A note from Erin:
A few things before today’s writing:
1. We have a fresh new podcast episode exploring Embodying Resilience with Dr. Don St. John. Give it a listen!
2. Registration is open for our amazing retreat in Costa Rica in January! Read all about it and Join us!
On the importance of roots and ripening
“Vitally, the human race is dying. It is like a great uprooted tree, with its roots in the air.
We must plant ourselves again in the universe.” – D.H.Lawrence
When everything feels urgent and like a great big emergency, (and sheeesh, doesn’t it?!) our roots become more important than ever.
I want to invite us to send our roots down deep. Deep into the grounded presence that’s underneath the tumult. Deep deep down into the earth and all she remembers. And deep down into our own heart values.
We can plant our roots back down deep in the earth – the actual earth, right here under us, by feeling it with our bodies and giving our weight to it in this very moment.
We can reach our roots deep into the soil of our heart values. But not if we don’t stop the frantic pace.
We need deep roots so we have presence in the deepest, wisest currents of being, not just the dramatic, choppy waves at the surface.
I keep thinking of a line Donna Farhi wrote decades ago. “The degree to which you do not believe you can spend 10 minutes sitting quietly is the degree to which you desperately need to spend ten minutes sitting quietly.” It’s true. “But everything is an emergency!! I can’t possibly stop!!!” If you find yourself saying that, you absolutely need to pause. Just stop. How about right now for 3 breaths? We need you to.
This rooted stillness is the ground from which wisdom and clarity emerge. If we’re all running around waving our arms and freaking out like the sky is falling, can we really affect positive change? Can we, from a state of uprootedness, see clearly enough to be skillful as we work toward creating the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, to borrow Charles Eisenstein’s lovely phrase?
I don’t think so.
I agree that we must plant ourselves again in the universe.
One way to plant your roots in life is to sit quietly for ten minutes. Be present through your body. Feel, allow, be with anything that’s here to be felt. Bless it. Let it be.
It’s essential to intentionally unplug from the maelstrom for periods of time. Turn your phone off. Don’t look at the news for 48 hours. It will be there when you return. But you will be different. Wiser. More clear. We need you to be.
Through stillness and practice, we can connect with the peace and awareness that is the context of our life experience, the space it all happens in – not just the content of our life experience, the sometimes awful and dramatic stuff that is happening. This is so important.
Is this an invitation to bypass the challenges and just float off in our personal peace bubble while the world burns? Most certainly not. It’s an invitation to make sure we establish deep roots so we don’t topple.
It’s an invitation to expand our capacity to hold tension and discomfort and make room for nuance without freaking out. It’s an invitation to deepen our roots into sanity and presence.
Francis Weller shared that at a recent grief ritual, Joanna Macy, a true elder of our times and such an inspiration for me personally, attended. At one point, she lay on her belly, weeping and wailing into the earth, for the earth, for all of us, for all of it. Right now, I want to join her there on the ground.
I think of Michael Meade pointing out that an early meaning of the word “evil” is “unripe.” How apt that is!!! How unripe so many of our political leaders are. And not only them. How much we need personal and cultural ways of ripening. And rooting.
I think of Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave The Red Hen restaurant. I think about our friend Don St. John talking in our recent podcast conversation about how the quality of our bodily tissues reflects the quality of our relationships (and vice versa.) And I realize how I could so easily get on the side of those who feel really good about justifying the lack of manners because, well, children in cages….
But when I do that, I feel my tissues getting hard – my chest and gut and my jaw clench – in a way that I don’t like. When I soften instead, I have to feel the ache. I’ll keep trying to choose the ache of a broken heart over the ache of self-righteous hardening. I don’t really want to live in a world where we celebrate meanness – even toward mean people.
I like better how my heart feels when Michelle Obama says, “When they go low, we go high.”
I’m thinking of Gandhi, that gentle little man whose clarity and fierce commitment to spiritual integrity had (and still has) such a big impact on the world. And I think of the quote one of my teachers attributed to him: “The means you use must embody the end you seek.” You can’t bomb your way to peace. Neither can you bypass struggle and shadow to get to peace. And I think how this is one of the most essential pieces of wisdom I’ve heard in a lifetime spent dedicated to seeking wisdom.
Charles Eisenstein wrote: “In a perverse sort of way, by refusing to hate, we are committing a kind of betrayal. We are betraying hate itself; we are betraying the Story of the World that pits good versus evil….”
We are being called to ripen beyond these illusory binaries: Good and evil. Right and wrong. Us and them. What if they’re simply not true? What if the truth is far more complicated, messy, entangled, nuanced?
Charles goes on, “Let us be wary of any revolution that isn’t threaded with an element of play, celebration, mystery, and humor. If it is primarily a grim struggle, then it may be no revolution at all.” Have you also been prioritizing play, humor, and beauty? How pleasurable could our engagement with it all be? Why not live into that question?
Martin Prechtel says that all war is unmetabolized sorrow. Don’t you know, in the dark nooks and crannies of your heart, that it’s true? And so shouldn’t we get on with the necessary work of metabolizing our grief?
I don’t mean fixing it, or figuring it out, and certainly not getting over it, but perhaps apprenticing ourselves to it. Can you imagine us all there, with Joanna Macy, lying on our bellies on the ground, weeping our guts out, fertilizing the earth with a rain of tears? Can you imagine how tender we’d be afterward? How we might stand up, all soft-hearted and with messy hair and tear streaks on our cheeks and hug each other – even across the widening divides…. like those enemy soldiers exchanging Christmas gifts in the no-man’s zone in World War 1.
Maybe today’s ongoing awfulness is the core ground of our ripening humanity.
A cultural initiation.
Maybe we can meet it as such.
With our roots deeply planted, with our deepest intentions guiding our next steps, with our hearts achingly tender.
The grief can be so hard to open to, and then even harder to stay with when we feel we’d like to be done with it. And we don’t ever even get to know if we’re “doing it right,” but hey – Rumi told us about that field out beyond ideas of right and wrong and he invited us into it and I think it’s high time we accept the invitation. Let’s go into that field and lie on our bellies and weep, so afterwards, we can dance again. So we can live courageously with our hearts open. So the future beings can live. And so just like the little green pinecones at the top of the tall pines, we can do what needs to be done and even dare to make it beautiful.
Embodying the ends we seek every step of the way.
So it begs the question:
What are the ends you seek? What is the more beautiful world YOUR heart knows is possible?
Tell us about it. Then let’s create it. And live it. Together.
Maybe we can plan to revel in our failures as we try to make this more beautiful world rather than reveling in the temporary satisfaction of hard-hearted righteousness.
As Pema Chodron says, “The future is completely open. We are writing it moment to moment.” We each carry that power. Right in this very breath.
With great love,
p.s. Don’t miss my next Answering the Call of Our Times workshop in late July. It not only helps us bring our medicine to the world, it’s good medicine for our own souls. If you’re called to join, let me know. Good happens when we come together to live into the questions…..
Here are a few resources you may appreciate:
From Together Rising: