Get into the red convertible; you know you want to

There’s been so much written and said about the “inner child” in the last couple of decades that any mention of it is likely to bring on an eye roll. This morning, though, I was visited by a memory that gave me a whole new view of it (or, in my case, her). I’ve had a lifelong love-hate relationship with the creative, childlike part of me. Okay, mostly hate. And shame. Today, I have a new understanding of how unnecessary that has been. And a glimpse of the sweet freedom that’s available with just a small shift.

About ten years ago, I was at a weeklong program at Integral on Sustainability. Among the many fabulous experiences we had was a guided practice called “Big Mind.” This is a combination of Buddhist and modern Western psychological thought developed by Dennis Genpo Merzel to not only “get in touch” with inner voices, but to embody and integrate them. To feel whole. When he invoked the inner child, I became sad and forlorn. Later, I was surprised when everyone else said their inner child was carefree and playful and joyful. Continue reading

True wisdom comes not from intellect but from feeling

11.7.15_Horse_620wOn the DVD of the 2000 film, “Requiem for a Dream,” the great actress Ellen Burstyn has a conversation with the book’s author (and co-screenwriter) Hubert Selby Jr. He wrote the novel in the 1970s. It’s an unflinching dive into the hell of addiction, rendered with timeless pathos by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. Selby tells Ms. Burstyn that he works consciously to get out of the way:

“The ego has to go. I don’t have the right to put me, the ego, between the people in the story and the reader. They should have an interrelationship and experience each other. Because, if you really want to teach, you have to do it emotionally. The intellect can get a whole bunch of information, but it doesn’t turn it into wisdom. And it’s wisdom that we need if we’re going to save our souls and this bloody thing! We need wisdom.”

He also tells her that it took him a year to write one twenty-page story, and after he was done, he went to bed for about two weeks. For him, this is what it took to go beyond telling a story, to put the reader through an emotional experience. Continue reading

Step into the flow and speak up

2009_8.26_Yosemite2_620w-2Instead of resolutions, each year I listen for the words or phrase that will guide me. Last year, the words were trust, magic, and play. I appreciated the guidance of these words, which reminded me to trust that everything is unfolding according to a secret order, and to appreciate the presence of magic in the ordinary. Instead of deadly seriousness, playful trickster energy helps to stay fresh and present, to navigate even the most challenging moments.

In the dark days of the winter solstice, I was guided to step into the flow, and recognized that this is my phrase for 2016. I love the fluidity of it, the invitation to get up off the bank and wade right in to the moving water of life. I have a lifelong habit of observing from the sidelines so this is an invitation to get into the game, engaging with the mystery of unknowable outcomes. Continue reading

Improvisation unlocks the magic of spontaneity and connection


All told, we’ve collaborated to offer eleven Restorying retreats over the last two years, with more in the planning stages. They’ve come to have a dynamic balance between structure and improvisation. We are learning as leaders to be present and notice the field, to give ourselves over to what wants to happen next, what the earth is dreaming for us. Within a framework of ritual and ceremony, poetry and mythic time and space, we enter the door that leads to the realm of heart and soul and mystery.

Themes, questions, and insights begin to weave into and through the assembled group from the first gathering. We are getting better at tuning into that and inviting participants to join in the fun of giving ourselves over to what Mystery wants to do with us. It reminds me of what Malcolm Gladwell had to say about improvisation in his book, Blink. Using basketball as an example, he wrote that in practice, the players drill patterns and set-ups relentlessly, and then every game is totally improvisational. The patterns are strung together in completely new ways in every game, every moment. I can guess from the way my son talks about soccer that it’s much the same. Continue reading

Allowing emerging new stories to have their way with us



“We need a new story” seems to be coming out of more and more people’s mouths these days. From Thomas Berry to Joanna Macy and Charles Eisenstein, to David Korten and Duane Elgin. Each of these deep thinkers and actors has their own unique spin on the diagnosis, as well as ideas for what we might do to begin changing the story. One of my personal favorite pieces of writing about this is “Dark Ecology,” by Paul Kingsnorth, the co-founder along with Dougald Hine of the Dark Mountain Project. At the end of that essay, he cautions:

“If you think you can magic us out of the progress trap with new ideas or new technologies, you are wasting your time. If you think that the usual “campaigning” behavior is going to work today where it didn’t work yesterday, you will be wasting your time. If you think the machine can be reformed, tamed, or defanged, you will be wasting your time. If you draw up a great big plan for a better world based on science and rational argument, you will be wasting your time. If you try to live in the past, you will be wasting your time. If you romanticize hunting and gathering or send bombs to computer store owners, you will be wasting your time.”

