Tending to others, whether it's professionally or personally, takes energy and capacity. When we tend to others, we also require tending ourselves, it's a non-negotiable. We can only tend to others with the capacity that we have for others to tend to us. Each one of us is an interdependent being - we require giving and receiving to get the most out of life. So who are the beings that tend to you while you tend to others?
This is even more important if you are a liminal space holder - leaders, teachers, creatives, coaches, healers, and spiritual seekers. You are visible but also in a position of seclusion and aloneness - the only teacher in the room, the CEO of a company, a solo-entrepreneur, the healer in the room, the artist in the studio, and the coach who lifts up and inspires others. Who tends to you?
We often don't speak of the loneliness and isolation that liminal space holders feel. We've lumped it into, "we are doing something wrong - it must be fixed" instead of acknowledging that it is part of the job description. Visibility isolation is real and can be soothed by deeply connecting in a sacred way behind closed doors, confidentially and privately you allow yourself to be seen.
We can share the power we have - flatten our institutions, inspire others to tap into the power within, be client centered, and lift others up and still there is space between us. There must be to embrace the in-betweenness that require us to do our job. We hold the long visions and the paradoxical embodiement that reflects for others their own determination & beauty.
My invitation is to embrace the whole vocation of liminal space - reach out for support and embody the in-between. Find that trusted being who can tend to the wholeness of you, while you tend to others.
Equinoxes, the midpoint between the two extremes, the solstices. Here above the equator, we are heading into fall. The leaves are beginning to turn and drop, the air is a bit crisper, and our energies are starting to turn inward. At the same time, below the equator the grey begins to clear, foliage is returning, and awareness grows outward. Both points, two sides of the same coin.
This year I have been pondering the symbiotic nature of the equinoxes of the world. While fall and spring appear so different, presenting as opposites, in reality, letting go and emerging work together to form the rhythm of life. Each one feeds the other. I envision the leaves dropping, seeping their nutrients into the ground and re-emerging into the flowers in the Southern Hemisphere and the reverse happening when it's Spring Equinox here. This interconnected nature of what was planted in the spring is coming to harvest, and what was harvested and given space to rest is ready to emerge anew. And the equinox is the still point between the two halves, a sliver of balance among the waves of change that never end in the natural world.
And during these seasonal changes, I am reminded of the many times in my life where my insides didn't match what was happening externally. I was in winter when it was outwardly summer, or in spring when it was fall. During these times I took comfort in the possibility of a new season and the honoring of my own rhythm, even if it didn't look as it was supposed to.
Rhythm is our anchor. We sync up with it, we attune to it. And this attunement doesn't even need to be conscious. Andrew Huberman, has a wonderful podcast that explores the inner state of our being, from the chemical to the emotional, and the research has caught up with what humans have known, we are linked. Our heart rates mimic each other and our breathing syncs up with those we are with. We can register the internal state of others, all unconsciously, and what we register our bodies begin to turn towards. We are linked the way the trees have root systems that reach out and support each other. Not only can we be connected to each other in this elegant way, we can attune to ourselves and our own inner rhythm by a tool we have with us all the time, our heart. Sensing our hearts for our own rhythm can be a freeing anchor when the world around us swirls. And with our heart sits our lungs, the air element that resides in us. And we can bring our awareness to our breathing and notice it. And the noticing will change our breath...no effort required other than attention.
These touchpoints of the seasons, the equinoxes and solstices, are moments that call our attention outside of ourselves. To look up from our lives and orient to what is here, now. And what is here, is the natural world's moment of balance. Two days out of 365 are moments of complete balance, and after this, either daylight or nighttime will begin to expand. Might we take a cue from the natural world and relinquish the perfectionist drive for balance? The scales of Libra are never fully still, and this moment of natural balance will fade with the sunset. I invite you to reorient to rhythm and see how that anchors you in a way that is different from balance. Rhythm makes room for what is present right now, and will continue to make room for the present, again and again. Balance is fleeting while rhythm is change and constant in one beautiful energy. May we all connect to the rhythm of OUR season and let the winds of change be our heart’s desire.
QUESTION FROM READER: "Why do some items take once, others a few times and some go on forever despite working on it constantly? Frustrating when you hit it from every direction and every practice you know and it still comes back. The Spiral answer of going deeper each time gets old and is there an end or is it bottomless? Some issues seem the end comes quickly and others are a bottomless pit. It would be nice to have a discussion around it."
