flow but to help it reach those it may benefit.
How is your writing, your words a borrowed thing? Write about that.
What does it mean to you to be a faucet, your words the water? Write about that.
What or whom do you need to release to write? Write about that.
Who are you hoping to entertain, reach, nourish? Write about that.
Write a poem about water and how it moves.
Write a piece on shadow and light.
And just like a bird can't always be in flight, a faucet can't always be on. Take time to rest and pause.
join the yogi and the writer tonight for a free hour and a half of writing and yoga. email me to join.
I am offering another FREE FIRST FRIDAY retreat in March. March 5th. Hold the date.
My work with writers focuses mostly on the psychology and transformational elements of writing. No matter what we are writing: journal entries, blogs, letters, a fiction or nonfiction book, or a collection of poems and short stories, all writing is transformational and conversational. Every time a writer lets the creation of words and stories transform them, they will impact their future readers in meaningful ways.
Then the writer becomes an author of a book or blog, for example. Here the conversation changes but continues. The conversation opens and takes a journey from our psyche and journals to the psyche and life of our readers.
What I got from writing The Clue of the Red Thread, the reader too will get. In fact, in my case I still refer to my books, my own musings, for guidance. In The Clue we take the red thread teachings of Nature, of other Wisdom Traditions, verses from poet Rebecca Cecchini, teaching threads of Parker J. Palmer, with accompanying explorations, to go on an internal pilgrimage to the center of our selves. We return to the world ready, willing and capable of having a positive impact on others. We become the change we want to see in the world, as Gandhi so famously said.
The writing of this book was a pilgrimage for me to a new, emerging inner landscape of hope, courage, deeper compassion, vulnerability and purpose. An invitation to a new conversation. I became more connected to my longings. I became more receptive and connected to others. I became able to cross another threshold that took me into my 2nd adulthood. I not only moved from within, but I have awoke in a new home and community, and in an emerging collaboration with a friend and yogi, Molly Chanson as we work together as the Yogi & the Writer. My pilgrimage of writing The Clue was indeed transformational, and, as I wrote this book, it broke me. Broke me open. This book, as many books can be, was also a love letter to my future self. The self that writes this blog to you.❤️
The Clue is full of micro-disciplines and practices that are wholly designed to be used in our every day life, to invite the transformational and spiritual experiences we yearn for. As in all my practices, they are fluid as well as an invitation to explore; to discover for yourself what is inside you and to bring that out to the world.
"If you bring forth what is within you
what is within you will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you
what is within you will destroy you." Jesus, Gnostic Gospel
Dear Reader, Bring it forth.
I will be offering a RED THREAD CIRCLE based on The Clue starting this April. A monthly gathering for a year for those who want to explore what is within you and all that you want to bring forth. The 2nd Thursday evening of the month, beginning on April 8th. We will do live Zoom until we can meet in person. Circles will take place in Madison at Holy Wisdom Monastery. Hold your place, or contact me for more information: email@example.com.
In celebration of a new day for our nation, as citizens, we are called to cross this threshold in ways that heal the heart of our democracy. I believe to bring about continued positive transformation, the success of this comes from an individual who knows that our outwardness is dependent upon our inwardness.
The Labyrinth and Clue of the Red Thread, excerpt from my upcoming book. (Available for purchase on January 26th, 2021.)
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 expect their citizens to sacrifice themselves on the altar of the economy, false patriotism, and revenge at a time when guns, money, and autonomy outrank dignity, community, and justice. Imagine further that you choose to act against these injustices to serve your people as best you can and defend humanity and democracy.
In Greek mythology, the king’s daughter Ariadne lived in the palace of Knossos on Crete where she was put in charge of its many mazes and labyrinths. Crete was known as a place of “extremes and contradictions.” Underneath the Knossos palace was a complex and deadly maze built by the master designer Daedalus to house the Minotaur. Daedalus himself got lost in this maze, almost to die there.
Young men and women from Athens were routinely sent into the maze to be devoured by the Minotaur in a sacrificial rite of revenge. Theseus, an Athenian prince, came to free Athens from
its commitment of sacrifice and vowed to enter the maze and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love with Theseus, and because she loved him, she resolved to come to his aid. She gave Theseus her ball of red thread so he might fasten it to the labyrinth’s entrance, then unravel it to mark his passage into its center. When Theseus initially took hold of the ball of red thread, the deadly maze was instantly transformed into a negotiable labyrinth—though still with its challenges and deceptions—which he was then able to enter, confront the Minotaur, and safely return out.
Ariadne’s thread was a guiding device. As there was not an easy way to memorize the paths of the labyrinth, the thread helped overcome the difficulties and limitations of memory. Even when someone successfully met up with the Minotaur, they never found their way out and died trapped inside the maze. The ball of thread is known as a clew (or clue) to solving the labyrinth, which had countless paths, some of which were treacherous.
Theseus represents that part of us that can be forgetful and too often sacrificed on the platform of someone else’s aspirations and plans. He is also the heroic part of us that is altruistically motivated and willing to break agreements with those in authority in order to serve humanity.
