An Epiphany of Creation

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The Goddess’ Cauldron

Into Sedna’s icy seas

I cast wisps of prayer and blessing for this new year.

From her dark depths

cold crystalline shards of unknown shadows

float to the surface,

intrigued and captivated by the phosphorescent luminous.

All now, swirl and churn, mixed with my morning kiss.

Embraced by its heart and heat

All now, melt and merge.

All now, transformed

into wave and mist, cloud and rain

crashing, soaking, washing

shoreline sands, rocky cliffs, silent forests,

skin and scale and fur and feather.

Time will stand still and breathe anew

into this vow of creative surrender.

(Inspired by this clay plate from Newfoundland artist, Peter Sobal, and spontaneous invocation at the Self as Source Writers’ Retreat, December 7, 2015.)

A Gift To Self

…Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born…

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.

David Whyte – from The Winter of Listening

Soon the Winter Solstice will be upon us, the darkest day marking the return of the light and lengthening days.  In the past few years with less pressure to rush out the door to be at an office, I’ve come to welcome the invitation darker days bring, a “hunkering down and in.”  This year especially so as I enjoy our home, feeling new with the completion of a long-awaited kitchen and bath renovation and that fresh coat of paint, all creating a comfortable feng shui flow.  I can’t believe how much I’m loving cooking in our kitchen!

Wendy Townley Aldermarsh

Aldermarsh Skies by Wendy Townley

And I’ve just returned from my first ever writers’ retreat, held the first week of December on Whidbey Island.  Hosted by my circle teacher and friend, Christina Baldwin, and circle sister “travelpoet” Kristie McLean, attending Self As Source was a long awaited gift to self.  I imagined being in the Pacific Northwest in December – with its grey sodden skies, wind and rain, living among the cedars, firs and alders with owls and coyotes singing at night – would be the perfect ambiance for listening within and claiming myself, “writer. “ It did not disappoint.  After several days of preparation with gentle prompts and creative activities, our thirty-six silent hours found me sitting by the window tapping out an almost complete volume of love letters, as the rain tapped continously on the glass.  It was, as David Whyte writes, that “great shout of joy” inside, being born.

Now home to full weeks of deep listening to school leaders – helping them create inner space for the grief they hold for students and community whose memories of Christmas are painful; hosting the first of several leadership training circles for the staff of my local women’s shelter; tending to business matters left waiting during two quick trips to Whidbey Island; and making Christmas preparations, my love letters wait, much as our gentle Annie waits for me to rise from my desk and take her for a walk.

Each of the fourteen women in our circle realized that claiming time to write – to listen and tend to that great inside shout of joy, that new life that we must call our own – takes what we experienced in retreat – preparation, practice, discipline and allies, those who support us in doing what we know we must do, and yet…

I can’t keep those letters waiting, any more than I can keep Annie waiting.

It has me wonder:

What great inside shout of joy is waiting for you?

What new life needs the preparation, practice, discipline and allies to have you call it your own? 

While not Whidbey Island in the Pacific Northwest, Strawberry Creek Lodge in the aspen parkland an hour’s drive south of Edmonton has a similar warm ambiance for hunkering down and in.  There, I’ll be co-hosting Soul Spark with my friend, work mate and circle sister, Beth Sanders.

Soul SparkSoul Spark … An annual intimate winter retreat for ten people to step into the fire of doing the work and living the life they long for.  Whether you are in your early, mid, or encore career, here you will have the time and companionship to discern what and how to move forward.

Soul Spark … Strawberry Creek Lodge, a warm log cabin with quiet sitting spaces, a cozy fireplace around which we gather each day, silent walking trails, and delicious home cooked meals.

Soul Spark … February 16-19, 2016

Soul Spark … You are welcome.  Your place is waiting.

Wishing you the warm embrace of winter’s Solstice and Christmas and a new year full of promise.

 

Stepping into a Legacy of Learning

CP HostsIn late September I had the privilege of co-hosting with local friend and colleague, Beth Sanders, The Circle Way training practicum with founders and master circle practitioners, Ann Linnea and Christina Baldwin.  Seventeen people joined us, from Germany, Indiana, Minnesota, British Columbia, together with a strong local contingent.

Strawberry Creek Lodge welcomed and held us for the five days, providing nourishment for body and spirit, its simple and natural beauty – with acres of glowing golden aspens and towering spruce and pine, leaf-covered trails, beaver, moose, coyote and bird – creating the larger container into which we created our circle of intention, learning, curiosity, and compassion.

P1010046It was the second time such a circle had been called.  In 2011, the day before I departed for three months abroad, I emailed Ann and Christina wondering if they’d come to Edmonton to teach circle.  Then, too, seventeen of us gathered at Strawberry Creek Lodge in the glorious splendor of fall of 2012.  Then, intent to bring circle more fully into my personal and professional work, hardly would I have imagined this manifesting as co-teaching with Ann and Christina during their final off-site training.

