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Jeff Leinaweaver, PhD, is a renaissance man: professional storyteller, musician, global sustainability consultant, professor, radio talk show host, father, husband, mythologist …and friend. He invited me to help launch the Bainbridge Island Joseph Campbell Foundation Mythological Roundtable Group. ( That long name is mandated by the international organization to which we belong.)
I am so inspired by hosting our first session that here, now, three days later, my socks are still rolling up and down.
We listen to a two minute clip of Campbell himself talking about the four functions of mythology, the first of which is the Mystical. He says we have forgotten that the very ground of our being, the source of our consciousness, is mystery and that we come from and return to the darkness without answers and no precise definitions. Because we don’t acknowledge our mysterious origins, we have lost the capacity for awe, the very quality that makes us most compassionately human. This perspective sings in me because I live by the same melody.
But something greater unfurls as I absorb one of Campbell’s favorite myths in preparation for telling it at the meeting. On the surface, we all know the story of the Frog Prince, when the power of a kiss transforms ugliness to beauty. But in this version, perhaps older and closer to the original, there is no kiss but a …
Now that wakes me. I start probing the story with inquisitive antenna. Why are ostrich feathers, not peacock, eagle or robin, on the heads of the horses? Why a gold ball and not one of silver or with green and blue stripes? Why does the princess seem like a child on the first day of the story and on the second is ready for marriage? And what about those bands around Faithful Henry’s heart? I tell you, once I begin listening to this story with my “third ear”, an endless array of exhilarating paths show up to carry me ever more deeply into amazement.
The most astonishing is this. The pivotal event takes place under an “old Linden tree.” Why not an oak, or a fig, or a maple or even a sweet pine? But the story specifies a linden. Being a researcher at heart and a “bookaholic” in my core, I turn to my own library and find: The Meaning of Trees by Fred Hageneder. Happily, linden is listed in the index.
I just about take flight with what I read. Not only are these trees a nectar source for bees and thus often nicknamed the “bee tree,” ( Isn’t that propitious given the plight of bees on our planet?) they’re also known as the “soothing tree” whose tea is good for the heart, calms children, eases diarrhea, high blood pressure, sinus conditions and skin problems. But here’s the really fascinating bit: the linden was the traditional hub of village life and the gathering place for both feasts and courts of law. Considered a sacred tree, it is “revealing that the ancients gathered, discussed and judged underneath the ‘female’ linden which represents mercy, rather than the ‘male’ oak tree” associated with the god Thor.
My mouth gapes open as I get it!
Our ancestors recognized guidance and wisdom in every aspect of the world around them and specified specifics in every story because they knew their community understood the significance. We’ve lost all that meaning! We are no longer embedded in a “wisdom world” and have to turn to secondary sources, as I did, to grasp the depth of meaning in the details of a story. We dismiss a treasure trove of information and interconnectedness when we deprive the world of sentience and relevance. As industrial/technological/information age humans, we have lost our ability to receive direct wisdom and unprocessed knowledge.
WOW, just WOW again!
No wonder we feel alienated and ungrounded. No wonder stories of all kinds are so important to rediscover, share with each other and imagine more of our own…discovering a living mythology for our time that nourishes a living world to which we belong.
I’m climbing out on that proverbial limb. I’m changing the title of this blog. Look above. See???
I want to wake you up.
Instead of being the canary in the coal mine, I am an alarm clock, one of a growing number, thankfully, in our still slumbering culture. May I jangle your ordinary thinking and spur you to make intuitive leaps, walk the ledges and be brave enough to sail off in your own direction without a map.
Wisdom manifesting…Ahh, so THAT’S what my belly thinks, THAT’S WHAT my body knows. I’ve got to act on THAT! Ahhhhhh.
I’m asking myself right now, who am I to have this intention of waking up my culture – just who do I think I am? Not the first time I’ve posed that question to myself. And in the past I have had a hard time responding with confidence so I’d shrink out of sight again. Has that ever happened to you? You absolutely know something is true, but when challenged you can’t muster the facts quickly enough to sound reasonably intelligent, literally and rationally analytic, audible to the opposition.
I’ve gotten tired of standing in the shadows whispering.
I have spent my life time waiting to speak up until I knew enough – even though in the 1970’s I knew I could never know enough…every fact I gleaned, even about a subject as basic as what to eat, had an opposing fact also statistically, scientifically supported. To eat eggs or not to eat eggs. To eat only the whites or the yolk, too? Those were ponderous questions in the ‘70’s for which there is/was no clear answer.
And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but every issue is riddled with contradictions, paradoxes and ambiguity and even science can’t sort it out.
Every delicate, scented rose has thorns.
