Coming Home: Deepening our sense of well-being within a turbulently changing world



Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

By Andrea Winn and Elisa Paiva Neta

Nowadays the commute back home is more stressful than ever. People are afraid to take the bus, to get close to another person, to help someone. We are all afraid to bring home the COVID virus. This fear has been causing us to isolate ourselves appearing as depression, anxiety and more emotional and stress related illness. I, Elisa Paiva Neta, am Brazilian and live in Canada. My husband and I used to go back to Brazil every December to visit our family back home. Now just the thought of being on a plane for 10 hours scares me. On the plane everybody is breathing the same air.

The COVID era carries a heavy energy filled with fear. Now we do not feel safe anywhere, even in our homes. The simple act of going to the grocery store requires a lot of us emotionally, as we have to use a mask, be away from people and use hand sanitizer all the time. This situation is stressful to our whole being as we feel the reactions through our physical body as the result of our emotions. Our nervous system is deeply triggered.

Coming home used to be an act filled with happiness, relief, joy and gratitude. Now all those feelings are blocked by this stress response to COVID. I know of parents coming home and afraid to bring the virus to their kids. The playdates in person are being cancelled. The babies and toddlers are playing only with their parents and siblings. The bigger kids are on online playdates. The learning that the kids get from friendship and being around other kids are lost. Throughout those innocent playdates and times at the park, school and library kids learn to socialize. Nowadays we are forcing the kids to be online at an early age.

It’s been three-and-a-half years since I, Andrea, moved from Toronto to Halifax. I like Halifax, but I would not say it feels like home. As spiritual hippies, my parents moved frequently during my childhood, and I never developed a sense of home in any particular place. Between frequent moving and pervasive emotional dysfunction through my growing up years, I didn’t feel “located” or safe either within myself or outside myself.

For the last 30+ years I have done deep healing and self-locating work. This has better prepared me for riding the massive changes that came with COVID-19.

It’s been almost two decades, and I clearly remember the day I went an hour early for an appointment with a counsellor at the Toronto Rape Crisis Center. I went early intentionally. I wanted to figure out why I felt safe there. For an hour I journalled, frequently looking up and around me, and feeling my way into why I felt safe there. As I looked around, my eyes fell on a poster that said, “A woman’s place is every place.”

There has been generations of conditioning about where it is appropriate for us to be – whether we are a woman, a queer person, a non-binary person, a Black person, a member of First Nations, a disabled person, a mentally challenged person, and there are so many other marginalized groups of people. It’s defined for us when it is appropriate for us to speak, be angry (never), cough, sit with our legs relaxed and open, eat, pee, and the list goes on.

I would suggest that we have been so conditioned to living in a box, we easily forget where we belong. We forget that we belong in our body. We belong with ourselves and our loved ones. We belong in our life. We belong in our home, our city, our country, our world.

Having lost a sense of permission to be who we are, we can become attuned to danger and live in a fight-or-flight mode. An experience like COVID-19 has played right into that dynamic, further elevating the experience for those already living in that mode, and bringing masses of more people into daily fight-or-flight. This is the aroused sympathetic nervous system response that Elisa so eloquently described above. It is a mode of deep coping.

This is not a space where we can thrive. The space where we can thrive is when we feel reasonably safe: when we feel at home in our body, with the people around us, and in our life.

It is important to reestablish a sense of safety and feeling at home within ourselves and our life. Once we establish that sense of being “home,” we can then extend that to others – through the circles of our loved ones, our friends, our work colleagues, our neighbors, and ultimately as a citizen of our country and world. This is deep healing work!

Wise ones have suggested that our most fundamental spiritual need is seeking to reclaim connection. This world is our home. We belong here. We are needed, as fully embodied and emboldened people. Living in open-hearted and assertive ways, bringing abundant light to all those we touch.

This issue of the Dream Whisperer newsletter is dedicated to helping you “come home” and deepen your sense of well-being within turbulent world change. I hope you will use the blessing and prayer sheet that Elisa and I prepared for you in the newsletter, and let the month of July be your stake in the ground to establish home within your heart.

If you would like to receive the Dream Whisperer “Coming Home” prayer sheet, you can sign up to receive the newsletter here.

Are you searching for coherence in a chaotic world?



Lotus
Photo by Olia Nayda on Unsplash

In the final month of the Dream Whisperer community needs survey, we had four winning topics:

  • Improving family relationships
  • Visioning a good future for myself
  • Being more organized, and 
  • Overcoming internal barriers to receiving love

Is there a thread running through these topics illuminating a pathway forward for our community? One thread I see is a desire for coherence. The Oxford Languages website defines coherence as, “the quality of forming a unified whole.”

