One of my favorite tarot cards is the tower (you can see it below). I used to be afraid of it: the upheaval, destruction, the lack of control. But now when it shows up in a reading I have equal parts excitement and concern. To the card when it appears I say “thank you. Thank you for being clear and honest with me.” When the tower shows up with its shock, unplanned timing, its tearing down of what seemed to be so stable, it can be hard to orient, to breathe, to take action because the wind has been knocked out of us. When the tower is struck, we react because it is a crisis moment.
AND because the tower is a known card in the deck of life, we can have some safe rails in place when the tower appears. The card is a reminder that upheaval, chaos, renewal is a natural part of life. And for those of us who reside on shaky ground the reminder can be a welcome relief that we aren’t doing anything wrong and we are definitely not alone.
I have been afraid of thunderstorms my whole life. You won’t see me dancing in a storm, or admiring the light show. I am squarely hunkered down when the storm rolls in. But I do not question the usefulness of the storm. It exists for a purpose. A purpose I benefit from even if it doesn’t agree with my system.
For the last several years, the world has seemed like a never-ending tower card. The upheaval in culture, government, and climate. For most everyone the landscape is rocky. And this is the moment to embrace the lessons of the tower.
The card invites us into honesty. It strips away denial and false structures. It asks us to take an honest accounting of what is happening within and around us. What structures appear secure but are hanging on by a thread? What relationships appear strong but the red flags are there? What feelings do you notice again and again but push away? Once we have met the moment with compassionate and tender honesty, we can rebuild, hopefully integrating the wisdom we have learned.
To rebuild after a tower moment is to take Maya Angelou’s words to heart. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” This is a painful experience - we want so deeply to believe in the potential of everyone, and this can harm all involved.
Angelou's amazing gift of insight not only pertains to others and our ability to be an honest witness to their capacity, but we must also be an honest witness to our own. This is a path to enlightenment, liberation, and ultimate freedom. An honest accounting of ourselves and the world around us. Not with the awful truth, but with the compassionate truth. The truth that gives full honoring to each one of us in our most complex and multifaceted essence. Is it possible that what you judge yourself so harshly for is your greatest trait that the world needs?
My wish for us all is that we continue to know ourselves. That we meet ourselves with gentle honesty and a true awareness of our capacity so that we may offer this to others. My hope is when the tower strikes for each of us, some small aspect within you can see it for the gift it can be.
May this season’s storms be tomorrow's growth and stability.
Spring Equinox corresponds with the rising sun (the direction east) and the Aries New Moon (the beginning of the astrological year), an aligned moment each year to begin again. In life each beginning starts with a question - an honest inquiry that sets us in motion. Yet how often do we give energy to crafting the question?
Where in our culture have we been taught to ask a question which is tender and innocent, less critical and snarky? Where have we been taught to ask the questions from the heart (vulnerable and compassionate) as opposed to the “head” questions that fill our learning systems? As we know, the set-up, i.e. the questions, designates the tone for the whole journey.
Humans hunger for answers. We search for answers in books, people, oracles, and inside ourselves. But so often the answers elude us and we get frustrated. And in our frustration we think it must be the wrong book, the wrong teacher, the wrong oracle, etc. What if answers eluding us is due to asking the wrong questions?
All journeys begin with a question. We are often afraid of wise and provocative questions - what path might they lead us down? What hard truths might I have to face? Who would we transform into? Questions are powerful and the refining of our questions is the quickest and most transformative way to uncover the answers that we seek.
What if we honored questions for what they were? A doorway to more questions and a way to cultivate greater curiosity. An inquiry all on their own, whether an answer arises wouldn't be the point. What if we held questions in high regard and not just something that directly moved us to action? How would questions change us if they were not about the answer, but about simply getting deeper and deeper to more questions and therefore more truths?
For many years I had a prayer practice that required several rounds of prayer. Each round started with a question, and each round brought me closer to the answers I sought. At the end of each round I would find myself with a new question - one that was clearer and more refined in regards to what my heart & soul were really grappling with. By the end of the three rounds, I was grateful for the opportunity to improve in my original question. I found that what I considered an impediment to my development often diminished with the wiser questions.
