Hearth and Home Vol 19: You Don’t Have to Share

Foundations

H

e went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed of any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness.” From Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol share

Lunching with two good friends last Spring, our conversation turned naturally to house and home. Spooning gobs of guacamole into Baby Heath’s happy and very large mouth, I bemoaned the fact that I was sure our house was too small for my two big strapping boys. They are both in the 99th percentile in each age bracket for height, weight, and head size. I mean, are we going to have to get a meat locker to meet their ‘feed-me-Seymour’ style appetites? But the thing was, I said, we really did not have a true third bedroom, so obviously we would need to move. Right?

Both of the women laughed and spoke in rapid Spanish that I couldn’t follow. This was, they explained, one of the American attitudes that were a particular puzzle to them, having grown up in Mexico. They could not understand why Americans were so determined to have every child in a home have their own room. It wasn’t because this attitude was privileged or spoiled or ridiculously luxurious that they took issue with it. They just thought that putting a child in his own room seemed so very lonely for the children.

They went on to tell me that in Mexico, even in grand and large houses, the children would naturally all come together in one room, sleep together, tell stories, sneak sweets – in short, do all of the things that children like to do. They would not dream of being isolated in their own rooms. After that lunch, I went home and a few days later my husband and I spoke to our eldest. We could, we said, look for a bigger house so that each boy would have their own room or we could stay put in this house and this neighborhood that we all loved, but Jasper would have to share his room. Jasper, in turn, looked at us with a mixture of incredulity and amusement that only an 8 year old can muster, rolled his eyes, and pronounced that OF COURSE, he was sharing a room with his brother, DUH. Considering the conversation over, he then went to his desk, got out his art supplies and replaced the “Jasper’s Room” sign on the door with a “Jasper and Heath’s Room” sign. David and I looked at each other, a little stunned it had been so easy and also thinking – Well, hell. Why didn’t we do that sooner?

Over the past week, three synchronicities have made me think about this story again and again. The first was a newsletter that contained an enthusiastic exhortation to soulful seekers to share with each other — their ideas, inspiration, favorite people and teachers, the best art and pieces of writing and magic making that stirred their souls. The author claimed (and had a good amount of evidence to back the claim) that online advertising was and always had been DOA and that as a result when we find someone or something that enlivens and inspires us then we have a responsibility to share that with others because that is really the only way we find each other on the internet any more. Sharing is how we make the web work.

The second moment was in an email with a friend who was distraught about a conversation she had had with a couple of her friends. They had wondered if she could marry them and she told them that she did not do wedding ceremonies. They were super disappointed and she felt horrible that she had to say no – bad to the point where she was thinking maybe she should do wedding ceremonies. I asked her if there was any part of her that was interested in doing wedding ceremonies, and she said: “absolutely not”. So then I asked her if she knew anyone who did wedding ceremonies. It turned out she knew three people! She went back to the couple and gave them the names. They were thrilled to have some leads and she was thrilled that she was able to support them after all.

The final situation centered around the shooting at Saugus High School in California two weeks ago. A few days after the shooting, I started receiving private messages and emails thanking me for a specific stream of posts I have shared on social media, hashtagged as #findthehelpers (these posts are about people and animals who help in one way or another). One of the reasons I left social media earlier in the year was because I grew so frustrated with the communal hand-wringing that seems to always happen when tragedy strikes, followed by (what feels to my sensitive soul at least) business as usual in the next few days. This latest tragedy was accompanied by the tragic chorus, but I was also hearing from people who told me that the things I had shared (mind you, I didn’t DO anything, I just SHARED some things) gave them hope when everything felt hopeless. One woman told me that the thread allowed her to overcome her anxiety enough to take a shower and wash her hair. A dad told me that after reading some of the posts in the thread he was able to get it together enough to talk to his son about school shootings. Someone else said that the posts reminded them that there really were good people in the world still and this knowledge allowed them to move through their depression enough to buy groceries and cook dinner. These may seem like extreme examples, but I saw the same theme repeated again and again. And they made me realize something. When I decided to return to social media, I knew I wanted to be a force of positivity and a voice for what is possible. I started looking for helpers – all kinds of helpers who are helping in all kinds of ways, even without really knowing why. When the latest school shooting happened, I understood why. It was because one of the things we are told after these all too common tragedies is that we need to “look for the helpers”. That’s what Fred Rogers advised. I realized I wanted to have a medicine cabinet for our community full of stories of helping so that when the tragedy strikes, we have a place where we can find the stories that might just give us enough juice to make it to the shower or to work, or to the grocery store, or to school. This whole story is to illustrate what the power of sharing can really do. It can restore our hope and keep us tender, both of which are probably the hardest things to come by nowadays.

