caressedbyinvisiblegrace

caressed by invisible grace

this caress
unseen hands
tender fingertips
that spread across the sky
spread across my face
touch me
like nothing else has
ever
in existence
my face open to the light
my soles on forest floor
this miracle
shines brightly
freedom
connection
so deep in my clay
down where fossils
cease to decay.

::

For as long as I can remember,

I have loved soft warm wind blowing against my face. I never ‘knew’ why, although I used to try to understand. Funny things we do.

The most profound experience I’ve had of this was in Hana, on Maui. There, the air is moist, always moist, and filled with scents. And, it is warm there. It doesn’t get cold in Hana, really.

There, I feel the wild more acutely in my cells, the wild of the land a mirror to the wild of the terrain of my body. 

The soul’s secrets rise to be known on land that isn’t covered over by thought divorced from flesh (concrete one of the literal expressions of this broken marriage). Raw earth offers itself to my raw soul, inviting soul forth into flesh to be touched, felt, and seen. And the conscious mind, for at least a moment, meets soul in this intimacy.

The body is soul’s physical expression. This human body is how soul makes itself known on earth, in flesh. The soul’s longing to experience and be experienced comes through as our longing to see, touch, and feel, and be seen, touched, and felt.

This is the creative impulse to live and to express our sacred uniqueness into flesh and blood and bone – of body and of other physical creation. This is an impulse for life, an appetite to know through experience, through feeling and senses.

Oh, and to think how we deny our appetite for life. Consider how much effort it must take to deny this deep impulse of life, to grow into our fullest expression, to offer it into the world so it can be known.

There is nothing wrong with our appetite, nothing wrong with our desire, nothing wrong with our flesh. There is everything right with creation.

 

“The body is a sacrament. … A sacrament is a visible sign of invisible grace.” 

“All our inner life and intimacy of soul longs to find an outer mirror. It longs for a form in which it can be seen, felt, and touched. The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression.” ~ John O’Donohue

 

Your body, my body, every body, is the physical manifestation of soul, a physical manifestation of grace.

Invisible grace – like wind. This is what I feel as I am caressed by wind – caressed by invisible grace.

The soul is deeply affected by body and what our body experiences. Earth touched, wind felt, fragrance inhaled, all leave an imprint on soul. I now understand why the different lands I have traveled to, and walked upon, affected me so deeply. My soul took it all in, and my willingness to go, even when I did not understand why, was how this body, this body/mind, walked what she needed to walk for soul to live the experiences soul was hungering for – that outer mirror.

I now have a sense of why I love warm wind against my face. It is not really for me to ‘understand’. It is more that I have the capacity to choose to have those experiences that feed my soul, that feed her appetite for life.

This is life’s grand radiance: this invisible grace making itself known in physical form, and then our physical forms, our bodies, offering back the gifts of this human, everyday, life, to soul.

When every cell of the body is awake with invisible grace, awash with love, alert with awareness, consider how much more fleshy real estate is available for this sacred interchange between flesh and soul, this experience of being alive. Instead of just understanding what it might be like as an idea,

we become fully aflame with life’s grand radiance…a living, breathing, loving vessel of liquid soul.

::

This poem, above, was written during a Writing Raw circle call. They are powerful, potent circles where soul-knowing can pour forth. Join me for the Spring, 2015, Writing Raw circle…now open for registration. We begin the first week of March.

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A Touch of Soul, Here, on My Breath.

by Julie on January 21, 2015 · 12 comments

 

reteachathingitslovelinessrosenoquote
“…for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness…”
Galway Kinnell
::

Witnessing my own unfolding

In looking back over the writing I’ve shared here over the past seven years, I see my own unfolding. Along the way, I’ve shared my experiences rather than using this as a platform to offer you ‘useful’ advice on ‘how-to’ or ‘how-not-to’. I’ve shared stories and insights. I’ve shared some of the most vulnerable moments of my journey. I can’t say that was my intention when I began. But, then how often do we know ahead of time what it is that is driving us? In the past few weeks, the unfolding has hastened. Things falling away left and right. Like a dog with a bone, I’ve followed every kernel of grace offered out to me. I cannot tell you ‘what’ it is that has happened, but I finally feel at home.

That is no small thing considering it’s been almost twenty years since I set out to find home. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt at home in this world, but I managed to avoid feeling the deeper feelings of not belonging and not being safe while married to my late-husband – until the early-morning hour when he died, suddenly. That’s when the journey began in earnest.

It was then, almost twenty years ago, that however my psyche had organized itself to help navigate the feeling of being unsafe here on earth, could no longer find a footing. In a matter of minutes after he died, I felt completely unmoored. He had been my love, my protector, my partner of 21 years.

It’s been a long journey to follow longing. A journey to find safety, not through another human being, but within myself. I didn’t know that was what I was looking for. Ultimately, it was really the journey to find love, the love that can only be found deep within oneself.

The push to get somewhere or something has been relentless. I could never settle. I could never feel like what was in my life was ‘enough’. All the while, I wouldn’t have been able to articulate to you these things. I know them now, in hindsight.