VL: It's been a year and a half of sitting with this question. I'm not sure we have an answer that can be satisfactory so here is an offering that may have some usefulness in shifting perspective.
SPIRIT: What do you consider a long time? Is that a long time for your personality or your soul? Could your healing be over a life time or many life times? Why the rush?
We can imagine getting the same answer each time does get old, might we suggest looking at location instead? Are you the same person each time the problem arises? Are you in the same location - geographically, in space, in your life? Would it be possible to ask yourself to review the problem from your current location now as if you had a fresh set of eyes (and tools) to review it from?
While from your vantage point somethings end quickly, have you gone back and asked your past selves if this is true? Maybe that ending was a continuation from another time and you just witnessed the tail end? And lastly maybe the problem isn't asking to be "hit" from every direction, but whispered to, that it is ok it has shown up, even if it is a downtrodden, weary traveler from a foreign land that is looking for a new way forward. For example, it needs a new wardrobe, fresh food, beauty, and the empathy that life is difficult, but they have found a place to land for the moment. And yes the houseguest may show up again and again. Not because you have failed, instead because you teach it something new, you offer it care and love, you welcome it when others would be destroyed by it.
Healing in your culture has been made to look a certain way. It has been taught that there is an endpoint and a cure for everything, instead of a more gentle approach. What would it have been like if you had been raised with teachers that shared with you their own healing journey that spanned lifetimes? What would it have been like if your community didn't push you to heal as manipulation to be a certain way? What if your culture understood time and space for healing is much longer than human time? What if you could complain about your suffering without a continual invitation to fixing, but instead be met with a deep compassion for the suffering as all humans will suffer?
This is our long way of saying zoom out which is not the same as deepen. It can lead to depth but in a different way and texture. Zoom out to see the interlocking spiraling wheels of your lives. Zoom out to give more spaciousness and time for you, your soul, and your suffering. Zoom out not to "hit it" with every practice but to just observe it. Observe it with beginner's eyes as though you are meeting yourself for the first time. How would you treat you the stranger? Certainly there is more to say on this topic. But we feel we have said enough for the moment.
VL: First, how funny they picked ZOOM as the answer...cue the groans. Second, I want to clarify, the weary houseguest they are speaking of is not trashing your house or harming you. That is a clear line that it is them and their issue and not you. (See Toko-pa's blog post, Everything is a Mirror, Until It's Not for a brilliant teaching on this).
We are not healing in isolation. Society does have a hand in our healing. We have family, friends, work, and other institutions that impact our wellbeing. And much of our world isn't set up for us to heal, what we are set up for is curing; quick, fast, and definitive. Curing certainly has a place in life, but it isn't the only endpoint for healing. Healing which may lead to curing, often takes more time, space, and boundaries and those energies aren't our cultural strong suit. Healing is swimming against this cultural current. Maybe it isn't you, but society that isn't getting the memo it needs.
Healing takes WAY more time than we as a culture think it should. I wonder what it would be like to acknowledge this societal layer as a part of your healing journey? What if you said in some form "This piece of healing that I'm needing isn't me needing to change or fix me, but it's some outward structure that I don't have any control over?" Or "this piece of healing/resolve that I am needing goes against a societal structure (family structure) and I have limited impact on that structure. How can I increase my capacity to be in this challenging space?" I believe these are relevant questions to ask, even if our pain and suffering is physical. We have a back pain or neck pain or foot pain. There's still structures that are in place that impacts our well being, that requirement us to sit at a desk or work, or to shower and get ourselves to a workplace and then when we get there we can only be half of ourselves. That all takes effort and brain capacity. And I don't think we recognize that enough in our world.
In closing to your question, gentle reader, I want to offer gentleness to you. I want to offer compassion to you. I want to offer grace to you. I firmly believe you have all these things. I hear the weariness in your question. I feel your urgency to get on with the goodness and joy of life. And I believe so much and have witnessed it, that we don't need to accomplish healing (or health) to have these things. Suffering and pain is an overrated teacher, this is what my teacher has said to me again and again and I agree. Maybe the learning is the joy between the suffering and that this joy is as tenuous and tender as the places that suffer and are in pain. Life is learning without a test to past or a next level to attain. Life is one big laboratory not a lecture hall. We come here because this is what our souls long for. We are the hungry ghosts for knowledge that is bigger than our personalties and these bodies can hold. Yes this plane is a bottomless pit of learning, may we find our way to enjoy it as the endless buffet our Spirit companions do.