As we enter into the holiday season we will be told, cajoled, and commanded in every possible tone and tune to “share”. In both of these cases, the idea of sharing loses something, loses a lot. It becomes flat. It’s a have-to, not a want-to – a duty, an obligation, a responsibility. Buy the presents, get them wrapped, give money to the Santa with the bell on the curb because I’m a good person and that’s what good people do. I think that kind of sharing sucks. I actually think that kind of sharing is a travesty against real sharing and discourages it more than anything else. So I am going to say: if that’s how you share then maybe you should just give yourself permission to stop and not share anymore! True story: you don’t have to share.

But…if you are interested in pleasure, dare I say hedonism, then you probably want to share, like a lot. Share what you love, what brings color and depth, scope and breadth to your life. It is the most pleasurable activity because everyone benefits – the person who shares and those who receive the sharing. Like prayer, sharing can be done in a million different ways and like magic, our lives are not quite complete without the pure pleasure of sharing what matters most.

I know this was supposed to be a Hearth and Home so here is a quick check-in: Jasper dressed up as the Phantom of the Opera for Halloween and played the piano in front of his entire school. Heath was a baby dragon and those of you who have met him in person know that this was perfect. Dia de Los Muertos in town and at home was beautiful, quiet, still, and powerful. Making Magic is still going strong and I’m about to celebrate its 6 month birthday (if you loved it, please share that!). David and I just completed the Whole30 which is a whole newsletter in itself and we are feeling pretty strong and sassy. You too can #findthehelpers and see all of the ways that #magichappens on my Facebook feed. Star Stories is officially wrapped and soon will be sent to their owners (each one has to get a final proofread) and then I am diving into the next book.
Oh, and another book I contributed to, The Karma of Cats, is out and has a trailer featuring me reading part of the essay I wrote – so I am sharing that (a fitting ending to this letter) and wishing you all a blessed week!

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Hold On, Hold Close, Hold Together

Foundations

M

iracles,

Like millions over the season, I have seen the new Star Wars movie, not once but twice. (If there was ever a job description for “mom of a six year old boy” – this would very likely be at the top of the list.) It is my favorite Star Wars so far, in large part because the core conflict of past Star Wars (dark vs. light) has given way to a more interesting and, I think, more relevant conflict of new vs. old and, in a parallel argument, hopelessness vs. hope.

As I thought and felt into what words our community of Soulful Seekers might need to hear at this moment, I kept coming back to these themes: old vs. new, hopelessness vs. hope. And then, when I saw them writ large on the screen, I knew it was time to write about them. Of course, the truth is that I see them, we see them, everywhere, and that this popular film, meant for entertainment, in fact embodies not a few of our struggles.

Our culture’s wholehearted embrace of new technology, convenience, and efficiency is one of the most obvious places we see what is New accepted and what is deemed Old jettisoned off to the side – as we forget, even to our own detriment, to ask old essential questions about trust, goodness, truth, and excellence. Much of our political rhetoric is pitched as Old vs. New, “Conservative” vs. “Progressive” and so often seems to miss the point. Before either category, we are people, daughter, son, sister, brother, lover, mother, father, and friend, whose ideas and words have the power to make blood flow or the power to staunch wounds.

We can even see the Old vs. New and the Hope vs. Hopelessness motif playing out astrologically as Pluto, planet of deep transformation, is joined by Saturn, planet of conserving old ways, in the sign of Capricorn, which speaks to our most powerful, stabilizing, often corrupt and in many cases highly beneficial institutions. We all feel this movement and the sea change it anticipates.

And I see it personally. Every year as the Old Year dies and the New Year is born, it seems that everyone is thrilled at the possibility of a fresh start, a blank page, a new chapter – I feel that thrill too! – but all too often, in our haste towards the new and uncharted, we are willing to leave everything from the past, from the Old Year at the threshold, not discerning the lessons, actions, thoughts, feelings, and experiences that are worthy and worthwhile and should be carried with us into the next year, and the next, and the next – perhaps carried for the rest of our lives, perhaps not, but definitely held onto for now.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely think culling and banishing are essential at this time (which is why I created a community ceremony to do just that) and throughout the year. What I am advocating for is a selective, intelligent, and courageous, approach to the magical and sacred act of banishing.

A few days back, I was talking to my oldest friend, someone I’ve known since second grade. He is a now successful choreographer, director, and librettist, who works all over the country putting together plays, musicals, and operas. We were catching up after 15 years of not seeing each other, and reflecting on where we have come since we were eight years old. We both observed that none of our successes have been simply good and none of our failures have been simply bad. This is not a new thought – you know it to be so in your own life too. When you consider what to release and what to hold onto, remember this. Not every bright moment needs to be carried forth and not every pain or struggle needs to be set down and immediately escaped. They are all teachers.

Without spoiling the moment for those who have not yet donned their lightsabers, what I can say is that in the film The Last Jedi, there is a dramatic moment that clearly says: this is not working. This way of holding things, Old vs. New, Hope vs. Hopelessness? At the end of the day it does nothing but pull us apart. We can see this politically, as the arguments get louder and the listening (especially to voices that have different thoughts and opinions from our own) diminishes. We see it personally as we drop the Old in favor of the New and say ‘this year everything will be different’ again, and again, and again until the whole thing, well, gets kind of old. Oh, the irony.

The conflicts need to be re-framed; which is to say, we need a deeper and clearer understanding of them. The New without the Old is unrooted and unmoored. It lacks consciousness of lineage, which also means that in a very real way it lacks vision and clear direction. The Old without the New is ossified tradition for tradition’s sake that, at worst, breeds ignorance and superstition, and at best is not open to the spirit of a thing, but only the form. Either one without the other is downright dangerous…politically, personally, and spiritually. The same is true for hope and hopelessness. To only have hope and to see the world through rose colored glasses is to ignore much suffering and that in itself is a cruel act. To only feel hopelessness (something more and more voices have advocated for recently) is to act fundamentally from a place of fear and wrath, not love and courage. And we have all seen what happens when we only act from fear or anger.

So what to do? How to understand this in a way that makes better sense? How to put it together so that we ourselves are also more together? As usual I suggest we get literal with it. I envision the New Year as a baby. I see a robust and healthy little baby boy – who is carried in the strong arms of an old woman. To me she is Hekate, radiant Crone Goddess and midwife whose “crime” that got her kicked off of Mount Olympus was daring to cherish all children, all new life, no matter their parentage and no matter their imperfections. Old and New coming together, carrying time forward once more.

Maybe for you it is found in the strong affinity that the Old and the New have for each other, how they enrich and enliven and season each other. I think of my how own son carries a special love for his Nana, my grandmother – now in her 80’s – who loves babies and little children and her great grandchildren in the way that only a Nana can.

And you can reflect on your own life too. Are the actions and accomplishments, dreams and desires you wish to summon up in 2018 more likely to occur if they are informed by your past, if they are woven into your full story? We do not need to carry everything with us as we go forward, but we also do not need to feel as if everything must go either; just as we can know that feeling hopelessness at times does not preclude us from living from a place of hope.

There will always be tension between opposing forces, whether they be Old and New, Hope and Hopelessness, or a thousand other oppositions that we could conceive. Some spiritual teachers advocate for a resolution of all tension, dissolving difference into single unity, and for letting go as radically as possible. I do not. Not only do I find that this approach does not work in day-to-day life, but I find that our differences, our specificity and particularities – and that includes the uniqueness of our manifold stories – are essential to who we are, to how we are, and I think our actual experience resists attempts to smooth out and down all rough edges.

But I do know this about tension. The tension is a force that can destroy, break apart, and sever forever. And it is also a force that is required to fly, to soar, to fall in love, to flourish, and to create anything. Rather than letting go, perhaps we ought to try a new direction, to seek to learn how to hold that tension in a more beneficial, useful and creative way. The solution would not be to choose Old or New, Hope or Hopelessness, but instead choose to find a way to hold both, together, as we hold of our parts together, and as we hold onto one another. It will not be easy. But this, then, is my wish for the New Year, carried by the Old – may we learn what it means to hold on, hold close, hold together and may we do it beautifully and well.

In love and blessings always,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

There is Always Hope

Lunar Letter

Dear Miracles,

There is always hope! Soulful seekers know this to be true and they live it every day. Even when it seems nothing can be done, even when it seems all is lost, a powerful ray of hope can still be found.