There is something new here.

A kind of softness, a trust, a faith in life.

A taste of earth, here, in my flesh.

A touch of Soul, here, on my breath.

 

Life guided me.

Life does this if we listen. Books fell unbidden from bookcases, guiding me to dance. People appeared as guides. Flowers called to me with their beauty, reflecting to me the light and beauty that is the soul of everything alive. And, my relationship came to an end when it was clear I had to find out who I am on my own – sovereign and whole.

The land called to me from different parts of our planet. I had to step foot on other parts of this earth to feel something that could only be felt there, in each place, to reawaken elements of earth that I’d tasted long before.

Nature called. Each day, I walk. Almost first thing in the morning, after tea. I hear birdsong. I feel wind. I take in the love of trees, offering it back to them with great appreciation. I have come to feel an unseen, but incredibly vibrant, relationship with life. I’ve come to know I belong.

John O’Donohue‘s words capture this feeling much more eloquently than I can.

“Essentially, we belong beautifully to nature. The body knows this belonging and desires it. It does not exile us either spiritually or emotionally. The human body is at home on the earth. It is probably a splinter in the mind that is the sore root of so much of our exile.”

I feel at home in my body. 

Another way to say this, is that my mind now trusts how my body feels at home. My mind trusts my body’s longing to be home. To not be held away, distant from itself, for my body is of the earth’s body. It is of the same clay.

This might surprise some of you who’ve read me for a while. It’s not like I haven’t been in my body. It’s not like I haven’t felt joy in my body. I have – often and much.

But that ‘splinter in the mind’ was always here. The splinter continued to tell me I wasn’t safe. It created a kind of vigilance, a hyper-vigilance. This kind of thinking, the circular questioning and the constant looking for safety, kept at bay what it was I was looking for. Of course it did. I was looking for love, but this small but insistent voice didn’t trust love.

As I read more of John O’Donohue’s words for the second time (I first read Anam Cara about eight years ago), in preparation for my writing course, I came across his description of how the body is in the soul, not the other way around. He writes,

“Your body is in the soul, and the soul suffuses you completely. Therefore, all around you there is a secret and beautiful soul-light.”

And, if the body is in the soul, then my body is held, and loved, and breathed into by Soul. My immediate breath is Soul breath. My senses first encounter the realm of my Soul. It is so close. Always.

This is what I had longed for – to know that love is this close. Complete and unconditional love, which Soul has for self. I had shut myself off to my own Soul, and I had to see that.

 

Necessary to reteach me of my loveliness.

As most of us do because we are taught to, I journeyed to find what I’d thought I lost out there somewhere. God is supposed to be up there, on high, somewhere. Right? And, I am supposed to find love in someone else to complete me. Right?

No. Soul is closer than my breath. Soul is closer than sound, taste, sight, touch. Soul is wrapping me in love. I turned away from Soul. I had to turn back to self to know Soul.

Splintering happens. For me, the splinter broke free when that portion of the mind could feel that it was held, and that what held it was safe. I watched it circle. I watched it look and question and wonder. I watched as it let go. I felt the softening in myself. I couldn’t make it let go, but I could hold the space for it to do it as it needed to. I could trust that it would set itself free.

And, one last thing…for now. I’ve written in the past of the ‘creative impulse’…of the beautiful desire that moves through us as human beings to express in this world of form. In my next post, I’ll write more about Soul, your body, and creativity.

 

For now, just know that God(dess) is decidedly sensuous. 

 

 

 

 

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Women Weaving Voice into One

by Julie on January 10, 2015 · 0 comments

photo (12)

Life force is a flame within.

Creativity is this burning desire to express something into the world, into form, to live something true.

Anat Vaughan-Lee writes“We do not always know what it is or how to articulate it, but deep inside there is a longing, a longing to live according to a true calling.” We all have this longing, a quality of the feminine.

What I’ve seen over the course of the past twelve years facilitating creativity through courses and coaching is how difficult it can be to allow this expression to come through when we are ‘comfortable’, meaning when our lives aren’t challenged, when we seemingly have what we think we want, what makes us feel safe. But this fire isn’t about comfort, because our lives aren’t about comfort. No, the fire is about expression, and most often there is nothing comfortable about expressing this into the world. Makes sense. It is fire. Fire burns. Fire clears away debris. Yet, in this discomfort we live what our soul is here to live.

What happens when the fire smolders? When it sits in our belly, circling around and around trying to find oxygen to burn but our breathing only goes down to our chest? Fire needs oxygen. It needs space to move. It needs fuel to burn. What has to be thrown onto the pile to fuel the fire?

What has to go? Is it safety? Is it surety? Is it looking good, ensuring we don’t rock boats?  Is it not wanting to see reality as it is, right here, right now? Is it not wanting to feel? Is it not wanting to take responsibility for ourselves and the health of our world?

There could be many things that need to go. I know that is true for me. The desire for safety in my life has been my number one piece of fuel. Yet, in that desire for safety, something completely understood considering my past, I am thinking of only myself. And in doing so, I smolder the flame.