In humble service and with an inadequate answer, I bow to your question and your willingness to speak from your heart.
QUESTION FROM READER: I have been on a spiritual hiatus, so to speak, for a few years and find it hard to motivate myself to get into practice again.
VL: I have so much to say on this topic - but I think Spirit says it better. I will say that there are many times in my life that I have been on what looks and feels like a spiritual hiatus and that couldn't be further from the truth. My practice just shifted to be more internal and woven throughout my daily life. My practice went into the doctor's office with me, the MRI machine, the operating room when I had surgery, while driving, showering, sitting at my computer, etc. Others have carried it into a loved one's hospital room, chemo therapy, and to the DMV.
My practice became praying throughout my day, and whispering to the wind with no answers. My practice became 5 more secs and one more breath. My practice is losing hope and faith again and again and then finding it.
The purpose of ritual and ceremony at the beginning of the journey is to learn and grow. And then somewhere the ritual becomes more internal, you become the ritual. I still do rituals and ceremonies now, but they look very different in my private life. They are simpler and more subtle, but more potent in my experience. I do miss my former spiritual practice at times, but I also know it's not what I need at the moment.
And like all practitioners, I have gone through periods where the silence of Spirit is deafening. My frustration at being able to hear for other's and not myself was maddening. But I learned that sensing for others was sensing for myself. And that sucky in-between of working and waiting as things take shape happens to everyone that is devoted to The Mystery. We are cyclical beings, and our spiritual lives are as well.
SPIRIT: Oh dear, this is a common process in spiritual life. Can you think of it as though your process has changed to be more internal and quiet which needs a different type of motivation? Throughout spiritual life practice changes based on needs and capacity and that is ok. Might it be useful to explore what is spiritual practice for you now? Is it more simple and elegant - walking with the trees, drinking a cup of warm liquid, tending the flowers, reading, creating, working, resting when your body needs to? These are all spiritual practices simply because you are a spirit doing them.
If your question is about longing for a deeper connection and the greed that your practice has gone dormant, might we suggest speaking to spirit while you do your earthly things? Whispering hello to the trees, speaking to the soul of your animals (if you have them), saying hello to the birds, speaking to the Spirits that surround you - even if you can't sense them at the moment. Ask them, beg them to come and be with you. That you long for them. And if it troubles you deeply, seek help. There is no shame in being able to sense for others but not yourself in this moment. Seek assistance to hear your own unique spiritual medicine for the moment. Find assistance that won't overwhelm you and will be gentle in their understanding that a tea light is as potent as a bonfire. And look within, your practice is still there, wintering, and when the snow has melted it will return.
VL: The basics never fail me. They continue to teach me and be a source of strength and renewal when I need it. The foundation of any ritual are the elements. Fire, water, air, earth, mineral, and the natural world including the animals. I speak to these elements with the belief they are listening and without the expectation of an answer. I believe it pleases them to be seen and heard, like it pleases me. And therefore I have done a good deed. On hiatus, when no tool or ritual seems to be right, return to the foundation of magic, along with the element of time and let it reawaken you.
Thank you for your beautiful statement that held so many questions and possibilities within.
The summer solstice is this weekend for us in the northern hemisphere. It arrives in all its noisy, life-affirming cicada swarming glory here in the southwest of Ohio. The themes of the solstice - abundance, fertility, physicality, and vitality - are clearly noticeable in the natural environment. The cicadas have been a force to experience. The noise reaching to 100 decibels in our backyard, their wings catching the sunlight as they search for connection, and the piles of skeletons at the base of trees are an in-your-face reminder of the cycle of life. It’s been a rapid reminder that nature is the ultimate embracer of change and multiplicity.
Since the spring equinox in March, we have seen lots of change in our collective experience. Mask mandates lifted, restaurants back to capacity, travel is on again, and gatherings of family and friends are coming back to our calendars. Last week I led an in-person masked meditation for a business retreat. It was lovely to see the group re-orient to being in person and it was also an honor to create space for the group to process what they had gone through in the last year and a half. Among the joy of re-opening is the grief of the lives lost and those still suffering from the impact of the pandemic - physically, emotionally, financially. We have been through a collective experience and it will take some time to process the meaning of its impact. Some of us may be ready to rush headfirst into this new phase and others may need more time to orient to this new normal. What can be certain is that each one of us will experience change. And that change may bring us together or find some drifting off into new directions. There is always a new normal to approach. Such is the rhythm of life.