This spring equinox my invitation is for each of us to be open to questions leading to more questions. To invite an abundance of answers through a fertile practice of questioning, and not to halt inquiry simply because one answer has been found. May we all have a practice of inquiry that allows kind, gentle, delicate questions as you would ask a baby bird instead of the stern, task master questions so many of us hear in our internal worlds. May your question be ever wiser and lead you to a deeper knowing of yourself and the world around you.
Imbolc is the time of year between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. This is possibly my favorite time of year, at this time in my life. The balance of day and night, cold with the promise of new growth, and yet still social acceptable to hibernate. Each one of us has a season we favor. Have your favorites changed over time? Mine have and to me this reflection of how and why mine have changed has brought some welcome insights.
When I was young, I would say summer was my favorite - hello, no school and abundant pool time (I love water). As I reached my adulthood, fall was my favorite, the return of school (learning in connection), the crisper air, the vibrant colors, and some of my favorite food flavors in abundance. At some point fall gave way to spring, a season filled with hope and newness.
And now this year, I notice my love for this midwinter point, Imbolc. The trees are still bare, modeling strength in vulnerability, the air is still cold, the night is still abundant, and even with winter still heavy in the air, signs of new growth are visible in the garden. The very tops of the peonies are a few millimeters out of the ground, and daffodil leaves have pierced through the winter beds. This moment, with just the smallest signs of a new season, the tiniest spark, is digestible to my being.
This time is marked by turning towards nature in a variety of traditions: Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day, Groundhog Day, Lunar New Year, Tu Bishvat (the Jewish holiday celebrating trees). Marking this time is as old as we are. May we find comfort in the subtle signs that something new is on the horizon.
My invitation for you during this touchpoint - what are the arcs that you have witnessed in your own being? How many Imbolcs have you witnessed? Where were you 5, 10, 20, 50 years ago during this season? What new majestic caverns have been carved within throughout those eras? Drop by drop is the everlasting way.
Each Imbolc lands differently year after year. When we start to measure our lives by nature's time, we see our evolution in a more spacious and grace filled way. Instead of beating ourselves up for not moving fast enough, or hustling to accomplish, we witness the smaller, deeper changes of the caverns within. And those changes that move at a slower pace, that consider time in long arcs instead of bite size 24 hours, 30 days, 1 year, anchor us again and again into our way, not other people's way.
My hope is this season offers you a gentle reflection of how you have shifted throughout the weather of your life. That you allow yourself to be in whatever season your find yourself in, knowing others have been there before you. And that this Imbolc is the reminder that the smallest signs of life find us when we are deep in wintering.
May the fires burn bright for you during this season of hope and renewal.
Here we stand in the in-between, the doorway from one year to the next. I was born at this in-between time. I was starting life on the last day of the year, when everyone else (except my birthday twins) was closing a chapter and readying to pick up with the new. It is a strange time to have a birthday (in my experience). Lots of energy, lots of expectations, and a celebration where the focus isn’t really on the present but what’s to come when the clock strikes midnight. For me, birthdays are joyous certainly, and they also conjure up deep reflections within. This paradox is much like standing in a threshold - you are neither here nor there, OR maybe you are both here and there.
In my tradition, thresholds are something to be sanctified. We place a ritual object called a mezuzah within our doorframes. This relic for me is a deep reminder that beauty and the divine can inhabit the smallest of spaces. And no matter how small or large a space is, it can be a place for contemplation, connection, and devotion.
At this gate of the new year, I invite you into reflection with me. Not to change anything (you can if you want), but to take account of your life lived. To create space for what dwells inside you: your hopes, dreams, frustrations, disappointments, resentments, insecurities, talents, grief, gifts, and everything else which resides in your being-ness. Where are the thresholds inside you - the places where two emotions, two feelings, two thoughts touch? What is the smallest drop of reverence and devotion you can invite into this internal threshold? What oh-so-very-ordinary, mundane space inside you can you adorn with a sacred, beautiful energy to show how miraculous the ordinary truly is?