What I’m discovering in holding my Writing Raw circles, and in being in active communion with other women writers, is that there is a fire in women to speak, a fire burning to bring forth what we know into this world through words, through voice. And, I know this because I am a woman and this fire is in me. This fire for voice is a longing to declare what we know and see. It’s a fire to stand on even ground, as a full human being, with a voice that carries across to others, with something to say. And this something comes on its own – if we go within to the source – our own soul.

I just read a 2012 New York Times article, Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry, by Eliza Griswold, and in this piece I see clearly just how this strong this fire is when freedom is taken away. And conversely, I see how comfort smolders the fire rather than stoking it. [The piece is long and well worth the time.]

In this article, Eliza Griswold writes about Mirman Baheer, a women’s literary society based in Kabul, Pashtun poetry, and about how women from the outlying regions of the country where freedom for women is tightly constricted sometimes take amazing risks for their words to be known and their voices heard. 

“Pashtun poetry has long been a form of rebellion for Afghan women, belying the notion that they are submissive or defeated. Landai means “short, poisonous snake” in Pashto, a language spoken on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The word also refers to two-line folk poems that can be just as lethal. Funny, sexy, raging, tragic, landai are safe because they are collective. No single person writes a landai; a woman repeats one, shares one. It is hers and not hers. Although men do recite them, almost all are cast in the voices of women. “Landai belong to women,” Safia Siddiqi, a renowned Pashtun poet and former Afghan parliamentarian, said. “In Afghanistan, poetry is the women’s movement from the inside.”

Traditionally, landai have dealt with love and grief. They often railed against the bondage of forced marriage with wry, anatomical humor. An aging, ineffectual husband is frequently described as a “little horror.” But they have also taken on war, exile and Afghan independence with ferocity.”

 

Poetry is a powerful force in areas where women have so few avenues for self-expression. Poetry is written by women all over the world. Many women speak out, writing powerful poetic pieces that come directly from their souls, and these poems ignite the fires within us.

But so many of us don’t voice our soul’s expression. We long to speak what we sense is smoldering within, but we don’t. And, I’m not talking about being talented or convincing another. I’m talking about being expressed.

Before I go further, I want to be clear I am not wanting to co-opt something so gorgeously belonging to these Afghan women writing Pashtun poetry. And, I’m not equating our lives as western women to these women in the article. Not at all. What I want to do is find the thread that links us together, and find a vehicle of expression that allows for these words to come forth as they desire to do through each of us.

There is a thread that weaves through all of us women – a red thread – a thread of longing – a thread of power and passion – a thread of creative expression that lives and breaths the feminine embodied.

Whether the constriction of freedom is on the outside or whether it is in our internalized beliefs that we aren’t free; whether the threat of harm is obvious and clear, or is veiled and not spoken, this longing to live something, to express this flame of life into the world, is trying to shoot up into life, to live.

What if poetry, one example being these two-line Landai, is the way the feminine (and women) moves from the inside?

What if poetry is simply a word to describe the soul’s language? A language that flows from the heart, that is fired from longing?

We can get stuck in and fixated on our ‘idea’ of poetry as what we’ve known in our experience, yet discovering this form of Landai really opens up my own notion of what poetry ‘is’.

And, the way the Landai are ‘safe’, her’s yet not her’s, makes me wonder. Does our tendency in the west to fixate on ‘owning’ our creativity, our words, get in the way of our creating? If it flows from Source, what greater honor could there be than speaking aloud these words?

This ‘not owning’ individually, but collectively instead, is a quality of the feminine itself, and it would then make sense that women would naturally and instinctively embody this in writing that flows from within.

This ‘her’s yet not her’s’ is an expression of the whole rather than the individual, and it is an expression of giving over one’s needs in service to caring for the whole. 

My friend, Megan McFeely, a filmmaker exploring the feminine through her film, ‘As She Is‘, writes, “More sooner than later we (you and me) are going to have to accept that the rights for the health of the WHOLE are more important than the rights of the individual.”

Is not wanting to cede our individual ‘rights’ that we so strongly hold tight to in many parts of the world, nor letting go of what we believe we ‘own’, getting in the way of a powerful voicing of the soul’s expression – individually AND collectively?

In all expression, there is Source and there is the vessel through which Source expresses. We are each vessels through which Source flows. In this way, our expression is ours but not ours.

Can we women here in the west learn something from this? Can we write poetry that is ours but not ours?

I believe so, and I believe what we can learn is critical to our voices being heard.

The voice within pulses through this flame. We feel it. We can try to turn away from it, but the longing is strong. In the article, Meena, a young woman from Gereshk, Afghanistan writes,

“I wish I had the opportunities that girls do in Kabul,”… “I want to write about what’s wrong in my country.”

Then Eliza adds,

Meena’s father pulled her out of school four years ago after gunmen kidnapped one of her classmates. Now she stays home, cooks, cleans and teaches herself to write poetry in secret. Poems are the only form of education to which she has access.”

