Stepping into the space between

Australian magpie in flight.

It’s been a number of months since I completed the Space Between Stories online course with Charles Eisenstein. At the time I was mildly disappointed, I wanted to change direction and I thought the course would do that or at least point the way. Instead it pretty much confirmed the holding pattern I was already in. The various speakers seemed to suggest that the right moment would present itself without my control.

At the time this was frustrating, I went to a three day retreat in the middle and was bouyed up by the beautiful community of deep ecologists and spiritual Earth seekers, which only compounded my dissatisfaction with my ‘ordinary’ life and with the artifice of the Space Between Stories online community. Now though I have to acknowledge those speakers were right.

Three weeks ago I resigned from my very secure, reasonably well-paid bureaucratic position in a government institution. The work I did there was good work, the people I worked with were lovely and all had their hearts in the right place. There were opportunities for me to learn and grow and make a difference in the world but it was prey to the usual frustrations of working in strict hierarchies. I’ve known for some time that I needed to leave but I wasn’t sure of my next step and then, after a particularly difficult week, the answer was startlingly clear. I just had to quit.

I did it with grace, ruffling as few feathers as possible but it got to the point where I just knew I couldn’t work there anymore and so I resigned without knowing what the ‘next step’ would be.

Over the past three weeks a number of ‘next steps’ have presented themselves to me. Things that I never even thought possible have been offered. What is even more surprising is that each week my ideas about what I want to do in life and my vision for the future have changed and deepened. Things that I thought I wanted have been rejected in favour of more radical paths, paths that I hadn’t even been aware of until I gave myself permission to dream larger, until I chose to step out of the structures that were keeping me secure.

I am taking this opportunity to experiment with following my heart. I don’t know what the future will look like but I know that the Earth will be at the centre of my life. I want to prioritise my relationship with the more-than-human and see where it leads. I look forward to sharing the journey with you!

Wild at heart

I love this article from the Huffington Post UK. It’s an elegant articulation of a number of complex ideas that seem to be coming together in the human psyche at the moment. I have noticed though, that there tends to be an othering of nature that happens as part of this narrative of reconnection. 
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I agree that it’s easier to see ourselves as part of a greater whole when we are overwhelmed by the more than human. Going to places that haven’t been obviously rearranged by human hands can be a humbling experience and that humility is crucial to the shift in consciousness that is needed. But unless we can bring that humility and that recognition of our place in the larger whole into our cities and human communities, our work will be fruitless.
 
This is a critique borne of my own frustration. The conditions of my life require me to live in the city and give me very few opportunities to ‘escape’ into the wilderness. I need to be nourished and nurtured by the more than human world as much as anyone but I can’t do it in the traditional way of ‘going bush.’ I am slowly developing practices for myself that help me ground my sense of connection in the places where I live, work and play. Perhaps the judge sits in my own heart but I feel these practices are overlooked or undervalued by my deep ecology friends and by the broader narrative of ‘nature connection.’ As though they are merely stop gap measures until I can get out into the ‘real’ wildness again.
 
If we are truly to see ourselves as part of nature rather than dominating it we need to radically rethink the dichotomy that says ‘nature’ is in our national parks and not in our cities. We need to take our hearts, awakened to wildness and use them to see the land where we live. Our great teachers in this could well be our children, the young ones haven’t yet learned to pay more attention to ‘human’ objects over non-human ones. Those of us who don’t have children may have memories of the way we used to play, the trees and flowers that drew our attention. The things that fired our imaginations and filled our hearts with joy. As Mary Oliver so eloquently put it we need to “Let the soft animal of [our] body love what it loves” and we need to do it wherever we are. 
 
The day after my walk along Back Creek, a gathering entitled “Rewilding the Urban Heart” was advertised on Facebook – to say that I am excited would be a massive understatement.

The calling

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It has been a really difficult month but there have been some amazing highlights.  One of them was reading this poem at Mother Tongue. It has served as something of an affirmation or a mantra, these words remind me of who I want to be and who I already am. I offer them to you because the more I share these words, the more I strengthen my commitment to this vision and if I’m really lucky maybe you will find solace in them too.

I was called in the middle of dancing
In the pause between the first wave and the second
Between the inbreath and the outbreath

The voice of the earth pulled at my heart
I call you she said
Yes I answered, without hesitation
Take me, use me, let me serve You
An inward breath, a pause, a moment of clarity, of ecstasy

And then I crumbled
I am not enough! I am a poor instrument! I will Fuck it up! I’m lazy! I’m a terrible procrastinator!
I became small, shut down,
A woman reached out to offer comfort and I snarled, I almost bit her hand.

I was called but I don’t know what it means
These moments of insight seem so profound
But afterward the current of life pulls me onward like nothing has changed
Before enlightenment, get up, go to work, make dinner, do the bedtime routine.
After enlightenment, get up, go to work, make dinner, do the bedtime routine.

Is this all there is? Is this all I am?
Is my calling going to feed my family?
Is the Earth going to set me up with a sweet job?
Am I wrecking it by asking these questions?

I am a tree
I am rooted in the Earth
My limbs give shade, shelter and solace
Creatures call my ample boughs home
My generousity is limitless
Yet never diminishes me or those who receive my grace

Who would find fault in the beauty of these twisted branches?
Who would measure the performance of my striving shoots?
Who could doubt that I am enough?
Just as I am
Rooted in the Earth
Reaching for the sky

I am the voice of compassion
I am the voice of the earth
I am the voice of the universal life force
I transform the world by being me.