I hope as you move into this next year, the threshold is a space where you can leave behind what no longer serves you, and step into the mantle of wisdom, compassion, gentleness, and knowing.
It’s the end of the year and I am tired. Thank goodness it's the season of rest (said no human ever in December, though the natural world in the northern hemisphere would disagree). It has been a year of personal accomplishments and spectacular failures. A year of deepened relationships and relationships lost. And a year of several personal health quagmires and recently a death in the family. My year could be your year. It is a year of being human.
And being human is not a moral failing. We react before we can think, we respond when we are more aware, we hide when we are frightened, we get sick, we mis-communicate, and we perpetually learn what works for us and what is no longer needed. Life is a laboratory where we are continually experimenting and course correcting. But instead of resting in this tinkering, many of us suffer trying to strive for a static arrival.
I don’t want any of us to suffer. But denying suffering isn’t not suffering. It’s denying. Sometimes denial is a much needed survival skill and other times denial is what keeps us from the freedom we seek. To cozy up to denial and willingly take a peak around the corner takes courage and requires deep vulnerability and humility. It takes embracing that we are human. And humans are collective, transitory creatures. Knowing this - how can we rest in this knowing of our ephemeralness, which we spend so much of our lives trying to deny?
One simple way is to remember we and all of our neighbors are part of nature. Not separate from it. The trees shed and we shed. The crops have a cycle and so do we. Each form we take builds upon another and another. The weather is dynamic, the seasons change, animals migrate & hibernate, and the physical ends while the luminescent remains. Surrounding all of this in every nook and cranny is the invitations for joy, engaging our senses, communing with others, celebrating, creating, laughing, weeping, mourning, and above all else being.
So in this pause of the solstice. A marking of time of one extreme before we make our way back to the other end of the continuum, I invite you to pause and give witness to your very human year. Everything you have experienced has been witnessed by the moon, the stars, the trees, and other living creatures. Who has supported you? Where has reciprocity been experienced? Where has there been a falling short? And finally what are you most proud of? And how can you savor the tiniest drop of that pride to help sustain you throughout this season?
For 2023, my wish for us all is a year of being seen and support by those who care for you, a year where you become more you and are welcomed for it, and a year where being human is filled with more ease and joy.
Every year when Scorpio season arrives, I feel as though everyone has entered where I reside. Scorpio is the descent into the underworld, where everything you have squirreled away comes and snuggles beside you. It’s meant to bring comfort, wisdom, and companionship, but instead to so many of us it feels like extreme discomfort. And what do humans do with discomfort? We lean as far away from it as possible. Sometimes that works, and other times it draws the discomfort even closer…ugh.
I don’t believe in a shadow as defined (and categorized) in modern psychological terms. We speak about reclaiming what is in the shadow as though it is separate from us. But for many, what is hidden is what we live with everyday. We know it’s there, but we live in a culture which tells us it’s not safe, kind, pretty, or polite to be a certain way. We have demonized the hidden and then wonder why so many are suffering. In our demonization we have made the exploration of the hidden the exotic other. Those of us which cozy up to the fertile darkness want nothing more than to have the beauty of our gifts seen. However, this othering is damaging, not just to those who dwell in the cave of humanity, but to everyone. When we other our humanity we lose the opportunities to be accepted for our full selves.
Our modern culture with its fascination with light has lost the naturalness of nighttime. Again and again we set up a binary and sort everything into good and bad. This has become so common it is like air and to break this habit (if we even are aware of it) is often to feel as if we cannot breath.
The spiritual discourse that has been co-opted by the wellness discourse hasn’t escaped this binary. The conversation of regulation, attachment, embodiment has become one of a certain state is good and the other bad. Regulation good. Dysregulation bad. Secure attachment good. Disordered attachment bad. Body good, dissociation bad. But you are not a static state. You aren’t able to inhabit just one of these energies for all of eternity. And what your calm “looks” like may not look like anyone else’s calm, because as I have written before, there is no one perfect way to inhabit a nervous system.