Can you feel the fire? The fire to keep learning, to communicate, to express? the desire for freedom? No matter how the flame is tamped down, it still tries to ignite.

Complacency silences. Guilt for having more ‘whatever’ silences. But if we don’t soon throw our individual wants and ownership onto this smoldering fire, what is in store for us? Creation is much more intelligent than our egos. The seed of what is new is trying to break through the ground, as sometimes what cleans the forest floor quickly and efficiently is a raging fire.

I go back to the beginning, asking myself these questions…

What is the fuel you need to offer to this flame of longing within?

How might giving up ownership free you? 

I offer them to you. And then,

Find a circle where you can write that which is yours but not yours, and voice it aloud, and then give it over.

 

:::

writingrawpin02And, if you want to join Writing Raw, a circle in which to write and speak your words aloud, read more and register here. We are beginning Jan 13th, but you can join in anytime.

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Rich With Sacred Becoming

by Julie on January 2, 2015 · 1 comment

redflowersinwindow

Rich With Sacred Becoming

 

“To discover who she is, a woman must descend into her own depths. She must leave the safe role of remaining a faithful daughter of the collectives around her and descend to her individual feeling values. It will be her task to experience her pain…the pain of her own unique feeling values calling to her, pressing to emerge. To discover who she is, a woman must trust the places of darkness where she can meet her own deepest nature and give it voice…weaving the threads of her life into a fabric to be named and given…sharing it with the women around her as she comes to a true and certain sense of herself.”  ~ Judith Duerk,

Strung together like lights that lead us down into this darkness, these words speak to me. From these strands and strings of word-lights, I feel the pressing – the ‘pressing to emerge’.

 

Rich With Sacred Becoming

Like watery, primordial pools
where the emergent reveals itself,
slowly,
chaotically,
at first without any known pattern or meaning,
I,
too,
shimmer with the barely known.

Like chthonic, fecund soil,
rich with sacred becoming,
I,
too,
reek of sacred humus,
ripe with nutrients of rebirth.

Like stardust still cooling from the star’s demise,
I,
too,
glow with decay.

Turning my attention inward,
to the pool,
the soil,
the ashes,
the temple teeming with life,
I open to it,
feel it,
receive it,
allow it to fill me,
feed me,
nourish me.

Little in the collective
honors my soul’s humus.

Everything I learned as a faithful daughter
chides my appetite to turn inward.

Yet,
my appetite for the truth
is stronger than
my need for austere approval,
if I turn to the appetite,
the hunger,
the longing.

The revelation comes on its own,
at its own pace,
without aid,
if I honor the insistent
invitation of breath
to deliver my soul,
down,
into my cells.

The birth comes,
on its own,
the child’s pulse
closely tied to the
heartbeat of earth,
if I inhale with expectancy
to be filled with
that same stardust,
the black water,
the dark humus of sacred becoming.

::::

I invite you to journey with me into these sacred pools, this fecund soil, this still-too-hot-to-touch stardust.

In Writing Raw, we cross the threshold into this dark humus of becoming and write what we find ‘into a fabric to be named and given…sharing it with the women around her as she comes to a true and certain sense of herself.’

This is the beauty, and gift, of Writing Raw. It is a circle where you can share, with women around you, the opportunity to come to a more ‘true and certain sense of’ yourself.

I hope you will join me, if it feels right. It can feel right and feel frightening. It can feel right and we can feel shy and unsure. All of these can be true.

Find out more about Writing Raw, here. And, be sure to email me if you have questions that feel important to ask in order to honor this ‘pressing to emerge’.

::

Thank you to Judith Duerk for her ability to express something so important in words, so many years ago, so far ahead of the times.

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In Your Own Language

by Julie on December 29, 2014 · 1 comment

Poetpic

 

 

“Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.”

 Jack Kerouac

For some time, I couldn’t call myself a writer. Then I did.

Same is true for poet. Now I do.

I’ve come to see something about writing. And poetry. When I first began to write after graduating from Stanford, my writing was – as you might guess – academic. But, I was 45 when I graduated, and had a lot of life in the rear view mirror. I wasn’t new to life. Academic writing served me there, but as I began to write about my life, my words felt clenched, tight. I slowly began to unwind my voice, to free it, to soften it. I began the journey of writing, and it has been a journey.

The journey of writing is so many things. For me, it’s been part of this long journey to discover who I really am, to discover what is inside as well as outside, and ultimately to discover there is no distinction.

The journey has taken me to many places, places that I’d hang out at for a while. Hanging out gave me the chance to settle into a new writing style, really a new writing freedom – plateaus on the long way down and in.

Lately, I’ve seen how I, and many, many women, learned to translate our native, mother tongue into a language that is more acceptable in this masculine-centric culture. My writing journey has been to come home to this mother tongue, my mother tongue – the language my own soul speaks.

Perhaps it is poetry. Perhaps. I say that because I don’t even really know what poetry is. I don’t know the rules. And, I don’t need to know either. I know it by feel. There is spaciousness in poetry, and there is room for you to read my words and have your own experience – whatever that might be.