“Uh-huh,” we all might say, “Right. I wish this were true, but you haven’t seen my life or walked in my shoes. You’re being unrealistic and a total pollyana. It’s better, or far easier, to be a pessimist, to cut our losses and run.”

I’ve had those thoughts before and I know that some of you have too. But we don’t stop there, do we? Not at all.  Because of her hope, our soulful seeker is in fact more realistic than the realistic tough guy, and therefore also more resilient and tougher as well. Why? Because she knows something else. She knows a little secret that gives her hope.

In this Lunar Letter, I am going let you in on that secret. I am going to let the cat out of the bag.

Standing at the many crossroads of life – and there are so many! – the soulful seeker knows a little something about Soul and its particular and unique sources of power and potency. What is the power of the Soul? It is the real ability to transform bad situations into good ones, to turn a loss into a victory, to allow a scar to become an ornament and to find blessings in the broken places – in our lives, our stories, our relationships and the wide, wide, world.  If we can explore this actual ability deeply enough, and live it as far as we can, new hitherto unexpected and unimagined pathways open to us.

The truly miraculous thing about the Soul is that its powers are entirely within our grasp. They are powers native to every human being. What are these powers? X-Ray vision, invulnerability, web slinging? Not hardly. A special talent or “genius” that sets us apart, makes us unique, makes us special? No.

The powers of the Soul are not found within the pages of a comic book or tale of witches and wizards. You need not be bit by radioactive spiders or spend time in a colorful leotard in order to acquire them. These powers have been with us since, as CS Lewis writes, time out of mind – long before you or I were here in the world, and they will remain long after we have departed. They are the powers native to our very humanity that transform life-sucking and heart-breaking situations into life-bestowing gifts.  And as most true and genuine things are, these powers are easily overlooked for flash and dash of other less effective ones.

Again we ask, what are these abilities?  They are none other than: courage, justice, wisdom, moderation, faith, hope, and love. These words have lost their fashion in our time, but they refer to real capacities of heart and mind. We don’t like to speak of them as virtues, and so they lay fallow and unknown. But they need not be. These are your internal powers, abilities which, if cultivated and cared for, will help you in tangible ways transform bad life situations into better and more life-bestowing ones.

Surprised? See for yourself. Look all around the world’s traditions, cast your net far and wide, and you will find that the most sacro-magical and liminal of medicines, aim in actual fact for the restoration and cultivation of these internal powers of the Soul, powers traditionally known as the Virtues.

In older and more comprehensive ways of understanding, to be in touch with the power of the universe is to be in  touch with the power of the soul, for the soul of a living creature and the soul of the world are one.  To be in touch with one’s deepest most desired medicine is to touch these sources, and have available whatever virtues are needed for any given situation. So when we speak of finding our medicine, we are really speaking of coming into deeper relationship with our inner resources, or powers of Soul, with the Virtues.

Contacting the deep sources of inspiration, experiencing cosmic wonder, living in the mystical, miraculous and magical, attuning to the presence of the sacred, are the water and sun for the Virtues. The way we identify and apply these medicines to our own souls, to way we live through our daily life, is through remembering and practicing the sacred arts.

Every sacred art has an aim:

  • The sacred art of Right Relationship teaches us the medicine of Love.
  • The sacred art of Prayer and Blessing allows us to find the medicine of Faith.
  • The sacred art of Ceremony and Ritual teaches Moderation.
  • The sacred art of Lineage and Legacy teaches Justice.
  • The sacred art of Divination and Dreams teaches Hope.
  • The sacred art of Alchemy and Magic teaches Courage.
  • The sacred art of Cleansing and Purification teaches Wisdom.

The sacred arts act as guide and ally when we find ourselves in crisis, at the crossroads, unsure of what direction to take, while their aim is directed towards the powers, the medicines, of the virtues that we carry within ourselves. This is why there is such a strong focus on memory in the sacred arts – we remember ourselves back together – back into a state of wholeness, we literally re-collect the pieces of soul, psyche, and spirit that get scattered hither and yon by the winds of life.

So what does a soulful seeker do at the crossroads? She knows she needs to summon all of her inner resources, all powers of Soul. In the language of myth, she will then make a descent into the underworld in search of medicine that will help her transform bad situations into good ones. The soulful seeker does not feint right or left, she does not choose one easy path or one slightly less easy path, instead she goes down. Down into the realm of shadow, down into the unknown, down into the underworld where the terrain is often jagged, broken, and parched; and where real medicine, holy and whole-making, awaits.

In love and blessing~

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.