We have used the label of wellness to set up impossible standards. Humans cannot be regulated all the time. We will become dysregulated at some point and we should. You will feel insecure in a relationship, that is natural…and then another relationship will come along and you will have a strong attachment. The goal isn’t to hold a feeling, thought, or energy forever…”if I just find calm I will stay calm” is a lie or a myth, whichever is more palatable.
We weren’t made to be non-shifting. We are shapeshifters. We are made to move in and out of states, in and out of connection, in and out of emotions. The invitation is to have flexibility in our way of being…can you be pissed and then return to whatever is calm for you? Can you dissociate and come back? Can you do this again and again and again?
But instead of using our understanding of nervous systems, bodies, and souls as invitations to be more nuanced and complex, we have done the opposite - pathologized everything which in turn means everything now requires an answer. Being human in all its super tender, beautiful, challenging, heart wrenching normalcy has been picked apart and made into something to be fixed. And then we get rightly frustrated when no answer emerges.
But the emergent is often irreconcilable, because life lived is paradoxical. There is no fix for being human. You can’t breathe it away, meditate it away, pray it away. At some point, life will ask you to descend to someplace you don’t want to go. Why not practice each year with the arrival of Scorpio season?
Everyone on this planet is human and at some point each year (seasonally) we collectively descend into the muckness of being human. We can either take a handful of the sludge, bring it close to our face, and with deep humility ask, "what is this?" What is this which we define as gross and unwanted? And what is its sacred and real purpose to our beingness?
While some of us only choose to dip our toe into the underworld every once in awhile, others were born to dwell in this space. We were born of the muck, it is our home, our place of comfort and safety. For many, we haven’t been afraid of the dark, instead we have a deep knowing that in the cave there is aliveness and fertility, and have been shunned for this knowing. This time of year we feel the companionship with the of the rest of the world, even though many are uncomfortable in this space. But I assure you if you are one who is uncomfortable in the muck, there is a hand reaching for you in the dark and whispering “here, take my hand, because my senses are at home in the dark, and until your senses adjust, I can be here with you. To companion you, until you too know the flourishing in this space that needs very little light to reveal its beauty and aliveness.”
May we all have opportunities in this season of magical darkness to shed what burdens us and to re-member what inspires.
This time of year so much comes into focus for me. While I find summer overwhelming to my senses, the fall is a welcome environment of crispness, leaves floating to the ground, and trees shedding leaves to don their winter coats.
This shedding is resonant in me this year. I find myself wanting to clean things up, let go of drains on my capacity, and to rest in the simple. Paradoxically, life often doesn’t provide us with simple. Complexity is rooted in our biology. The dance of life is embracement of ease and complexity.
During fall, the outside world becomes more quiet and simple to the eye, allowing nuance and subtlety to take centerstage. The leaves settle and the veil lifts to another layer of life which may be challenging to tap into at other times. This dance never ends…and pushing against it, well that just feels futile.
Next week with the arrival of Halloween, Samhain, All Saint's Day, Dia de Los Muertos, the season of Spirit has arrived. To me, this time of year feels like returning home, with my friends and companions waiting for me in fullness. Yes spirit is available anytime of year, but the larger energy of the season lessens the drag between the worlds. The outside world is quieter and therefore it is easier to perceive the glimmers of the spirit world.
I invite you into this world. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or effortful. Have an ancestor (which includes non-family members and pets) you care to honor? Light a candle for them and play their favorite song or lay out an offering of their favorite food. Feel a connection to a great Spiritual energy - Christ, Buddha, Kwan Yin, the Burning Bush, the Wailing Wall, the prophets, the Archangels, the Great Spirit, Source, Creator, the Stars, Curiosity, Inspiration - call in the energy to surround you and support you as you go about your day. Thank a tree, say hello to a squirrel, light a fire, soak in some water - and perceive the spirit of these beings. And all the while, notice how you feel, how your mind responds, what arises for you…and then welcome what arises. Simple and deeply complex.
Being a person that carries Spirit we long to connect with Spirit. We are forces that gravitate to each other. This can feel so lonely in a world that limits the definition of Spirit and expects being spiritual to look and be a certain way.