So, yes, I am a poet. A poet of my own language. As you are a poet of your own language. Isn’t that truly the only way we can really tell and write the truth? In our own language?

::

writingrawpin01How do you come to know this language when you’ve been taught to speak ‘the’ language your whole life? You listen. You listen within. You go within, open your inner ears, open your inner eyes, touch with your inner fingertips, taste with those taste buds that line your heart’s walls and tumble down the sides of your round and supple belly.

You wade into the deep waters inside your inner temple, waters that hold the elements
of creation, waters that are creation.

You write, raw, the language of your own Soul. Every Soul is a poet. Every Soul. It is up
to you to know what poetry means for you.

If you’d like to take this journey with me, join me for the next round of Writing Raw.

We begin the week of January 12th and our circle lasts for six weeks. The early-bird price of $295 ends Dec 31st.

It is not simply for writers. It is for any woman who wants to know the deep feminine within, who wants to explore her own body and the body erotic, who wants to hear her own voice spoken aloud in a circle of women, without judgment, without critique.

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Deep-Bellied Places of Woman

by Julie on December 20, 2014 · 0 comments

gorithefairone

Deep-Bellied Places of Woman

 

i listen with awe to

the sound of women’s souls

painting their lives in

words across the page,

each voice different

as she spills her heart into

the moon’s sure embrace.

 

i drink in the brew and see

the rock-solid foundation that is

woman taking shape again

across this land,

meeting mother earth’s

undulating curves

ragged peaks

soft, still waters

with her own.

 

mother earth has missed

our honest voices,

out truth-telling,

spoken in spite of unspoken

yet so-very present

threats of harm

if

we dare tell the truth of our lives.

 

she is hungry for this

bedrock of soul

to lie up against

the outline of her body,

her soul.

 

she has missed us knowing her this way.

she has missed us knowing ourselves in this way.

 

we are remembering, together.

always, together.

 

(c) Julie M Daley, 2014

 

written during Writing Raw, Fall 2014

 

:::

 

Writing Raw, Winter 2015 is now open for registration, with an early bird price until Dec. 31, 2014

I would love for you to join us. The circle is already forming.

image is ‘gori, the fair one’ by anurag agnihotri on flickr under cc 2.0 license.
no changes were made to this beautiful image.

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photo (8)

 

What I am going to share here is based solely on my experience – what I’ve experienced personally. As we come to the 2nd anniversary of Sandy Hook (tomorrow, December 14th, 2014) I’ve felt a strong urge to write this. These are my reflections.

 

As many of you know,

I worked with people directly affected by 9/11 for over three years, from ’03 – ’06. In the first year or so, I coached a large number of family members who’d lost love ones in 9/11 as part of a larger program they were taking, which comes out of the same core program I teach. Then, during the second year, I taught a couple of those courses and continued to coach.

Following these courses, I was hired to design and teach a dating relationship class to women who’d lost their spouses/partners in 9/11. Over eighteen months, along with my colleague Julie (yes, two Julie’s teaching together), I had the truly lovely experience of working with these women to discover a way to bring a new loving partner into their lives while also still grieving their loss. It is not true that we have to put our grief away in order to date again. We can find a partner who is willing to enter into a relationship with us even if we have experienced major loss.

Over the time I worked with these many family members, I found we as Americans to be supportive and truly desiring for there to be healing for these families. In fact, there was so much public attention around 9/11, many of these family members had a hard time finding a way to grieve privately – something we all need when going through the grief of traumatic events. We need our privacy, while also needing to know we are part of a larger community that is holding us firmly in love and respect.

During these years, 9/11 was still very much in the news, not only news of the American response to the attack, but also news about the family members and things they were beginning to do in the world.

When I would speak about my work with people in general, people engaged in conversation with me about it. There was a willingness to talk about it. It had affected all of us in a profound way.

This past Winter and Spring, along with two other women, I had the incredible opportunity to teach the same course again, but this time to people directly affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook School, in Newtown, Connecticut. It was the first time the course would be offered, and I was asked to join-on because of my experience in teaching this material to so many diverse populations over the past twelve years. I won’t share anything about the experience of teaching there. It is too private, too personal, and requires a great deal of respect and confidentiality.

What I want to speak to is the difference in how I experienced our response to this event as Americans compared to our response to 9/11. It feels vitally important to do so.

I remember when I first heard about Sandy Hook. I was preparing to be on a Mastermind group call. We all got on the phone together, but I couldn’t continue. I almost couldn’t speak at all, the shock was so great. I excused myself from the call and sat down and sobbed. The shock and grief hit me hard, like I know it did for many Americans and many others around the world. What happened at Sandy Hook was something horrendous – so many very young children being killed in such a violent way. Still to this day, it is hard to truly think about what happened with full consciousness. I can only imagine it, based on what I have heard and read.