Many have come from childhoods where our parents were unable to give us a coherent upbringing. We may have experienced anything from neglect to abuse, and we travel through life seeking something different. We seek to heal the past to feel more whole. 

Disorganized early relationships can manifest in feeling states that lead us to be disorganized in our lives. Being imprinted with early disorganized relationships can literally manifest as an unconscious approach to creating disorganization in our adult life. This can manifest on a practical level as being disorganized in our schedule or in how we keep our physical space cluttered with objects and papers we no longer need.

Those early childhood imprints can also cause us to be closed to receiving love. Our child brain did its best to understand hurts and create defence patterns to protect us from further hurt. These child-informed patterns were woven into our development through childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. They are woven into how we see the world in such a deep way, it can be difficult to see these patterns at play as an adult. Living an adult life with emotional defence patterns formed in early life are not only out-dated ways of protecting our heart from hurt, they are unfortunately also barriers to receiving love.

In addition to possibly recovering from childhood challenges, in our society we typically focus on achieving things, such as a career, business goals, building a family, or owning a home. Having a narrow focus can lead to lopsided lives where we overwork, sacrificing health or relationships for career goals. Or on the other hand, perhaps we sacrificed our personal fulfillment through an occupation in order to establish a family.

These various sources of fragmentation and narrow focus have provoked a healthy motivation in many for greater coherence, or “the quality of forming a unified whole.” We desire a wholeness that encompasses our history, our relationships, our communities, our occupation, our gifts, care for our home (Mother Earth), and fulfilment of our human potential.

The good news is, this is very possible.

I would suggest it begins with slowing down and connecting with our humanity. I am an advocate for mindfulness meditation as an effective way to slow down and connect with our human heart. Many find meditation too challenging, and I get that. So in my approach to meditation, it is deeply grounded in gentleness, trauma-informed understanding and compassion.

By developing a softer relationship with ourself, we can bring the lens of compassion to our troubles in life. We can begin to see ourselves through compassionate and wise adult eyes, rather than through the eyes of our early caregivers — the view of ourselves that we learned as children. This is an important shift, that can open us up like a flower.

A flower is a beautiful symbol for coherence, or “the quality of forming a unified whole.” A flower can be a guide for the journey of developing self-compassion. I hope you will allow yourself to contemplate the coherence of a flower you may see on a walk today, and see what gifts may be here for you for developing a more comfortable journey in life that bears greater coherence.

With blessing.

Why did women initially march against Trump and why might feminine wisdom be the cure for Trump madness?



Women’s March on Washington (Wikipedia)

I’m sure many, like me, are in awe of Donald Trump’s insolence and the curious support he has. How can a man clearly lose an election and yet still attempt to claw back reality and reinstate himself as President? Why are some of his supporters resorting to violence to be heard? Why do some still insist there was voter fraud, despite the confirmation of a valid vote?

Trump has long touted a mind-over-matter new age approach where you can do whatever you want to do, regardless of the impact on others. Operating in this way, his distorted beliefs have put the Earth’s health at even greater risk, put vulnerable people in the United States into even greater vulnerability, and divided U.S. citizens not only against each other but also against other nations through his use of scapegoating and bigotry.

How can his approach have appeal to many US citizens? Have they been in pain for such a long time that they will hold on to a saviour, even if he preaches darkness? Do they need scapegoats to hate so they don’t feel their own inner doubts and struggles? Have they been living in such pain that they will sell their soul for a ticket out of that pain? This is madness, and it will never lead to any falsely promised freedom nor happiness. Although it’s not a new phenomenon, for right now I’m naming this Trump madness. 

So how do we cure Trump madness?

I think back to when Trump was first elected. Women responded powerfully by organizing the Women’s March, a worldwide event the day after Trump was inaugurated. This was the largest single-day protest in US history! A fierce wisdom erupted within women in the US and around the world in response to a man with degrading values taking office in one of the most powerful leadership roles in the world.

Trump degrades women, he degrades vulnerability, and he degrades “the other” – anyone different from himself. I am so proud of women for standing up in such a powerful way, making their NO heard, and creating space for other caring voices to say NO to this President! It was important.

The say that what doesn’t kill you, makes you strong!

In many ways we were forced to grow strength to endure the last four years. Not an easy way to grow stronger! The metaphor that comes to mind is that of the prolonged pressure applied to coal that eventually turns it into diamond. Do you feel like a diamond now?

