Our annual grief ritual is over. Such challenging and important work! Having lost a dear friend four days earlier, I was primed. It also rekindled the last grief work I did in June.
With some trepidation (given my experiences two years ago when I returned from heat and fire with a headache that became chronic), I headed back to Topanga for more work with the teacher. From the get-go it was clear that this would be an entirely different experience. No fires. No 113° heat. The first morning dawned foggy and misty. Water dripped from the eucalyptus trees. The first two days stayed cool and windy. Even when it cleared up, the temperature stayed below 80°. The group was a little smaller this time, and a tight community feeling developed quickly.
It did not take long for us to plunge into the grief and despair for the state of the planet. One man, a known journalist and author, spoke at length about his research and subsequent inescapable awareness that the planet is already on hospice, that it is already too late. How does one deal with that? By grieving. We all went into grief. This week would basically be a week-long grief ritual.
This intensive is significantly different –at least for me – than previous ones. The teacher has always focused on the need to change our thinking, to rid ourselves of “colonized mind.” But this time, the work has gone to another level: what to do, how to be, if it is already too late.
Here was the question posed for us all: What is the mandate for each of us at this time? The teacher was adamant that we cannot be here only for ourselves and that none of us is innocent. We must learn to think in terms of “we” rather than “I.”
As we deepened, a few things made themselves clear to me. The headache, and bringing it back to the place of its origin, would not be the focus for me this week. Something I said before but not I truly gotten – this headache is my connection to Spirit. I came here two years ago asking for a more enduring connection, and it came, but it wasn’t in a way that I wanted or even recognized until now.
I showed the teacher my card with Kali dancing on my neck and she agreed that this headache is the connection. She said that it came to me for reasons I don’t understand, that I didn’t specifically ask for this, but it is the manifestation I didn’t see.
My preoccupation with my illness is the illness, she said. It is colonized mind. I’m no different from the earth.
I asked her what it means to carry fire. It is the element I feel least comfortable with. It scares me. She advised me to truly get to know it.
We are all being challenged to live in indigenous ways 24/7. They are not techniques. We must change.
As the one black woman in the circle said, she has no choice but to live 24/7 with her black skin in a racist culture.
I dreamed that I am at a bay watching a group of boys challenging each other to go in the water. They know or see that a shark is out there. But there is a sea turtle not far out, and two boys jump into the water, apparently thinking that if they keep the turtle is between them and the shark, it will go for the turtle first. Suddenly, the shark springs out of the water in the form of an eel or snake and in a flash, it flies over the small strip of beach and up the large cliff behind it, disappearing from sight.
The teacher asks what I get from this, from the shark. I answer, “Wake up!” Later, I think it is also a message about not buying your own beliefs about how and what things are. I also realized that those boys were already trained to be willing to sacrifice the turtle to save themselves.
This poem came:
The Earth Is Dying
The earth is dying.
We sit in hospice, we few
who are willing
to bear witness.
People say –
My life is fine,
difficult at times,
The rent gets paid.
There is food in the refrigerator.
The sun rose this morning.
But in my lifetime
half the creatures of the sea
The plankton is full of plastic.
Turtles eat it and are full
of plastic as well, and sometimes
they are trapped in the plastic islands
filling our heating oceans.
The glaciers are disappearing,
almost before our eyes.
You don’t want to hear this.
I don’t want to hear this.
But how will the children breathe
when the oxygen producers are gone?
How will they live
when there is no clean water to drink?
Oh, I will be gone by then,
dead and beyond caring.
But I have children,
and my children have children,
still wide-eyed and excited
by life and possibility.
We are called to bear the unbearable.
She is dying, and so
we are dying.
Will you be with Her?
Will you give Her