So here’s the deal. We might not know whether global warming is real or not, but in our bones we still know that our culture in particular, northern hemisphere cultures in general, ravage the world by over consumption.
In 1918 or so my uncle noticed the degradation of the Hudson River because of coal mining upstream. In 1953 or so, I witnessed my first clear cut – the wood contiguous with my own backyard – to make room for the first ticky-tacky neighborhood development in the suburbs of western Philadelphia. Multiply these personal observations by 3 billion people. ( I made that number up for shock value. I’ll give
you another.) Multiply those personal observations by a kazillion people and 100 years of rampaging progress and what do we have??? A planetary life support system on the brink of falling apart. We know this in our bones.
We humans have to wake up quickly and make some unprecedented choices. Many of us complain. “I’ve worked so hard all my life. I’ve earned my right to live as I do. Why should I sacrifice anything now?” As if to sacrifice is a bad thing. For me, sacrifice is the gift of making sacred, of choosing to curtail one thing in order to give to another which has even more value to me, to my world…such as wanting my grandchildren to live surrounded by beautiful, mysterious intact ecosystems which nourish both body and soul.
Here’s the real kicker! We need to change more than the practicalities of our lifestyles. We need to change our minds. Literally. The rest of unfolding history depends on human intelligence quickening NOW and that calls for the evolutionary human shift to developing and using a whole brain and an intact bodymind.
As Red Green says on that Canadian PBS show, which I think is hilarious now but which had to grow on me “We’re ALL in this together”and “Keep your stick on the ice.”
Please use this blog as your stick on the ice, that third leg to support and inspire our teetering two. Tell me your stories of awakening to wisdom beyond knowing “the facts” and I’ll tell you more of mine. We ARE ALL, after all, in this together.
In my last post I concluded with a paragraph that began with this sentence: “We who live today COULD BE THE IMAGINAL CELLS of the evolving human.”
I meant to write – as I did in the rough draft kept in my computer: We, who live today, ARE the imaginal cells of the evolving human.
How can we not be? Each of us has a choice to stay in bloated caterpillar rigidity or break open to this phenomenal transformational opportunity, ie: choose to be fed by the mystery that pulls us into the future, choose to engage with our souls, choose to encourage our species toward the next evolutionary breakthrough, choose to commit to lifestyle changes because it feels good to contribute to the well-being of our planetary family and it feels right to redefine happiness.
We need to ask ourselves deep questions: How do we experience love? How DO we love? How do we recognize and express joy?
What kind of interaction excites us through and through? How do we know ecstasy? How do we define juicy living?
Who are our kin?
It doesn’t have to be clinging to the face of a cliff without a safety net to be exciting. Dancing with a partner can exhilarate. Successfully creating something from something else can fulfill.
Communing with a wild thing in our own back yard can humble and make magic of an ordinary day. Opening the door to the knock of dreams can be the spark that lights the fire of our passionate purpose. Embracing fear today can expand our options for the rest of our lives.
Where is our north star when everything we thought we knew gets turned inside out? That’s what’s happening to us right now on this planet. All our modern assumptions about how life works turn out to be faulty. We need to reboot!
We here alive now – the full range of us – are responsible for the quality of life we want to bring to this planet home of ours. Fantasizing about escape – whether it be into the sterility of a bubble or the confines of outer space – seems like escapism to me. If we don’t learn how to cohabit creatively and with reverence for our family home, we take a lot of destructive habits with us as well as handicapped body/minds and truncated souls.
That has no appeal for me.
Instead, I want my muse to jump into action. Just beyond the sunlight, new storylines wait to be discovered. As if waking from a long sleep, I want to swim in deep water, lower my fishing line and wait for the tug, from what I do not know. I’ll reel it in suspecting, even hoping, that I may come face to face with the unexpected, a plot line I hadn’t imagined before. Inviting a relationship with that mystery will change the world, my world and yours.
I hope you’ll dive in with me, for as an imaginal cell, we are stronger with many cohorts.
One of my daughters asks me a provocative question last week. “Mom, do you really think all humans are creative? Maybe some aren’t.”
Quite frankly, her question stuns me. What?@#%*&??? My own daughter, the Queen of Creativity herself, born to me – the Crowned Queen Mother of Creativity -, questions whether all humans are creative. Wow, if she can question that, anyone can.
I responded, “OF COURSE, we’re all creative. Where do you think these words are coming from that I say to you right now ( or type to you right here )? The great black pool of fathomless mystery inside, the psyche’s source of creation, in which we are embedded, that responsive creative essence determines who we are every moment of every day.”
Like a fish swimming in water, or a bird uplifted by air, we have forgotten that which moves us to be.