No doubt we need incredible strength now, combined with diamond clarity for making wise decisions.

We’ve got a mess in the U.S., and I appreciate the way Biden is prioritizing that clean up. His priorities feel sound. However, I am wondering how can we attend to the Trump madness – the dis-ease of the heart and mind that has spread to so many in the US? From personal stories people have been telling me, there are even Canadians who support Trump with his claims of election fraud and no need to wear masks.

Is the fierce feminine the answer?

I’m going back to that fierce, deep, caring, loving and loyal wisdom that erupted in response to Trump being inaugurated. I believe it is that wisdom of care that must be nurtured and emboldened now. Although I’m naming this “feminine wisdom,” everyone can have access to it. It has been practiced within restorative justice, mediation, the various healing arts and modalities, midwifery, herbalism, and countless other areas for centuries.

The key right now is to know how important this fierce wisdom is needed, and to illuminate it. Let us see it. Let us praise it. Let us kindle it. Let us be brave enough to act with care in our social circles and communities.

Feminine wisdom went underground, as it likely needed to given the circumstances. A community member who responded to my November survey gave me permission to quote her:

“I feel like I want to take off an old heavy coat that I’ve been wearing for years. It’s light brown, heavy,oversized ,crumpled,well worn,it’s a mans coat.i hide inside.i turn inwards pulling up the collar to shelter from the storm. I am hidden.”

I suspect many will relate with the visceral feeling of this woman’s well-expressed image of endurance within an oppressive, male-dominated environment. The word that leaps out to me is her desire – her desire to take off that old heavy coat. 

Desire can be the key to change

It is through honouring our desire that we can all make the journey out of oppression and into empowerment. It is a journey that sometimes requires patience and sometimes requires impatience. It can also require testing and finding allies, because growing our voice and courage often requires being seen and lifted up within strong and loyal relationships with others.

I bring this post to conclusion by saying: May the feminine wisdom within each of us rise up, stand proud, and speak her truth. Throw off your old heavy coat and allow yourself to be beautiful, because this world needs you! Now that the tide has turned and the window of opportunity has cracked open, let us all, through our diverse contributions, re-establish a culture of respect and care – one day at a time.

What small action can you take today to honour and/or unleash your feminine wisdom?

Want to explore more?

Join my upcoming free live Empowerment Event:

Ignite Your Feminine Power

Creating a better world post-#MeToo



I dearly love women. I deeply care about women. It hurts my heart every time I see a woman disregarded, dismissed, belittled, ignored, covered in lies,  sexually violated, physically assaulted, emotionally abused, or banished from a community because she spoke Truth.

I feel fortunate to have lived in the time of #MeToo – to have been part of such a profound time of women’s empowerment! As we move forward from this profound time of breaking open long suppressed truths, new supports are needed.

I heard on the CBC news yesterday that since April of this year, almost 700 battered women in Ottawa have been turned away from Violence Against Women Shelters. These women made what may be the most courageous decision in their life – to leave an abuser – and there was no safe shelter with support to receive them. The shelters are full of women saying no to abuse – indeed they are overfull!

Locally here in Halifax, a few months ago the Avalon Sexual Assault Center had to close its waiting list because they don’t have the resource to meet the needs of women recovering from sexual violence. The Avalon home page has a bolded message saying, “Avalon is temporarily unable to receive new counselling requests. We will be directing all therapeutic counselling service to those on the waitlist until we are able to estimate wait times.” A further over-stretched violence against women service.

In the midst of the startling changes happening now, it’s important to stay connected and talk. Thank you, dear reader, for your response to my post last week about what you are doing to meet the unique challenges of our time. In the same spirit as my post last week, I am seeking conversation about ways to be of support in these changing times. 

I have been in dialog with Avalon Center and have offered to donate the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program to the center for use by women seeking support. It is a way that I am able to offer support to an overstretched system. They are looking into the possibility of how this might work for them, and we will be in continued discussion.

I, myself, received a great deal of support from the Toronto Rape Crisis Center (TRCC) over the past three years. My former counsellor, Karlene, not only cared for me in my personal journey, but she also provided invaluable strategic consultations for my leadership of Buddhist Project Sunshine. Once I put the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program on the market in 2020, I will be donating 10% of all sales to the TRCC.

In addition, I have offered to contribute to the TRCC as a motivational speaker for women who are thinking of doing what I did with Buddhist Project Sunshine (BPS). I know there are many stories that didn’t succeed as women hoped. BPS is a shining example of success, and according to Karlene, my work and BPS are already a source of inspiration to other women coming through their center.