But there is no one way. For every being on the planet inhabits a unique expression of Spirit in our world. We are each unique. And we are each so similar. Not one way. Many ways. And my hope and wish for you this season is for you to find those Spirits you gravitate towards and that they nourish you and companion you, deeply reminding you, you are never alone.
Fall Equinox is upon us here in the Northern Hemisphere. Like any season, there are some that rejoice at its arrival and others that groan at the loss of leaves, the diminishment of light, and the pumpkin spice abundance. Maybe you are a bit of both. Seasons remind us that context matters and isn’t something to be disregarded.
Seasons are an obvious context. Certain seasons invite particular clothing, indoor environments, and available food. A tomato in the winter is not the same as a tomato from the garden in summer. Context matters.
And yet, often when we consider ourselves and other humans we take context out of the equation. We forget about the relationship of culture, lineage, community, family, connections. Is this because these contexts are less overt than the natural world? They certainly are not less important to our survival.
Fall equinox is the invitation to turn inward. It sets up the context for longer nights and the need for more shelter. It is the still point of perfect balance before the wheel turns moving us forward to winter. With this turning, many of us are forced to forget context. Isn’t that what electric lights and alarm clocks are for?!
I am certainly not suggesting we turn away from all of our modernity. I am simply offering an invitation to explore where and when you embrace what context…because of course modernity is one context.
Other contexts that impact our well-being are the environments and communities we were raised in. They leave their mark on us and without sacred tending can simply become part of the background noise. Sacred tending to the air we swim in helps us to become aware of the forces that impact us - much like the seasonal impact. The forces of culture, systemic structures that constrict and oppress, the familial environments that we took to be universal, all of these we carry inside us like collective internal weather patterns.
My invitation to you this equinox is to reflect on the contexts that you acknowledge and those you wish to turn away from. To consider that context may very well be the missing ingredient to your personal growth and inner knowing journey as well as really knowing others. What generosity might come forth if we placed ourselves as well as those we engage with in context? What possibilities and guiding forces may meet us when we tune into the environments that forged us?
My hope is that this season lands gently for you and that the times ahead are filled with self-compassion and your perfect recipe of savory and sweet.
Lammas is a festival marking the grain harvest and is the midway point between the summer solstice and the fall equinox. The standard invitation is to reflect on what was planted in the spring to see what you are harvesting now. And if this is your headspace this year I invite you to check out last year’s post.
My headspace is swirling with thoughts and questions of rest and paring down. “What do you need to let rest?” “What needs to be released?” are a couple questions that come to mind. While these questions on the surface don’t seem to align with the harvest season we are in, the questions are central to land-tending and soul-tending in modern times. The questions at heart are about discernment - making decisions to create environments where the land and humans can thrive.
Contrary to what society wants us to believe (indoctrinated us to believe), we cannot keep producing without rest. A continuous churning of productivity will eventually lead to nutrients lost and burnout both of land and people. We want so much to thrive and often the messaging is to hustle to achieve thriving. But rest is a vital part of the production process and we must tend these boundaries for ourselves in a culture that encroaches on our body-landscapes continuously.
In the Jewish tradition we have what is called Shmita. Every seven years we were commanded to let the fields rest, and in turn, we were released from some of the demands of our daily lives. This seventh year, a Sabbath year, is called Shmita - Hebrew for “release”. In the modern era the Shmita year has become a guiding principle not just for physical land, but also for our inner landscapes. Shmita can take the form of letting our home gardens rest, taking sabbaticals from busy schedules, or simply using discerning questions to help us prune our lives from what no longer feeds us.
How does one let the land rest and still survive? It certainly takes some planning, embracing interconnectedness, and a redistribution of focus. AND when Shmita is followed the land doesn’t rest as much as it’s given the chance to do its own thing. Land still produces without human intervention - it simply and naturally finds it own rhythm and possibilities for growth. It is a year of releasing the land from expectations and bending to human desires. What would your year be like if you gave yourself the same release?
During the traditional time of harvesting what happens in a year when there is nothing to immediately gather? How does taking time to rest and renew feed our relationship to time?