So as I prepared to teach, I began to really sit with the whole experience, not only what happened that day, but how we as Americans had dealt with it since that day. I first knew I would be teaching prior to the 1st Anniversary of Dec. 14th, 2012. I began to watch how we as a country spoke about this event. I noticed, especially as I mentioned to others I would be teaching, a marked difference in the responses to Sandy Hook versus the responses to 9/11.

I’m not here to compare them as better or worse. But I want to talk about how they were, and continue to be, different. I’ve thought a lot about why they would be different, based on my own experiences and reflections. Obviously, in many ways, 9/11 was a much larger event. More people were killed in 9/11. And, our largest city was affected not only by the deaths, but also by many injuries and fallout from the towers falling, as well as the ongoing fallout from illnesses and trauma. I understand this. I am not comparing the two events on scale. I am comparing them because they are two events I’ve been involved with on some level, and because I’ve noticed things simply from my own perspective as an American and as a human being trying to make sense of how we continue to turn our hearts away from the level of violence we experience here in our country.

In 9/11, the perpetrators were from the outside. They weren’t ‘one of us’, which made a clear distinction where to put our care and attention – on those affected by the attack. We could do this because those affected could be marked distinctly from those who were responsible for the attack. The event was horrendous, yes, and we drew a clear line of distinction between who was ‘bad’ and who was ‘good’.

With Sandy Hook, though, the person responsible was not only one of us, an American, he was from the community of Newtown. Suddenly, this dark, horrendous event was not outside of American soil, it was right here in our backyard, right here in our own culture, right here in our own family.

In 9/11, we could focus our anger and outrage on ‘others’, but with Sandy Hook we could not. There was no other. There was a barely-adult boy who was one of our own.

I noticed how people responded differently to me when I would speak of the work with 9/11 families versus the work in Newtown. Our faces tell a great deal.

But what I truly noticed was how quiet our country has been about the entire event. For the first few weeks, we heard a lot about it. Then, we went quiet. At first there was great outrage, then there was little. I know not everyone has been quiet. There are mom’s groups working to dismantle the power that gun lobbies have, as well as the many groups that have helped to bring healing to Newtown, one of which was the center that hired us to teach. But the media and our politicians, as well as most Americans do not talk about it. I think this points to something important, not only collectively but individually.

When we can point the finger at someone else, it is much easier to be actively vocal about things. We can look at them and ‘other’ them so that we create a firm separation of us vs. them.

But, when we have to look at ourselves, it becomes much harder to accept. Whether it is our country collectively, or ourselves individually, to do the deeper work means we must come to look within ourselves, and within our own culture. This is where many of us tend to shut down, because we don’t want to see what we are capable of. We don’t want to see the darkness that lurks right underneath our noses. We’d rather ‘other’ each other, believing it will solve our problems if we just grow more armor, more separate, ‘securing’ ourselves behind beliefs that somehow separation from each other will keep us safe from some imagined possible transgression in the future, or from a past hurt we’ve never been able to truly look at.

I never spoke about this with anyone during my stays in Newtown. That wasn’t why I was there. But, it’s been on my mind for a year, and in my heart. There is a very important learning here for us – very important. Every situation, every person, can be a teacher if we are willing to learn.

And, it’s not just what happened at Sandy Hook. It’s happening over and over and over here in our own country. Whether it is one of the multiple school shootings since Sandy Hook, or the recent events in Ferguson, NY, and Cleveland, or any of the other violent events in our country, we must begin to talk about what is here right in our own backyard. We must begin to talk about how we treat each other, and in turn how we defend ourselves so aggressively against each other. And, we must talk about shame and silence.

The healing we can offer each other is great. It is powerful. And it is needed. But it won’t happen if we can’t talk about it, if we can’t see that what is ‘out there’ is also right here in our own backyard; if we can’t see that everything outside of us in others is right here within ourselves.

I believe with Sandy Hook we felt fear, but more importantly we feel shame and guilt. It’s like a cover of silence descends over the event, a shutting down, a turning away.

Shame is a nasty beast. It causes us to go silent. It causes us to defend. It causes us to separate. It causes us to shut down, to lash out, to vow never to trust. I know. I’ve done a lot of personal work with shame, as have many of you. Guilt does the same things.

The funny thing about shame and guilt is that we go unconscious. For the most part, we don’t even know we’ve gone unconscious. We don’t realize how we’ve not talked about, nor faced on a deeper level, that which has caused us to feel shame, guilt, or fear or whatever else we might be feeling.

Think about it. How hard is it for you to think about Sandy Hook and what happened there? And how might that difficulty be affecting not only those affected by the event, but also your personal ability to heal as well as our collective healing?

And, when we won’t look at something, what are we making more important than creating a culture safe for our children, a culture of peace?

Is our fear of discomfort in facing what feels like a mountain of things we don’t want to see or feel keeping us from being who we need to be to create this change?

What are we valuing over life itself?

What matters is that we need each other. Life isn’t easy. We are vulnerable as human beings.