That benighted notion needs restorying here and now!
Which reminds me of the caterpillar who doesn’t know she is also the butterfly.
Have you heard of imaginal cells? I first heard about them from the evolutionary biologist, Elizabet Sahtouris at a conference in 1989. She described imaginal cells as the cells which carry the butterfly blueprint to the caterpillar. When the caterpillar first gets wind of those butterfly cells gathering, s/he’s distressed and becomes a voracious eater. Consuming everything in sight the caterpillar eventually becomes so bloated s/he stiffens and becomes helplessly immobile.
Metaphorically, doesn’t this sound like our current need to gobble up STUFF and stubbornly stick to our illusions?
When those first imaginal cells appear, the caterpillar’s immune system immediately kills them. But as more imaginal cells show up, the immune system can no longer fight them off and the cocoon is made – that’s when caterpillar soup begins bubbling and that little living being is neither here nor there…another fine metaphor which explains why transformation is scary on both a global level and a personal one. We have to live with NOT KNOWING who we really are nor where we are going.
That just about “kills” us modern humans.
Our technologically savvy, scientifically modern cultures demand that we always feel in control of our lives and that we should always feel happy, know the score and be confident.
Bull shit. That’s not real. So we suffer from a host of debilitating symptoms new to the planet. A few of those disorienting symptoms are: alienation, numbness, raging fear, depression, seasonal affective disorder, fatigue syndromes, meaninglessness, anxiety, helplessness, addictions, addictions, and more addictions.
I no longer wonder why.
We’ve lost our connection to truth with a capital T. We’ve lost our ability to commune with our surroundings, to tune in to our body’s wisdom, and to co-create communal reverence for life itself and communal celebration of being engaged with LIFE and each other.
We who live today COULD BE THE IMAGINAL CELLS of the evolving human. We’ve transformed our species countless times before during our two legged history to achieve the fully functioning rational minds and scientific technological savvy we enjoy today. Now we can transform ourselves again but this time we can become whole, including all that we’ve achieved and reclaiming our essential creative nature and all that encompasses: intuition, spirit, dreaming, imagination, the power of synchronicity and being in the flow, and maybe most importantly, our comfort with the mystery, our compassion and willingness to dance alongside everything else.
It’s your turn NOW and OUR TIME to show up.
Years and years ago in the dark ages of film when community TV stations were just getting started, I made a video. My friend Hazel Foley, no longer here on this planet, was a watercolor artist. I considered myself a writer/photographer. We co-facilitated creativity workshops in wild settings, including Glacier National Park. We wanted to expand our influence and thought making a video would be just the thing. We labored over that project, splicing frame by frame in a tiny editing room with no windows, uncomfortable chairs, dim lighting and lots of equipment, knobs, dials and trembling fine arrows pointing to numbers. It felt a little like a plane’s cockpit.
Super8 film it was called then, wasn’t it? Film that could actually break or unspool on the floor. A scary business. But we persevered and made a colorful film interviewing some of our participants and showing them at work sitting in tall grasses or beside the stream as they painted and wrote. We wanted the world to see how nature conspires to help us find our souls, reveal our unique creative voices. We called it: A Touch of the Wild and I really do want to convert it to a digital format so I can see it again.
Flash forward 25 years or so and here I am today sitting in the comfort of my adjustable desk chair in front of my own computer with the wide screen monitor and shimmering green trees and sunlight outside my windows making my very own video with my very own computer program.
The learning curve is steep but my hands are held by James Floyd Kelly who wrote the book : “Getting Started with Windows Live Movie Maker.” What a godsend! And then I’m totally inspired by Steve Stockman. Outrageous and experienced he wrote the book “How To Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck.” Don’t you love that title?
I’ve been wanting to make videos for several years but was shy about the camera. I’d forgotten until only a week or so ago, that I don’t have to be in front of the camera to make a video. Eeeeeeeegad. I’m slow witted sometimes.
The impetus for making this video is so I can include it as a link for an article I wrote for Creative Sacred Living Magazine – an online magazine with interactive components, like watching this video or listening to an audio. The article is titled: From Scared to Sacred. I’d love for you to subscribe so you can read it.
In the meantime you can watch the video! It’s only 3.29 minutes long.
March 22nd was a global call to bless our waters. I didn’t have time that day to offer the proper prayer called for but luckily prayer comes in many forms. As I rode the ferry that morning back to the island where I live, I gazed down at the water I traveled upon with wonder. That to me is a form of prayer. How amazing is this element upon which this huge and heavy boat floats. Truly astounding! How can this liquid open up to my diving form and allow me to enter it at the same time this ship rides upon it as if the surface were solid? This substance called water supports an entire world with all its denizens while simultaneously providing food for the masses on land AND dealing with the outpouring of industrial waste. How astonishing is this being? Beyond words…realllllly. And that awe, that reverence, that love I feel are certainly a form of praying…and ignites my desire to protect this precious element.