In the weeks prior to this circle, in the moments between “skippering” our home’s renovation, I felt anxious, apprehensive even.  In counsel with a wise woman, she offered that of course, such would be the response to stepping into a legacy.  Relief with having been so deeply heard, with having received the “frame” for understanding and navigating this new role and context.  My choice of token to bring to the opening circle’s centre, the solid pewter sea urchin, its circular shape and surface covered with tiny circles, its weight signifying the gravitas of the occasion for me.

Kana Ishii Paszek Photography, 2015Together, we four held well the circle’s directions, energies, and teachings.  Together, we were both present to and in a grief that came in with this circle – supporting, shepherding and stewarding, with clarity, focus and compassion, several momentous transitions.  Together, we practiced and modeled a cornerstone Circle Way agreement: “ask for what you need, offer what you can.”

And in the end, after a mid-night of Northern Lights that shimmered in the brilliant sky, clear after a day of blustery wind and steady rain, the torches passed, marked by the green and orange “Glassy Baby” candles, gifts from Ann and Christina to Beth and me.

Now Beth and I mark our own stepping in to create a pattern of learning experiences for the next phase of our lives.  We hope you’ll join us for circle practicum trainings next spring and summer, and our newest (ad)venture, Soul Spark: Step Into the Fire of Doing the Work You Love to Do. Soul Spark

Winter’s Pause

January takes her parting bow today.  After a respite that melted most of the snow and foolishly tempted both plant and birds into thinking spring was soon to be, I awoke to a once again cold, white winter.  Curious, too, my start to this year as it’s taken the month to imagine and begin to see glimmers of the returning light.

Right now, I’m in the third, middle week of the U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society, Self, a MOOC (massive open online classes) hosted by MIT, featuring Otto Scharmer and his team.  Together with 25,000 people from over 190 countries around the world, we’re participating in a novel, highly experiential process to “learn how to create profound innovation in a time of disruptive change by leading from the emerging future,” by introducing the consciousness – that quality of awareness and attention – as the variable affecting the quality of the results we create in any social system.

“The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.” — Bill O’Brien

I’ve written about Theory U before, described other times when I’ve journeyed down the U, shared how I knew in my heart and bones the quintessence of this work when I first heard Otto present his ideas in 2003 at Shambhala-Alia – even before he called it “Theory U. “ Last year several of us held a study of this course’s featured book, Leading from the Emerging Future, and twice now, I’ve co-hosted a 2-day learning lab, Leading in Emergence, designed as an abbreviated journey though the U.

ulab-overview

So given this “more than passing” familiarity, I was bowled over when last week, for the first time I actually heard that the emerging future needs me, needs us, to be born and to have life. While perhaps pretty obvious to many, I was deeply moved by this.  It’s not that I’m a passive, or even active participant.  I am, we are, midwife to that future that comes from Self, or Source, or God, or pure creativity, whatever you call the embodiment and enactment of love.

I just realized above that I wrote, “I’m in the middle of the U.Lab,” a perfect description for where I really am, both literally in the course, and metaphorically in my life – at the bottom of the U.  Work has been slow to start this year, and at the moment, I don’t see much on the horizon for the next few months.  Perhaps for one of the first times, I’m not too anxious about this.

I spend many dark dawn morning hours sitting with my Peggy dog, imagining we’re both filling up on each other before she takes her parting bow. I remind myself, this is where I need to be now. Every time a vacation bargain crosses my screen, my Magpie-Crow-Raven cousins get seduced by the “shiny,” but by day’s end I delete what I know down deep is only a distraction. I remind myself, this is where I need to be now.  I feel the uncertainty, unfamiliarity and void with letting go of a life-long honed identity that once served well…with cancelling long held dreams that no longer matter …with releasing relationships that use me up.  I remind myself, this is where I need to be now. This year, The Scientist officially became a senior, and I celebrate a new decade, and face the reality that yes, while only a number, 60 is NOT the new 50; that I, he, we are entering into new and unfamiliar territory that we know will be marked by more letting go.  I remind myself, this is where I am right now.  I see how my Peggy dog has become the symbol for all that is letting go, dying, as was so starkly, heartbreakingly, blessedly revealed to me in a dream last week, a dream that when I recall, resounds deep in my gut.

So now I have time to ponder and play with something a dear friend wrote in response to my blog wherein I wrote about having been struck with Bell’s Palsy, an illness that cracked me open, whose effects continue to reverberate, and is, I now know, one of the boons from the threshold I crossed when I took leave from work and traveled to Europe in 2010-11.

“I went along for the ride (in a virtual world) when you went to Europe and I smiled and laughed and remembered my own trip many years ago. I wondered if maybe I was becoming stagnant as I don’t go too far these days and seem to be so very comfortable just being in my home. Then it occurred to me that what better way to live your truth than by getting up everyday and simply living your life? Not as a teacher or mentor or guide, but just living each day with the spontaneity that comes with a brand new day.
I am not saying we shouldn’t give back and share our knowledge, but sometimes life makes us sit back and just be, while we look at the balance or imbalance that currently is our reality.”