Post-#MeToo, this is a new world that we are all actively creating. I believe each of us has something to contribute to making this a more loving and humane world. There are a lot of things happening that are encouraging. Let us nurture these things. And let us share our stories for a collective uplifting!

What are you doing to create a new world post-#MeToo? What would you like to do? Please feel free to post your thoughts below.

Fiercer protection for Mother Earth & The impeachment inquiry into Trump



Mother Earth
Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com

I have been heartened by important trends in the news lately. Namely stronger protests happening to bring attention to protecting our home: Mother Earth, including this week’s announcement from the United Nations about the imminent need to decrease green house emissions to ensure survival of life as we know it. I am also heartened by the launch of the impeachment inquiry into Trump.

But I am not naive! I know there are systemic, intergenerational belief patterns that led to the broken relationship with and abuse of our precious earth. Similarly, a collective consciousness led to the election and continued support of Trump (and other populous leaders in the world). I’m seeing traumatized, fragmented pain living an unbridled life, causing more pain. 

Two questions on my mind are (1) What can I/we do to dismantle the ingrained systemic beliefs that created this global crisis? And (2) What can I/we do to support (a) the Earth Protection Protesters and (b) those involved with the impeachment inquiry?

I’d love to know what you think. I’m creating space here for you to share your positive, proactive, empowered and empowering ideas. I’m also creating space for you to share your sadness and grief over what we have done to our planet, and the intergenerational trauma that has impacted us all. Please, you are welcome to share below.

How to open space in our heart to care for the earth



 
How can we open the space in our over-burdened, over-worked, and over-scheduled hearts to contemplate the welfare of the earth, and even more ambitiously – how we can give back to the earth?

 

Last week I wrote about the healing power of laying in grass – a beautiful way to receive healing energy from the earth. This week, let’s look at how we can care for this precious earth!

The earth is worth caring for. I don’t know anyone who would argue against that! But… I know many people who are living their life with the pedal to the metal, and they feel they have too many priorities that outrank caring about the well-being of mother earth. Understanding what is happening with the earth in this age is deep and complex, and can feel overwhelming. For many, this feels like too much to take in.

So how can we open the space in our over-burdened, over-worked, and over-scheduled hearts to contemplate the welfare of the earth, and even more ambitiously – how we can give back to the earth?

I am grateful for meaningful dialog with you. After my grass email last week, I received an email from Paul, a member of this list, that was filled with wisdom and inspiration for how we can care for the earth. It was utterly uplifting!

Paul forwarded to me Drew Dellinger’s beautiful synopsis of the work of Thomas Berry, a man filled with much grace. Berry offers a way for contemporary people to fit love for the earth into our busy lives!

I am passing on Dellinger’s email to you below. I hope you will receive the blessing of Berry’s enlightening approach! You can read the article and leave your comments and reflections on the blog page for this issue.

May this INSPIRE you to love mother earth better!
 
 

Thomas Berry 101

ThomasBerryinEcuador19932_r

In honor of the 101st birthday of ecological and cosmological writer,
thinker, and teacher, Thomas Berry (1914-2009), here’s a brief overview
of some of his ideas. There is much to explore in his works, such as
The Dream of the Earth (1988), The Great Work (1999), or The Sacred
Universe (2009), on Twitter at @EssentialBerry, and on the web at
ThomasBerry.org, but here are six insights from Berry to get you
started: Thomas Berry 101, for Tom’s 101st birthday.

1. THE DEVASTATION OF THE PLANET

For decades Thomas Berry was a tireless teacher and prophetic voice
addressing the ecological crisis, the mass extinction of species, and
the future consequences of our unrelenting and often irreversible
destruction of Earth’s biosphere. The Big News on the planet, as Berry
saw it, was that humans were terminating the Cenozoic Period,
unraveling the last 65 million years of Earth’s evolutionary
flourishing. “We are working with what is perhaps the most precious
reality in the universe–the Earth–and we are spoiling it,” he said.

When Berry spoke about the grandeur of the Earth, and the significance
of what was being lost, you felt it in your soul. At Prescott College
in 1992, he brought listeners to tears as he described the industrial
assault on the planet and nearly whispered in his wavering voice,
“Earth is precious. Species are precious… Reverence will be total or
it will not be at all.”

“The twentieth century has created a serious problem for the
twenty-first century,” Thomas said. “The next ten generations are going
to pay endlessly for what previous generations have done to the water
supply, to the soils, to the seeds that grow the food.”