At the time designated for our region to pray for water I was teaching Painting True, an intuitive art class designed to nourish the soul, at the new healing space on Bainbridge Island called the Dayaalu Center.
Intuitive painting is a form of prayer so I’d told the group that water would be our muse that day. I titled the session: The Many Faces of Water, Reflections of the Soul.
water responds to the conditions around it (temperature, wind, earthquakes, moon, etc),
water is colorless but reflects every color imaginable from both above and below,
water transforms and changes character depending on its relationship to everything else. It can shatter into a million droplets and come back together in a single torrent.
Water is all about connectivity, kinship, magnetism, gravity.
Then suddenly one of our members – who happens to be a retired rocket scientist – said,
“You know, water is the only element in which its solid form is lighter than its liquid form. If ice sank to the bottom rather than floated to the top, our entire planet would be a different place.”
That got us really excited as insights started to flow about the relationship between liquid and solid, spirit and soul, spirit and matter. What if our body, as a solid, rises up out of the spirit, as vapor. What if the soul, as our body, floats up from the depths of the watery womb of spirit. Something about this reflection: the soul is the solid version of the liquid/gaseous spirit – this insight animates my being and feels like deep prayer and all of that is inspired by our conversation about water as replenishing, nourishing, cleansing, responsive, malleable…ahhhhhhhhh water, I am beholden to you for so much more than quenching my thirst.
And to you, dear painters, you quench my thirsty soul! Thank you.
My friend, Sondra, asks me to join her and another friend for Happy Hour at a local pub. I have never been much of a pub goer, so the first time she asked, I was kind of relieved not to be able to join them. But the second time, I am free. She’s “near and dear” to me so I think, “What the heck, Deborah, step out of your box.”
I arrive about 15 minutes late but neither of them is there so I exit the noisy, jangly energy of the bar with relief. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
But as luck would have it, Sondra is hanging out in the clothes store nearby and hails me from across the parking lot. We enter the pub, find an empty high square table and a few extra tall chairs so we can sit. Our other friend, even later than we are, arrives, and our conversation heats up, in the sense of deep thoughts being bandied about in between bantering with the waiter and ordering our glasses of inexpensive wine. Then to my delight a third friend shows up, all of us elder types, but vibrant elder types if I do say so myself.
But then, but then, the daughter of a dear friend arrives. Only 22, she amazes me with her perspectives and her enjoyment hanging out with US. What a blessing!
Sondra, with a glint in her eye, starts fishing around in her purse. Triumphantly, she pulls her hand out of the bag clutching the deck of Fearless Sisters Oracle Cards.
“Are you ready to pull one?”
Even though I’m amazed that we’re embarking on a card reading in a nosy public place, I nod my head ,”Yes.” We pass the deck around, shuffling and cutting and generally putting our energy into the pack, each choosing the perfect card! Intention, You Are Enough, Storms, Compassion and Intuition…
At one point, we are so excited by the perfection of the unique wisdom and personally relevant information showing up that the five of us erupt into spontaneous applause. The entire pub quiets for a few seconds as heads turn to see what’s happening. Nothing anyone can see and the hubbub resumes, but I experience the bubble of loving exuberance at our table rippling throughout the room.
After we finish, my friends can’t stop talking about why this deck of cards seems so different from other oracle decks. Here’s my attempt at capturing their enthusiastic comments… so rich that I grab a scrap of paper to take rudimentary notes:
These cards are each gorgeous and perfect because they are unique, clearly expressing the truth of each woman who painted it.
The intention of “creating a soul-filled set of cards and messages to nurture, support, guide and inspire you to reconnect with your fearless soul” clearly guided each artist as she intuitively expressed what she wanted to say and needed to paint.
Being committed to that vision kept all the artists on track and that authentic voice shines through.
The artists’ honesty joins with the readers’ own authenticity, making it easier to embrace the truths we each personally need to recognize.
The cards offer a powerful invitation to get real, to step courageously into life.
The most important thing my friends said, though, is this: Your “work” is not done. The journey of awakening that the Fearless Sisters Oracle Card Deck inspires has only just begun!!!
The Fearless Sisters are considering a second printing but we’re not ready to commit to that quite yet. Happily, my inventory is dwindling so let me know soon if you’d like to purchase a deck.
And I really do hope Sondra invites me to Happy Hour again!