Perhaps this is the future that is asking to be born through me now.

For now, letting come winter’s pause to attend.

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.  On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” — Arundhati Roy

Consciously Attending to My New Year

Perspectives with Panache, 2014It’s been a long time since I last wrote here.  I’d started a piece on my heart’s response to being in Turkey, how I didn’t really let myself know fully “Why Turkey?” until a kind and gentle Muslim friend asked me over coffee and pastries at the Duchess one morning upon my return.  Why Turkey?  “Because of Rumi,” was my most truthful, heartful reply, as tears came suddenly.  She nodded a deep knowing.  For a good month upon my return, I reverberated with that energy, experiencing what another friend recently called “post trip stress disorder,” PTSD of a different sort, wherein we experience a range of reactions to having our paradigms and hearts cracked open.  A good thing she offered, because it means we’ve been open to the experience, letting something new come in and touch us.  Whew! So much more than just jet lag!

I never finished that piece.  I had trouble finding the words to express myself, and then time had passed with more water under the bridge.  I’ve noticed that since keeping a journal more regularly, that process holds some of what I might previously written here.  How many times I’ve noted there an even deeper appreciation for, a need for the quiet and silence that greets me in those early morning moments, and I sense this has slipped and seeped into discerning, whether or not I choose to write “out here.”

Like around Remembrance Day, I found myself pondering if and how we make space to remember those who fought on the other side, who were “the enemy.”  The notion of legitimate-illegitimate grief had been stirring inside for a couple of months, prompted by the passing of my chosen namesake. My paternal grandfather, my opa, was a German soldier killed in action and buried in France.  My father knew him for only a few short years of childhood, due to a stubborn estrangement between his parents.  Several years ago, pieces came together to help my father finally visit his father’s final resting place, taking with him his mother’s ashes, making for reconciliation, and peace.  My husband’s father, too, a young German soldier, taken as prisoner of war to England and Texas, who still eats with military-issued cutlery.  How, or do we grant those close to our hearts the honor of remembering when they have been called “enemy”?  How do we illuminate this shadowed grief and give it legitimacy? 

While questions worthy of posing here, I heeded an inner caution to take time to hold them close inside and steep in their tension.  Many times I think about Rumi’s poem, The Guest House, as it reminds me the way to reconciliation and peace “out here,” is to welcome as guest, the “enemy” inside:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Perspectives with PanacheQuiet and silence.  We’ve been having less these past weeks as our dear Peggy dog, now in her seventeenth year, has developed dementia, compounding her deafness and partial blindness.  This means she paces aimlessly through the house, nails tapping on hard wood floors, grating like nails on a chalkboard, or when cordoned off in the kitchen, ceaselessly doing laps around the table.  Sometimes we find her standing still, with her head in a corner, or open cupboard, peering into space.  Stairways, once agilely manoeuvered, now require our assistance and constant attention so she doesn’t fall. Diapers, baby food to entice her appetite, daily bathing and laundering to keep her clean, rearranging furniture and schedules, all adaptations we’re learning to make to keep safe and attend to this beloved being who has given us years of joyful companionship and wise lessons. “You’re preparing to lose her,” spoke a dear wise woman, affirming my deep sadness, both specific and amplified by the holydays.  We anticipate her time will come this year, and I make preparation to welcome that guest into my house.

It’s a grey, flat light morning here on the first day of 2015.  Right now, Peggy and our younger dog, Gentle Annie, are quiet and still, sleeping by the space heater as I write and The Scientist peruses financial forecasts.  Soon we’ll dress, have brunch, and take a family walk.  I’m thinking about my focus for the year ahead, “conscious attendant.”  It suddenly popped to mind a few days ago when, after reading my Haligonian heart-sister’s Facebook status, being reminded of her annual practice, I asked for a guiding touchstone.  A moment of discouraged disbelief, and then recognition that this so perfectly aligns with how I’ve defined myself “out here”: attending to the inner life, to live and lead with courage, clarity, compassion and creativity, and in which I am growing in comfort and confidence as I practice and value emerging gifts.  And to seal it, I discovered this thoughtful post from Parker Palmer about crossing the threshold into a new year.  Here, he references a beautiful poem by Anne Hillman, and gives us five beautiful and evocative questions to guide our crossing, and focus my attending:

  1. How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of aliveness?
  2. What is my next challenge in daring to be human?
  3. How can I open myself to the beauty of nature and human nature?
  4. Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
  5. What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?

For the Solstice I wrote this blessing and offer it to you with my sustained love and appreciation as we cross into our new year:

May the gifts of these holydays be yours throughout the coming year…

love of and for your family and friends,

health of body, mind and spirit,

work that sustains and serves,

kindness for self and others, and peace.

May you know and be peace.