Many lives have returned to the busy-ness of pre-pandemic (though the pandemic isn’t over) and to consider taking a rest so soon after many experienced the pandemic as a forced time out seems a hard NO. As humans we love all or nothing…but there is so much in between. We can rest our bodies, minds, and our land in micro and macro ways. We can rest to discern what has meaning and what needs to be released without putting ourselves in a time out that goes against our nature. You do you.
AND…how do you know you? The you that isn’t cultivated and curated? The you that isn’t trimmed and organized? The you who is like the land left to be feral and free? I would argue one of the ways to answer these soul-touching questions is to give yourself some spaciousness and time…to be like the land in the Shmita year, and see how you grow when returned to your natural way.
It has taken me many years to acknowledge I am not a fan of summer. Heat, intense sunlight, bugs, excessive daylight, the expectation of go-go-go is not my thing. My love of summer revolved around one main thing as a child - no school and that love followed me well into adult given I spent years in education. It feels risky to acknowledge this dislike - so much of our cultural narrative is around the easy-going, freedom, expressive season of summer. Disliking summer is not a popular opinion. But the more I learn about myself the more I realize this season just isn’t my jam. Of course summer isn’t all bad - it’s beautiful with everything in bloom and during the ongoing pandemic it gives a much safer option for gathering in person. So I try to embrace what pleases me with the challenges the season personally brings.
Lately, two new aspects of the solstice have been whispering to me, fresh perspectives from years past. The beauty of tracking the yearly natural cycle for years is witnessing that I never meet a season in the same way from year to year. There is a nuanced, complex relationship that has grown with time. A richness I wish for all of us.
Shelter is the first theme that whispered to me. Informed by the four of wands in the tarot, the card’s image is four posts decorated in beautiful garland - sometimes with a fire in the middle of the posts. The blazing sun of the solstice and the heat invite us to seek shelter from the intensity of the day. The card is one of celebration, reflection, and this year it spoke of shelter and the other theme on my mind - pause.
Pausing at the pinnacle of the natural year is rooted directly in the etymology of the word solstice. “Point at which the sun seems to stand still” is the root of the word. This time of year is a turning point. A milestone I am so grateful to reach simply because it’s the moment the sun begins to reverse course into the fertile darkness of winter. Focusing on the two themes of shelter and pause have given arise to questions that we can use to contemplate the season. I share the reflections as an offering to your solstice celebration.
REFLECTIONS: What does shelter mean to me? What shelter do I require? What shelter do I desire? What other beings do I offer shelter to? How can I comfortably extend shelter to others in need?
REFLECTIONS: When do I pause? When do I ignore the need to pause? What are the factors that contribute to me ignoring the pause (society/people/internal dialogue)? What/who invites me to pause? What is the smallest way I could invite the energy of pause into my life right now?
To me - shelter is my bed with my weighted blanket and a stuffed animal. My cat laying next to me while I work. It is my shower, my back deck, and within the hug of people I love. Shelter offers me a place to be completely myself, to foster a sense of safety inside, and away from many eyes upon me. It is a place free from judgement and built on acceptance. It’s a rarity. And pausing seems to inherently come when I seek shelter - that is the beauty of their connection to each other.
These reflections and energies are not season specific - finding shelter and taking pause are experiences we need throughout our life. Maybe they aren’t themes that are whispering to you right now…I invite you to tuck them away for when the calling for pause and shelter do visit you.
I’m not convinced that we need to be perfectly in sync with the natural world. Rarely has the external season matched with my internal season. Instead of the perfect match - what if we embraced harmony and relationship? What if we gave ourselves accommodations to make it through the season with as much grace as we can muster? The natural world doesn’t force us into just one way. Instead it invites diversity and multiplicity. Show me a plant that thrives without water and we can just as easily find a counterpoint that will wilt without hydration. There is no one perfect way to do the solstice or life. Instead it’s a journey of correspondence and attunement - with ourselves, our communities, and the natural world around us. May we all have the shelter we need and moments to pause in safety and sustenance that the shelter provides.