With the arrival of the summer solstice, we are reminded that everything in life depends on motion and change. The natural wheel turns continuously with small, consistent shifts that we hardly notice until WOW it's still daylight at 9pm. Solstice is the longest day of the year. Daylight dominates and then with the dawn of the new day we will begin the shift to less daylight and longer nights. Subtle, nuanced, small - sometimes indiscernible - action is nature’s way. What nature is not is binary - the wheel isn’t a straight line where we jump from solstice to solstice. Instead, nature is in continuous change. And when we tune into those changes, subtlety and nuance return to our world. The natural world models for us how to embrace the wholeness of who we are - abundant, life-affirming, vital, and multidimensional beings.
We aren't binary or one-dimensional - so why do we accept society's reductionist views of ourselves?! We are embodied souls with an abundance of complexity inside us. When we diminish ourselves to this or that we create a world that diminishes not only ourselves but others as well. How much we are in touch with our own emotions, depth and humanity is how much we can connect to another. If there are places we are afraid to go within ourselves, we will not be able to companion another when they find themselves in a similar albeit unique space. What would it mean for our natural world and our communities if we embraced our complexity and wholeness? How much more dynamic and engaging our world would be?! How would it be to know that all of you is welcome and not have to cut off parts of yourself to belong? Nature doesn’t ask us to do that, why do we do it to ourselves and others?
This summer solstice I invite you to use nature as your inspiration for life. Small steps, giant-every-17-years-steps, silent slithers, 100 decibel sirens, fertile underground life, colorful above ground blooming, soaring to cloud heights, burrowing underground, skeletons buried at the base of trees - what is it your soul desires in this embodied life? What does it whisper to you as you wake or lie down to sleep? What lies dormant in you that asks to be spoken, created, or shared? What needs to be given to the fire, the water, the land, or the clouds? Now is the time to tend to your inner world - in its full majestic splendor while our outer world is filled with the energy of change. Let nature guide you as you embrace the inner and outer dimensions of yourself so that you and your communities, lineages, and trusted and honored ancestors can flourish and be free.
Spring Equinox - a time when the day and the night are in balance for one moment, and then the wheel turns again. How many of us strive for the perfect balance when Nature shows us that it doesn't exist but for a moment? Life is precarious, one moment all is well, and the next the biggest hurdle we have come across is in the middle of our path. We jump, we walk or run around it, we bulldoze over it, we examine it closely or pretend like it isn’t there. Maybe some of us hug that hurdle and say a prayer of gratitude or disgruntled words when we meet it and others of us circle back to explore that hurdle for meaning, insight, and guidance. But that hurdle in our wake shifted the currents and forward in a new way is what calls us.
Spring holds the energy of May I Be Open for us to witness, emulate, and ponder these words for ourselves on our journey. May I Be Open asks us to be open to what arises within us with compassion and curiosity. May I Be Open invites us to explore what is opening inside us, even if it challenges us and make us a bit more uncomfortable. May I Be Open is a call for discernment, to be in a new way with boundary and stability. May I Be Open invites us to renegotiate our new life. May I Be Open isn’t a call to be a scapegoat, a dumping ground, or to share when it isn’t safe and welcome to do so. May I Be Open isn't anyone's business but your own. May I Be Open is a tender inner call to soften to a new way of life, a new experience, a new paradigm that aligns with your soul’s journey. It is a quiet, tender call like the new shoots of a dear plant that you want to protect from the elements.
May I Be Open is a whisper to the universe that we are resilient, we are hopeful even in the face of despair, that we will put one foot in front of the other - even if we have to scoot it forward because we are too afraid to pick it up or drop to our knees because the ground needs to be closer. This isn’t a lion’s roar, but a call inward to all your aspects that may be trembling from the last year or lifetimes, that even if the outside world’s constitution isn’t welcoming, that our inner constitution is.
May I Be Open is the spellcrafting that the new buds and leaves bring to the world during this moment of renewal. Let it work its subtle, nuanced, shapeshifting magic inside you so in turn it may restore our world.