I know, after working with so many people over these years, that we heal, we create much healthier families and communities, when we open to each other and ask for help and give help. When the larger community we are a part of acknowledges it has our back, that it knows we’ve suffered and that it is here for us, we feel held and can heal. We are reminded we are not alone. Whether this larger community is our own family, our friends, our town, the country in which we live, or our global family, it is the same. And in this way, the larger community heals, because when we offer ourselves to others we heal, too. We grow, too. We transform into more compassionate and kinder people, and a more compassionate, kinder nation.

To do this we must stop and be present to what we’ve created as a society. Together.

When will we be with the hard and difficult feelings?

When will we begin to ask the hard questions that can lead to transforming the culture in which we live? 

When will we be with each other?

The time to create community to face these things is now. It is too much to bear alone. That’s why we have each other. We cannot do it alone.

 

 

 

 

 

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Life is Breathing Us Awake

by Julie on December 8, 2014 · 5 comments

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Weaving

Since the Ferguson’s Grand Jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, I’ve been reading, watching, listening. I’ve been taking in all of this information, thinking that if I just take in enough, somehow I’ll understand.

And then, I stopped. I suddenly felt so full, as if I’d eaten this huge meal and knew I needed to digest it. I’d filled myself up. And in doing so, I realized why I had writer’s block for the past few weeks.  I write from my heart, and instead I’ve been swirling in information. So, I let it all settle.

Diane Arbus, the world renowned photographer, once told her students, “You must learn not to be careful.”  I imagine they were learning how to see, how to listen to the world through the lens, and she was advising them to take risks to become the photographers they were meant to be. I see our opportunity in a similar way, here in our country.

We are learning. We must learn not to be careful…so careful we don’t enter into conversations, we don’t listen deeply to others’ stories and even listen for what is under their words so we can hear what is in our hearts. We are experiencing a huge upheaval in this country. We cannot afford to sweep it back under the rug. We must address this. And, we’re going to mess things up along the way. That I know. It’s what we do when we are learning. But we let our hearts be our guide, we can do this.

For the last twelve years, I’ve felt this internal tug, the call of the Feminine. I truly haven’t known what I’ve been doing or where it would take me. And yet, deeper than all of that doubt was the knowing that everything that was happening to me was taking me closer and closer to what is real within. And, closer and closer to a lived knowing of our interconnectedness.

The feminine holds everything, loves everyone. She doesn’t discriminate. She weaves and connects us all together. She is the weaving. As the feminine rises, as She awakens, She is trying to weave us back together…to wake us up to this beautiful, vast, numinous Mystery that is at the heart of our existence.

 

Then, while digesting,

Life proceeded to show me what I was really longing to know. Something Oriah Mountain Dreamer shared on Facebook led me to read this interview by Tami Simon of Sounds True with James Finley. Finley is a master of the Christian contemplative way. As I read these words from Finley, I was stunned…

“… and then the big life-changing event for me, which was a little thing- It’s one of these things: I was at the monastery, and Thomas Merton gave me permission to spend some time alone in an abandoned sheep barn, and I would go up into the loft of this abandoned sheep barn, and the doors of the barn were always open and looked out over this meadow. It was in Kentucky, it was very hot, and I was walking back and forth, saying the Psalms. The experience, to me, was that what we tend to think of as the air is literally God, that I was walking back and forth through God, breathing God. There were no emotions connected with it. There were no images. It was like a matter-of-factness to the divinity of air.

I don’t know how else to say that. It was just that I was walking back and forth through God, breathing God. And it was clear to me that, no matter where I would try to run from God, I’d be running away from God, in the God that I was breathing and was sustaining me. And this air, this oceanic God that I was breathing, knew me through and through and through and through as compassion, just endless compassion without boundaries. It was just-I know no words to describe it.”

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…stunned because this is exactly what I experienced in India in 2006. Walking along the river Ganges in Varanasi, I had the same experience – I was breathing in God because God was in the air – God was the air, God was everywhere. And in this experience, just after experiencing it, I used the word God to describe it, which for most of my life I had not. 

As I read James’ words, my entire body shivered with this memory, and as I looked out into my living room where I was sitting reading, I could feel that I was swimming in God…inside and out. I had the experience, again, that there was no need to run toward, or away from, God because everything is God. There was no more looking for God, or for Love, because everything is Love. Everything. Inside. Outside. No more distinction between the two.

I stood up to look out my window as the sun was beginning to rise over the city. Everything outside my window was God, and not the God that I learned as a child – a man on a throne – but God as Life. Inside and outside, everything was God.

I suddenly felt compelled to go outside, to walk to the park to see the sun rise…to stand at the top of the steps to witness it.

Within minutes,

Dec0114Sunrise01I was standing atop the many steps as the sun began to peek through. I recalled what Oriah shared:

What would it look like to give my heart/myself away
in love with every word, every sentence, every story?”

And, as I stood watching this sunrise unfold over the next
fifteen minutes, I could feel how the Mystery, this Great Love, was giving itself away, offering itself as this gift of a sunrise.

With each breath, I was offered this gift. 

Everything given. Everything offered completely, given away completely.

No taking was necessary on my part, because it was, and always is, given, offered completely, wholly, holy.