In Berry’s view, to understand the destruction of the planet, and how
to build a viable future, one had to understand the cultural story of
Western society, and the power of worldview and cosmology.

2. COSMOLOGY

Tom Berry’s favorite word was cosmology, and he was laser-focused on
the significance of worldview, story, cultural narrative, and religious
orientation in understanding the deep roots of the ecological crisis.
As early as 1978 Berry articulated the eco-social crisis of modern
Western culture by saying, “It’s all a question of story. We are in
trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between
stories. The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how
we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new
story.”

In Tom’s view, the cosmos story and the Earth story constitute our new
revelation of the divine. “It’s enormously important for us to know the
story of the universe, and it’s the only way in which we’re going to
know who we are.” “To tell the story of anything,” he remarked, “you
have to tell the story of everything.”

For Berry, it was imperative that modern culture reinvent its
cosmology, honor Indigenous wisdom, and ecofeminist wisdom, and
transform the mechanistic, materialistic modern worldview that, with
its anthropocentrism and radical split between humans and nature, is
destroying the garden planet of the known universe.

Twenty-eight years after writing the essay, “The New Story,” when I
interviewed him in 2006, Berry was still grappling with the
significance of cosmology and worldview. “It’s not easy to describe
what cosmology is,” he told me. “It’s neither religion nor is it
science. It’s a mode of knowing.”

“The only thing that will save the twenty-first century is cosmology,”
he said as we had lunch in North Carolina on a December day. “The only
thing that will save anything is cosmology.”

3. EVERY BEING IS A MODE OF THE EARTH / UNIVERSE

To inhabit Thomas Berry’s cosmological vision is to see the whole
unfolding symphony of species as a unified bio-spiritual expression of
the Earth and universe itself, blossoming into self-awareness and
celebration through manifold forms. When the eyeball evolves, the Earth
is seeing itself. When Jimi Hendrix, Mozart, and Nina Simone reach the
heights of artistic genius, the planet is performing. This is a subtle
but powerful perceptual shift from seeing the ‘parts’ to seeing the
organic wholeness. Every phenomenon on the Earth is a manifestation of
the Earth. The cascading panoply of forms in the universe is a single,
seamless display of cosmic creativity. The Earth flies, swims, and
loves when Earthlings do; the galaxies write sonnets in the hearts of
poets.

4. HUMANS ARE THE EARTH / UNIVERSE REFLECTING ON AND CELEBRATING ITSELF

This cosmological context can renew our sense of the human and our role
in the whole unfolding. Thomas Berry defines the human as, “that being
in whom the universe reflects on and celebrates itself, and its
numinous origin, in a special mode of conscious self-awareness.”

Our job is celebration, not war, consuming, or drudgery, but to
activate the capacities of the creativity-filled universe in human form.

5. THE UNIVERSE STORY CREATES A CONTEXT FOR EDUCATION

When Thomas Berry spoke at Prescott College in Arizona in 1992, he
challenged universities to overcome the split between the sciences and
the humanities by unifying their curriculum within the overarching
context of the universe story. College “should be a place that
celebrates the universe,” he said, “that celebrates the deep mystery of
things, in a meaningful way.”

Presaging the current interest in “Big History,” Berry stated, “Human
history has to be put into Earth history, has to be put into universe
history, into a cosmology.”

In a 1991 dialogue, published as Befriending the Earth, Berry states,
“What is education? Education is knowing the story of the universe, how
it began, how it came to be as it is, and the human role in the story.
There is nothing else. We need to know the story, the universe story,
in all its resonances, in all its meanings. The universe story is the
divine story, the human story, the story of the trees, the story of the
rivers, of the stars, the planets, everything. It is as simple as a
kindergarten tale, yet as complex as all cosmology and all knowledge
and all history…. It gives a new context for education.”

6. THE UNIVERSE IS A COMMUNION OF SUBJECTS & EVERY BEING HAS RIGHTS

Thomas Berry often taught that, “Ecology is functioning cosmology.”
Living responsibly in a connected, breathing cosmos requires that we
recognize the sacred rights of every being, and embody reverence and
respect as much as possible in our society. In this way, cosmology
becomes the context and foundation for our work towards ecological
healing and social and economic justice. “Every being has rights,”
Berry taught, because fundamentally, “the universe is a communion of
subjects, not a collection of objects.”

–Drew Dellinger

http://drewdellinger.org/pages/blog/945/thomas-berry-101

 

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