Many Blessings, Valerie
Living a spiritual life in our modern world is a layered experience. We need to hold the individual and all of their layers, society and all of its facets, the levels of reality, and the cycle of action and reflection deepening in daily life. There are a lot of subtle moving parts to account for and tend to. In many traditions this is not an individual experience. But in a society where spirituality is quantified and turned into a commodity our spiritual lives are often broken into parts instead of honored in its infinite layers. Instead, we are encouraged to be spiritual on our own time and individually.
But we are wired for connection. Connection to Self, other humans, Spirit, nature, and the unseen world around us. We need help interpreting our symbolic selves & holding the paradox that is life. We need spaces where we can ask questions freely, share vulnerably, and process openly. We need people and places that tend our souls and hold space while we do the deep, subtle work of our Spirit & Souls.
Winter Solstice is here for us in the northern hemisphere. The longest night is upon us and then just like that the wheel will turn to bring us a molecule more daylight with each new dawn. Already weary from the pandemic and it's high cost of life, distance, and uncertainty many of us are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. But what if just for this moment you steadied yourself where you are and surveyed the way you have just journeyed? This season is one big threshold - first the solstice then the new year - and threshold's give us the opportunity to look forward and backward while also remaining in the present moment.
Many of us are tired - we were fatigued before this year began and now the constant stress has challenged us. Winter is the time for rest, and this year, it seems we have been given the opportunity to really tap into the winter season's essence. Learning to rest is no easy lesson, and one that our culture doesn't often support. Rest can take many forms beyond nightly sleep (and naps :-). Rest can look like lounging, creating, meditating, bathing, healing, dreaming, etc. Rest is giving our bodies, minds, and spirits time and space to luxuriate in what feels good and nourishing.
So on this sacred day - the longest night - my invitation is to rest and dream. The future will be here soon enough without any effort from us. May you be safe, may you know shelter, and may you find refuge in this time of transition & renewal.
National Day of Mourning
"Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole's Hill in Plymouth to commemorate National Day of Mourning on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their cultures. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience."
~ Plaque Erected by the Town of Plymouth on behalf of the United American Indians of New England
Thanksgiving this year feels especially complex and multilayered, which isn’t unlike life. As in past years, the theme of gratitude and the plethora of sale emails have been permeating the last several days. But this year isn’t like other years. The CDC asks us to limit gatherings and not to travel, a pandemic has taken precious loved ones from us, many are struggling to put food on the table, and society is at a cultural turning point. This feels like the perfect time to practice embracing life as the paradox it is.
The tableau of Thanksgiving is rooted in historical misrepresentation and societal expectations. Throw in a pandemic and this year's Thanksgiving is likely something most of us haven't experienced. Maybe you are enjoying the holiday without the pressure to gather or go from house to house, or possibly you are mourning the loss of your traditions and are looking forward to a time when life "returns to normal." There is room for everyone in the emotional continuum of the day, which I hope also includes some learning and unlearning around the historical roots of the holiday. I write this newsletter on the land of the Myaamia, Shawnee, and Osage Peoples along with the Indigenous people of the Hopewell and Adeena whose earthworks are visited throughout my area. We live on land that is steeped in community, honoring, and conflict. For many, this is not an easy part of the holiday to reconcile. But that doesn't mean we have to turn away. As Glennon Doyle says "we can do hard things." In my continued learning around the holiday, I came across the National Day of Mourning. The words on the commemorative plaque is above. I share these words because of the clarity of the heartfelt, reality-cutting message. We can do hard things and not turn away from the historical realities of day. We have the ability to embrace and honor the complexities of this day. Maybe in addition to gratitude we can also make Thanksgiving a day of learning and reverence.
I want to acknowledge that this year may be especially hard due to the loss of traditions and the loss of loved ones that we will never kiss and hug again. The personal grief compounded by the urgency of society to examine our history of enslavement, genocide, and racism is a lot to hold. Now is the time to be kind and gentle with ourselves. Learning and unlearning doesn’t have to happen all at one time. It can be done sip by sip. Contradictory emotions can be experienced at the same moment. Honoring your own complexity gives space to honor the world’s complexity. Simple and complex – life is both. So on this day of giving thanks, I would like to extend my deep gratitude for this community's willingness to show up, do hard things, learn, grow, and provide space for this woman’s most unusual new age musings. And as always, if you need support, I am here. Please reach out.