Courageous people who have gone before or are beside us now hand us the red thread of their wisdom to help transform us into heroic figures. All teachings and teachers come to us as part of a lineage. The red thread in this book represents the lineage of my teachers’ teachings, including that of Parker J. Palmer, handed over to us here as an expression of their and my love.
Because our lives are full of forked paths, contradictory twists and turns, and frequent dead ends, and because we can sometimes forget who we are, we often need a guiding thread, a clue to help us successfully navigate our own particular labyrinths. Taking the thread of teachings gives us the confidence to reach our internal center as well as face our Minotaur, and then safely find our way back home to self, purpose, and community once more. This is what the everyday heroine looks like.
Just as with Theseus in the myth, our assumptions, emotions, memories, and beliefs may be unreliable and thus lead us astray. Ultimately, they become the constructs of our mazes. Other people, too, may try to manipulate us into following their agenda for our lives. Once we firmly take hold of the red thread of teachings, however, we are wholly capable of traversing the many twists and turns in our lives for ourselves. We do not have to be sacrificed to appease anyone, nor do we have to live life lost in a maze constructed by us or someone else.
At each turn in our metaphorical labyrinth (and very real life!), we unravel more of the red thread, revealing some promise and tangible hope contained in each teaching. Each time we place the red thread on the ground to mark a clear path back out, we also “place down” inside of us an understanding and realization that we will continue to carry within us. The thread may unwind and weave as we make our way through the labyrinth of our lives, but it can never break. This red thread, unlike breadcrumbs, will not be devoured by some hungry bird, but remain within us always as lasting nourishment for our souls and communities.
I had been offering the Initiation Course for over 10 years and later put together a book proposal based on this year-long course. A publisher accepted it, so then I had to get to work translating this material into a book. A book that people could use as a personal transformative experience. I wanted them to sense me there with them as they read and took their own personal initiatory journey. I also encouraged my readers to use the material to facilitate their own circles, which many have. The challenge for me became HOW to put a year-long course down in a book. I couldn’t just lift from my notes. So, I came up with a template, the medicine wheel, the Initiation wheel, where people enter in the south. I placed in the wheel's directions the course teachings and its explorations and practices.
As a writer I used the template of the Wheel to write the book.
This worked so well (and I have done similar practices to write all my books, (The Wheel of Initiation being my 8th book); I designed an on-line course to help writers find their personal templates and myths so as to write from their stories, experiences and teachings. I created the The Initiated Writer on line course. With this course, along with my personal help, you can take your personal experiences and knowledge and translate it into something meaningful to writers.
Using this on-line class, The Initiated Writer you will discover a way and place for all your stories, and with ease move through the resistances that arise along the writer's path. You will write and complete your book. Whether or not the template and symbolism is a strong narrative in the book itself is a decision you make as you write. The intent and outcome of this Initiation process is to use these templates and symbols to successfully write.
You will initiate yourself as a writer.
Truth is within ourselves, it takes no rise
from outward things; whate’er you may believe there is an inmost center in us all
where truth abides in fullness; and around, wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,
this perfect, clear perception which is Truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Binds it and makes all error; and to know rather consists in opening out a way
whence the imprisoned splendor may escape than in effecting entry for a light
supposed to be without.
Robert Browning, from “Paracelsus”
To sign up or explore this more: The Initiated Writer
Coming soon: My next book, where I used the labyrinth and the myth of the red thread to write:
Surrender is a sure pathway to our imagination. When we have our imaginations we are free to invite, create and manifest what is possible in any given situation.
But, what does it mean to surrender?
To surrender means to open, to release and allow space for what you want to create and experience. To surrender means to surrender our negative states, to surrender our resistance in a given area so that our creativity and naturalness can manifest without the severity of any inner opposition. To be free of inner conflict and expectations is to give ourselves (and others) a great freedom. A freedom to experience the basic nature of the universe, which, it will be discovered, is to manifest the greatest good possible in a situation.
What do you believe is possible? Write about that.
Religious fanatics, abusive bosses, tyrants, fake shamans, angry atheists, controlling partners, or cultists, are out to curb and control your imagination. This is because inherently we all know that our greatest power is our imagination. If someone controls your imagination, they control you.
Who or what is trying to control you? Write about that.
What did you once believe but find hard to imagine now? Write about that.
Write about what was outside your childhood window.
Write a letter to your future self and what you hope and imagine she will be experiencing.
"The imagination is the creative force in the individual. It always negotiates different thresholds and releases possibilities of recognition and creativity that the linear, controlling, external mind will never even glimpse. The imagination works on the threshold that runs between light and dark, visible and invisible, quest and question, possibility and fact. The imagination is the great friend of possibility. Where the imagination is awake and alive, fact never hardens or closes but remains open, inviting you to new thresholds of possibility and creativity." –O'Donohue, John. Anam Cara (p. 145). HarperCollins
A good teacher, Writing Sherpa, friend, or leader will encourage and support you in your own explorations. And when we are a good friend to ourselves we nurture and are nurtured by our own imaginings.
My All Write Wednesday blog and my Zero Point blog have been joined together into one. Read the past posts.