Ways of Wisdom study circle, spring 2020.
Waking up to where we are
From our social institutions and spiritual traditions to the environment and the future itself, so much in our familiar world is unraveling. What can we learn from each other and the wisdom and practices of the feminine about how to be and what to do in these times?
Biweekly, March 11–June 17, 7:00–8:30 pm.
Contact us with questions.
Arrive a few minutes early so we can start on time. We will begin and end each meeting with a short meditation practice. The focus will be on our own experience, with "sparks" of input from short readings and video clips. Check back before each session for suggested readings and videos.
Dates and topics
March 11. Courage to know
March 25. Radical acceptance
April 8. How then shall we live?
April 22. Leaving the plantation
May 6. Taking refuge
May 20. The way home
June 3. Field of the feminine
June 17. Celebration and looking ahead
Courage to know
We will bring our knowledge and uncertainties about the climate and ecosphere into a brave and gentle space that we will create together. The focus will be on how we're relating to what we know, rather than what may or may not happen. We will watch a short trailer, Once You Know, and share personal moments of waking up and our own ways of being with what we know. We will end with Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen singing Leonard Cohen's Anthem.
Pre-reading: Despairing about the climate crisis? Read this. A conversation with scientist Susanne Moser about climate communication, the benefits of functional denial, and the varied flavours of hope.
Optional pre-reading: Facing Extinction by Catherine Ingram, a 15,000-word essay for those ready for a comprehensive and unflinching overview of "where we are."
Joanna Macy (at age 90) talking about the moment she "knew" in this talk, starting at 3:29.
Before the Flood, a film by Leonardo DiCaprio, 2016
In these days of eery distancing and waiting, our guiding questions becomes even more relevant: What can we learn from each other and the wisdom and practices of the feminine about how to be and what to do in these times? This week we will explore practices related to "radical acceptance"—the gesture of holding a compassionate space for whatever is arising, including uncertainty, fear or anxiety. During our meeting, we will discuss the reading and share practices that have worked for us.
Pre-reading: What Would It Mean to Deeply Accept That We’re in Planetary Crisis? by Dahr Jamail and Barbara Cecil. Published in Truthout, May 27,2019. Reflections on life after death, acceptance, loneliness and "the work of these times." Dahr is a retired journalist and author of The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption. Barbara is author of Coming into Your Own: A Woman's Guide through Life Transitions. She and colleagues have taught workshops for women under the same title around the world, including at the ALIA Institute and Windhorse Farm in Nova Scotia.
These books all integrate Buddhist and Western wisdom, through a feminine lens.
Feeding Your Demons by Lama Tsultrim Allione outlines a 5-step practice for working directly with emotions and "demons."
The Places that Scare You by Pema Chodron
Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach is a treasure trove of advice, stories and practices. The audiobook is free with a 30-day trial of Audible.
How then shall we live?
Now that we have relocated to Zoom, we will use our time together for checking in and discussing what arises, including from suggested readings and video clips.
Pre-reading and viewing:
Another article from the Truthout series by Dahr Jamail and Barbara Cecil, "How Then Shall We Live?" Excerpt: "Our pathway to acceptance of current reality crosses serial thresholds that involve shifts in mindsets and emotional black holes. We recognize these now as gateways into open-ended, unprecedented healing and generative inquiry. This interior work sits alongside the crucial exterior work of building bomb-proof relationships that sustain us in these times, supportive and practical close community, local resilience, and worthy action."
A video clip from a Post Doom interview with Barbara Cecil, starting at 11:30 and ending at 28:45. You may want to just listen to the audio, to avoid the distracting visuals that have been inserted. Barbara imagines the deep feminine, when focused and aligned with natural cycles and flow, as having the potential to shatter destructive systems.
A 5-minute video by Lama Willa Miller, "Council on the Uncertain Human Future." She talks about living in the world we wish to see and turning our attention to the quieter voices we have not heard.
An audio presentation to the Minnesota Men's Conference by Martin Prechtel of the Tzutujil Mayan people on the importance of Grief and Praise, which are the same word in his language. The role of the shaman, the village, and feeding the spirits that are hungry, hurt and in trouble.
Gifts and themes from our meeting:
Noticing earth, grieving loss, beyond concept, sadness, craving contact, gratitude, creativity in the pause, presence of trees, offering to the ancestor/elder trees (photos by Marion).
Article: Finding comfort and connection in hugging trees in times of physical distancing (with thanks to Diane Obed).
Notes from our discussion (thanks to Debra)
- COVID-19 is distance equalizer? closer/more contact with those away
- spring is coming, nature carrying on with its processes
- difficulty with being policed / kept away from nature at this time
- presence of trees
- offerings to the ancestors
- hugging trees
- need wisdom of the elders (Mooji link)
- work of these times not about saving the world, but belonging to it more fully
- individual deaths (John Prine) doorway into wider grief
- pain and opportunity one taste
- what are our inner resources?
- one love, how to spread love, apartness
- relationship of the pandemic to the climate crisis
- Right distance? boundaries?
