My first thought upon finishing The Comfort of Water – A River Pilgrimage was “Thank you.”
I seem to be pulled toward grief and gratitude at the moment. On the face of it, according to common understanding, it seems incongruous like being pulled in different directions. From the inside though the connection is seamless, grief and gratitude entwine each other, the latter is a balm for the former.
Earlier this year my 4 year old moved up to the kinder room and was quite sad about the loss of his beloved child care room. I mentioned this to a colleague at work who responded with enthusiasm. “That’s great, he must have felt really loved where he was.” Her response shifted my thinking and inspired me to tell Mr A “I know you feel sad and that’s okay. That sadness tells us that we loved something so what we can do is be grateful and say thank you. Thank you child care room, thank you toys, thank you carers.”
Some weeks later I cradled Archie, my beloved dog of ten years, as he lay on the threshold of death. I was moved in that moment of letting go to give thanks for the life we had shared and wrote the below poem in his honour.
At the Wild Mind Gathering I offered a ritual of grief and later a song of gratitude. The song was inspired by the joy of finding community but the grief of separation was just around the corner. I knew everyone would share my pain at leaving such a beautiful space of connection and sharing, so I offered my thanks for what we had created together.
Joanna Macy says that gratitude is a revolutionary act. Gratitude says “I am enough. I have enough.” The danger in grief is that the pain will lead us down the path of fear and scarcity, closing us off to love. Gratitude stops the descent and holds us in grief as a pure expression of love.
Grief is becoming a friend to me. It shows me that I’m alive, that I am capable of love and that I am engaged in the world. I am learning to be grateful for the pain of grief and finding that the more I embrace it, the more it sets me free and the more open I am to embracing the love that comes my way. I am grateful for all the people, things and moments that I have loved and lost for helping me learn this lesson.
Reigniting hope and sustaining action in the face of crisis, an experiential workshop.
Take a day out from the grind of making social change to connect with like minded people and reignite your passion. The work that reconnects gives us space to feel difficult emotions in a supportive environment and allow hope to arise.
I am a spiritual being having a human experience.
The path ahead is in shadow, none of my plans work out and instead I am forced into the present. Yes, I’m aware that’s probably a good thing but, oooowhee it’s uncomfortable.
Case in point: Thursday night, the gathering of deep ecology/ecospiritual folk. I think it’s fair to say recent life events have brought me to a place of grief and vulnerability. On Wednesday night I went looking for my copy of ‘Coming back to life‘ to refresh my memory of ‘the milling‘ as an ice breaker. I couldn’t find it anywhere. “Okay” I thought “that’s alright, I’ve run it before I can just make it up on the spot. This will teach me to speak from the heart and that’s a good thing, I need to trust in myself.”
Thursday morning was overcast and my small self was hoping for rain. I was still feeling vulnerable (in fact at 9am I was on the phone to my father in tears) and that same small self was desperately uncomfortable. My larger self was unperturbed and gently suggested that vulnerable was a good way to lead a gathering. I consoled myself with the thought that I wouldn’t be on my own, Geoff would be there too and after all it was his idea.
Thursday afternoon the weather turned glorious and my small self had some choice words for the universe. There were 15 people who said they’d come along so it was clear that it was going ahead. I resolved to be present and take it as it comes.
Then I get a text from Geoff saying that he had to go home sick. I could not believe it. He was disappointed so I couldn’t be annoyed with him. He sent me this lovely text about how it was going to be beautiful, “you made me feel better about going with whatever happens last time we spoke.” Uh, did I say that? Yep, I did. All of my deep ecology work has been in the hands of the universe, partly in my control and mostly not. I had to assume that this was too.
So when I left work I went to Flagstaff Gardens and prepared for the gathering. Not in the usual way, by writing up a timeline and scheduling activities, but by sitting under a tree and inviting the Earth to hold me in my vulnerability. When people started to arrive I greeted them with open arms and an open heart, completely unwedded to the outcome of the evening.
As the gathering unfolded people warmed to the topic that is close to our hearts. I spontaneously spoke of Eisenstein and the story of separation versus the story of interbeing. At times I heard doubt and fear and frustration in people’s voices and idly wondered if another group is really what’s required now. By halfway through it was clear that there is a real hunger to continue connecting and sharing our sacred places with each other.
Near the end of our time together a scottish pipe band began rehearsing ten metres from where we were sitting. We all agreed that we’d be finished soon so rather than move on, we moved in close to one another to be heard over the droning of the pipes. It was hilarious and joyful. Someone expressed gratitude for the noise in bringing us closer together.
We couldn’t agree on a name and that is quite okay, I’m sure it will emerge in its own time. I hope it reflects the joy of those final moments, huddling together, laughing as we struggled to be heard over the bag pipes.
I feel amazed and humbled and thrilled by how the evening ended up. I find myself shaking my head in wonder. I’ve been a facilitator for 15 years and I never work without a plan. I can’t fathom it, that being open and present is truly all that’s required of me. That I am somehow the right person, in the right place, at the right time, just the way I am. If that’s true for me, then it’s true for you too, welcome to the new world of interbeing.