I walked to the local cafe for tea, and sat outside on the bench watching people pass by, and the most remarkable thing happened, but not remarkable at all, really. My heart was blown open and as I looked out my eyes I knew God was watching the world through my eyes. I could feel the love of Life for Life, for each person, each being, each particle, each cell. There were no fireworks, no bells and whistles. There was only Love for everything being witnessed. There was no me, no them, no separation, yet there was still my humanness experiencing this profound Love for everything I was taking in from this spot on this bench.

“Infinite Love that gives itself away with every breath.” 

Infinite Love being given with every breath.

“The experience, to me, was that what we tend to think of as the air is literally God, that I was walking back and forth through God, breathing God.”  

Infinite Love being received with every breath.

And then, two days after this profound experience, I heard the news, and saw the words, over and over and over,

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

 

We are both givers of this Infinite Love and receivers of this Infinite Love.

And yet, we learn to choke this Divine breath from another.

We learn to leave each other, dying, alone.

Life doesn’t give itself away to only some. Life gives itself away to each one of us, to every being, to all of Life.

The path of the sacred heart, the path of Love, is not about not being angry. Anger is the fuel for change. Anger that rises up out of the depths of this great Love that breathes us is one of the most powerful catalysts for creativity if we feel it within ourselves and listen for what it underneath it. It can be the most powerful creative impulse. I have been feeling mine and I know it is fuel to help us make change in the world. 

I know of one powerful being who threw a righteous fury in a temple when He could no longer take the injustice.

How do we move forward?

As Oriah wrote,

“What would it look like to give my heart/myself away in love” with every choice I make?

And these words from my good friend, Megan McFeely, who recently wrote this powerful piece:

“I believe we are all empowered…our work is right inside us. An evolutionary impulse is living through us because life demands freedom for all. It is our birthright and we have the power to act.”

“Life demands freedom for all. It is our birthright and we have the power to act.”

This IS ‘an evolutionary impulse’. Life is trying to weave us back together.  

Life is breathing us awake.

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Re-Knitted | Poetry

by Julie on November 22, 2014 · 2 comments

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Re-Knitted

Earth-wined me.

This image of being earth-wined
causes the words to stop flowing,
the image so powerful
my soul must stop to drink it in,
this purple sun syrup
flowing down my throat.

I smell earth in this syrup and taste earth in its pearls.

My skin reeks of earth.
Stained.
Re-knitted. Yes.
To my Body. And Her Body.

The Crow outside caws as I sit with pen in hand and earth in mouth.

She, too, is re-knitted back to me.
Crow. My Sister.
Black and wise and crosser of thresholds,
She takes me down into the Belly
where I’m stained by this heady earth wine.

She caws loudly,
reminding me of the pleasure of the dark,
this place where my true baptism takes place.

Another voice rises up out of the crow’s mouth,
a black womb with wings and beak.

Just a whisper, at first,
I crane my neck to hear.
Words, if you can call them that,
rumble around in this black womb.

Coming into being,
they vibrate and reverberate against
the  ageless black-stained walls of this holy womb.

I draw closer to the Crow’s mouth,
wanting to miss nothing.
With one shrill caw She sucks me in and
I fall into this heady soup.

I swim in her dark-stained belly.
I become crow’s lunch.
I decay into a million pieces of black,
holes that hold the light of a trillion stars.

(C) Julie M Daley

::

Image is ‘As the Crow Flies’ by Jimmy Brown under Creative Commons 2.0

Many new poems were born out of the first circle of Writing Raw, both for myself and for the women in the circle.
This one I’m sharing with you today was born during Writing Raw.

The poem that ignited this piece is A Berry Entire by Pattiann Rogers.
Catalyst phrases from the poem
are ‘purple sun syrup’ and ‘earth-wined’.

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Today is a day of celebration!

 

A day of celebrating women’s voices being heard, trusted, scribed, and released. We’re celebrating Amy Palko, and her new book of poetry, From Revolutionary Lips.

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Today, I hosted a Live Google Hangout with Amy so we could talk about her newly released book of poetry (the recorded video is below), and about the revolution itself, a revolution of descent, desire, and – following Lilith’s example – leaving the confines of a systemic structure that is too small to hold the power of the feminine as she truly is.

During our chat, we talked about many things, including poetry that comes from this deep place within, what I call writing raw; how to compassionately get your work into the world in the way that is kind to you and that calls upon your sisters to help bring your voice into the world; and how we as women are mirrors for each other, and as we uncover aspects of ourselves that have been veiled and exiled, and shine them into the world, we offer a clearer image of who we all are as Woman.

You can purchase From Revolutionary Lips at Red Thread Voices as an ebook or MP3s.

 

   

 

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Amy Palko is the creatrix of Red Thread Voices – a publishing house that aims to offer a home to the voice of exiled feminine.

She is also a goddess guide, poet, photographer and lecturer whose work has been featured internationally.

Amy lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband and three teenage children, in their home that overlooks the deep harbour, and the wide mouth of the River Forth as it opens up to swallow the cold waters of the North Sea.

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