- reconciliation / importance of greeting
- spaciousness, breath, contemplation
- cycles of creativity, importance of arts, music, books at this time
- returning home to myself, sense of reverence, openness, graciousness, feminine
(vs. hyper-vigilence of racialized people who were often already unsafe)
Leaving the plantation
We continue to explore the wilds beyond the plantation—beyond the clearcut and the logics, speed and exploitation of a world that is now on the brink of bankruptcy and collapse. In these times, what do we need to remember? What guides us in these wilds? Where is our refuge?
Water. Memories and moments of connection with a river, the ocean, rain, the shower. Qualities of movement, stillness, clarity. Blood, wine, ritual, transformation.
The documentary, co-directed by Ann Verrall, Indigenous Knowledge and the Water Grandmother (ending at 17 min.), which is the first in a the Beacon Project series. The Project follows the five-year ecological and reconciliation pilgrimage of filmmaker Dianne Whelan as she travels the 24,000 km trail that links Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans.
Bayo Akolomafe's talk, Is There a Solution to Climate Change? at the Science and Nonduality conference, November 8, 2019.
Optional reading by Bayo:
Coming Down to Earth: Sanctuary as Spiritual Companionship in a Time of Hopelessness and Climate Chaos.
"The ground has withdrawn her endorsement: we are no longer at ease. We now live in fugitive times....The fugitive rejects the promise of repair and refuses the hope of the established order. By clinging to outlawed desires, barely perceptible imaginations, alien gestures, the fugitive inhabits the moving wilds.... Fugitivity is the site of hopelessness, of so-called defeat, of modest bearings and whispered songs. For citizens of the Anthropocene, who must meet the incomprehensibility of the moment, the fugitive’s path glows in the dark. There, where the path in the call to defeat leads, we might come face to face with something deeper than solutions. Something too sacred for words to embrace."
Themes and inspirations from our conversation (by Susan):
Blood spilled on the ground
tears splashing the earth.
Numb. Raw. Angry. Numb again.
What rituals, what offerings
will appease you of the land
you of the wind and rain?
What have we forgotten?
We are lost, homeless.
We supplicate you, our mothers,
sisters, brothers, spirits of remembering.
We need you now.
Below the earth
white threads of mycelium, a web of nourishment.
Above the earth
heart threads, shimmering with light
searching, longing, connecting, holding.
What would it mean to commit?
To stay in relationship
and weave our web of resonance
to join tears and voices in our calling
rest in ordinary
add wood to the wisdom fire
stop trying go anywhere at all.
These COVID times remind us of our profound inter-connectedness and also the cost of forgetting. In our last meeting, we followed the flow of the river and Bayo's invitation to a place beyond fixed ideas and solutions, a place of grief and longing.
When we are overwhelmed in these times, when we lose connection or a place to stand, where can we go for refuge that isn't another form of distraction, withdrawal or denial? As we come together in our circle, let's learn from each other about remembering, reconnecting, rewilding, and creating sanctuary. As part of this exploration, Andrea Currie will share her own story of reconnection to her Indigenous roots.
When you experience fear, anxiety or separation, what do you do to reconnect with an experience of basic ground, okay-ness, wholeness? Is there a place, a ritual, a relationship, a practice, a community you go to? We will share some of these examples in our circle.
Pre-reading, listening or viewing:
Recall a teaching, a poem, a song, or a video that helps connect you to a personal sense of refuge. Read. Listen. Watch.
The way home
What is the wisdom we need to remember and live into, as we find our way home? Here are two Indigenous voices, for inspiration and to further spark our conversations.
Essay by Lyla June, The Vast and Beautiful World of Indigenous Europe. Lyla June is an Indigenous environmental scientist, doctoral student, educator, community organizer and musician of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages from Taos, New Mexico. Also watch her music video.
"The Great Sacred Motherland of Europe is still alive and breathing and waiting for her children to come home! She is waiting for us to ask her for songs so that we may sing to her once again. She is waiting for us to scratch past the surface of time, into the B.C. period when our languages were thriving and our dancing feet kissed the face of the earth. She is waiting. She is waiting for us to remember who we are."
Interview with Stan Rushworth, a Native American Elder of Cherokee descent, member of the Chiracahua Apache Nation, academic, author. This interview is part of a film-in-progress, As Temperatures Rise: Being Human in Troubled Times. The interview is 90 minutes long, so watch however much you can.
"You can't come to the wisdom of how to deal with this level of destruction without doing the hard work. You just can't."
Field of the feminine
As we begin to integrate all that we've learned together, we return to the question of what the wisdom and practices of the feminine reveal to us about how to be and what to do in these times. Barbara Cecil, who co-authored or recommended a number of our readings, will visit our circle and engage with us. Her exploration of this topic began at least at least as early as 1995, with a group of six women who called themselves the Circle of 7. This extraordinary interview with the Circle of 7 by Otto Scharmer in 2003 is timely for us as we begin to go deeper into our own circle practice. We will invite Barbara to reflect on what she's learned over the years about the deep feminine as a force-field for personal and social transformation.
Celebration and looking ahead