Continue reading

Speculations on courting synchronicity


Living from trust, magic and play means stepping out of received ideas and habitual thinking about will and action, goals and results. Recently, a friend told of an event that happened in Costa Rica, during a period of crisis and change in her life. Working for an eco-tourism project, she was on the beach sketching a logo, thinking about an image from a well-known children’s book. Pretty soon, a shadow fell over her, belonging to a man who questioned why she was working in this beautiful place. Sure enough, the man was the author of that famous book.

When things like this happen — as they do, to all of us — I’m often amused, sometimes a bit bemused. It shakes up my usual concept of time, of cause and effect. I have come to accept such occurrences as confirmation that I’m on the right track, though I may have no clear idea of where, exactly, I will end up. These events are usually so singular, an entire exchange with someone well met takes on a heightened quality. Continue reading

The divinity of the speck


This guest post is by Phila Hoopes. You can read a bit about her on the “Denizens” page.

A few months ago, in a storm of grief over the way the world is going, I wrote to author/teacher/medicine woman Deena Metzger, “Knowing what you know, being sensitive to all you perceive, how do you not despair?” She answered: “Because I know that Spirit exists and that some of us are being guided and so we are doing what we are called to do and that has to be sufficient. And because — I don’t want God to despair too.”

I have shied away from those words; their challenge was too devastating. I’ve buried myself in purposeful overwhelm, busybusybusy applying my skills to good causes, and when fatigue forced a halt, burying myself in lesser distractions – conversations with friends, an old movie, a brain-candy novel, surfing the Internet. Checking the stats for this blog, frustrated that no inspirations were coming for new content (surprise!) and bemused that the most popular page, by far, was Quotes on the Dark Night of the Soul. Refusing to admit – despite all indications – that I was (unadmittedly, only borderline-consciously) traversing a similarly shadowed valley. Continue reading

Reconsidering our origin stories


What is your family of origin? In this tapestry of a country with its multi-cultural past, how often have you heard or asked that question? My grandmother used to put it differently, just straight out: “What kind of name is that?” Which, translated, meant: “What is your ethnic background?” Although she had great curiosity and zest for life, in this case, the subtext was less generous. She was a WASP to the core, and a dedicated xenophobe.

At our Restorying retreats, we ask people to introduce themselves by starting with the phrase, “Once upon a time,” and then tell about their birth as if being interviewed by Hans Christian Andersen. I like how it brings people directly into the mythic “everywhen” mind that immerses them in the realm of symbol and archetype. Why does this matter? At the heart of living into the new story of connection and belonging is a reconsideration of our origin stories, both personal and cultural. Continue reading

Follow your imagination into timeless storytelling this season


For the third of this seasonal series, here is a bit of writing that emerged during last year’s Advent Restorying retreat. The beginning of the first sentence is a prompt, called a “story stem.” More on that at the bottom, if you want to try story stem writing. It’s a great way to dive into the depths of memory and emotion, past even that into the stream of archetypal consciousness that flows beneath us all.

I am a child at Christmas and everything is magical. We gather to trim the tree, laughing at the “scary” ornament — a rusty, wire-screen encased odd thing from Mom’s childhood.

History, deep connection with past generations, past Christmases.

We still use tinsel and enjoy tossing great handfuls of it on the fragrant boughs of the tree. There’s an actual, recently-alive tree in our living room.

Now it has lights twinkling in it. Those big, colorful bulbs that go off if one of them burns out. Continue reading

The gift of storytelling


The gift of storytelling is a felt sense of connection that awakens hidden kinships and renews our belonging to the whole community of Life.

Sitting with a group of people around a fire and telling stories opens us to an experience of shared creativity that goes back millennia. Even if we have only just met, our stories have a way of weaving in and among each other. One story will trigger another story, long forgotten but now just as alive and relevant as it was fifteen years ago. That story will contain an image or character that sparks a third story.

The stories come through individuals and have their way with us in a collective mystery. Each story seems to take form and move among us, conjuring themes and shared emotions. As the stories are spun, we create worlds within worlds. Or maybe they create us. Continue reading