Elephants, dolphins, and whales are three of the most intelligent, grace-filled beings on Earth. In this week’s video blog, I talk about my own experiences with them and offer a prayer/plea for their survival. May we humans open our awareness and step away from cruel and heartless behaviors that endanger the lives and well-being of these magnificent creatures we share the planet with. Save the elephants. Save the dolphins. Save the whales. Save all animals. And in doing so, save the sweet grace they embody in their lives.
The aptly named “butterfly effect” has become well known in recent years as people begin to take seriously the interconnectedness of all life on our planet, as well as the nature of energy itself. The name refers to the possibility that the movement of a butterfly’s wings affects the world around it in unforeseen ways. The greater truth of this idea resonates within my own life again and again, often quite literally.
Several weeks ago, I reread Sharon Salzberg’s book Faith, published in 2002. I had read it then, but I was moved to take it off the shelf again because its title called to me strongly. As my spiritual journey has deepened, I have found myself repeatedly stepping off the edge of certainty (or the illusion of it) into the unknown. Over the past two months, everything seemed to fall away until I realized that I was being asked to move forward completely on “faith.” Thus my reason for rereading Sharon’s book. With each chapter, I saw how much more deeply I connected with it than I had 15 years before.
Sharon’s personal stories and insights met me right at the center of my own current experience. In her words: “Whatever takes us to our edge, to our outer limits, leads us to the heart of life’s mystery, and there we find faith.” Faith is in essence “the ability to move forward even without knowing.” Which, ultimately, we are all called to do in life, however we may resist it by building an iron-clad belief system or distracting ourselves with what we think are facts. In their wisdom, Native Americans called life “the Great Mystery.” Over the preceding weeks, I had found myself spiraling at the center of that mystery. I kept moving forward inch by inch until finally a wider perspective presented itself in the one word faith. I understood that I may never know with my mind, but I will always know with my soul. And it was my soul that guided me to Sharon’s book.
I decided to read the last few chapters of Faith sitting out in my backyard. When I walked out the door, book in hand, the first thing I saw was a monarch butterfly flying from flower to flower in my garden, my first sighting of the year. Monarchs have become less frequent visitors lately as their numbers diminish because of destruction of their habitat. However, its very presence, its brilliantly colored radiance, attested to the miracle of its survival in spite of all odds. My heart skipped a beat when it lifted its wings and soared right over my head and then circled back to land on another flower. Sheer magic.
After a time of just standing and watching the monarch in wonder, I settled into a lawn chair to read nearby. For more than two hours, it visited flower after flower. Periodically I looked up and gazed at its delicate beauty. As I read the last page, I could feel faith in the unseen divinity that is at the core of all life flood my soul with love and awareness. My small butterfly visitor embodied that blessing. It had come to renew my faith as it lifted its wings and my heart simultaneously. And this is also part of the butterfly effect: The butterfly’s divine life force and magical beauty moves our hearts into alignment with the grace of God’s presence, where faith resides, always. From that place, we too can share our own beautiful life force with others and lift their hearts.
It has become a social media phenomena, the #MeToo that says “yes, I too have been sexually harassed or abused.” Women’s voices are finally being heard and acknowledged in huge numbers after years of fear, shame, secrecy, and silence. We have endured hidden and overt harassment in our lives since childhood. Children of both sexes have also been subjected to sexual abuse, and women of all ages have been raped and traumatized. At last, the invisible is becoming visible, and the secrets are becoming public as courageous individuals shine the light of truth on sexual predation and disempowerment.
Presidents, priests, Olympic doctors, Hollywood moguls, and countless unnamed others are part of a worldwide epidemic of disrespect and sexual violation. With great bravery and integrity, women, and adults of both sexes who were abused as children, are speaking up and sharing the experiences they have held inside themselves for so long. Each revelation empowers others to speak up and say “me too.” Each voice that is heard adds to the collective transformation from personal trauma to liberation from fear and shame.
All these secret transgressions are being revealed because the time of rape and violation behind closed doors is coming to an end. The secrets are being revealed, and the collective voice of humanity is saying “no more.” “Me too” empowers each of us in our lives to speak up and stand with others who have been hurt and shamed by assault and harassment. Personally, I know of no one among my women friends (and a number of men, as well as gender fluid and transgender, friends) who has not experienced some form of sexual hatred or harassment. Me too.
From catcalls in the street, to unwelcome comments or touching from bosses, landlords, dentists, or complete strangers, to the violence of rape, we have experienced disrespect and disregard for our basic humanity. It is ending. The courage and strength of a few individuals has become an avalanche of shared stories and coming together. Yes, me too…and no more. We are stepping out of the old framework based in “power over” into a new paradigm of inner power based in compassion and respect for all—adults, children, elders, animals, plants, and Mother Earth herself.
“Me too” is about inner fortitude, resilience, and refusal to be silenced and subjected to the will of another ever again. It is also about compassion and empathy for all those who have been in that position. The larger “me too” helps individual women and children of both sexes say No to transgressions against the sanctity of their bodies and souls. For sexual abuse is a violation of the spirit not just the physical form. So many people are disengaged from the spiritual nature of humanity. We are God/dess in human form on this Earth. If this were universally understood, then everyone would see that our human bodies are sacred temples for the soul, never to be desecrated or violated. When individuals are aligned with their inner divinity, only love and compassion are possible in the outer world. The time has come for a healing of spirit and form, in all people.
The chorus of voices now speaking the truth shines light into a world darkened by soul-less actions and horrible violations of the human spirit. Awakening is occurring, on all levels. We are evolving, as individuals, as collective consciousness, into full awareness of who we really are at the soul level. The strength and determined truthfulness of the few is multiplying until it circles the world in numbers that ultimately will include every living being on this planet. When we say “me too,” we are opening the door to oneness and stepping into a more inclusive and expansive experience of life and the world around us. Finally we can live from love not fear. That is the transformative power of those two simple words: Me too.
Is it unrealistic or irresponsible to talk about paradise when sexual abuse, mass shootings, massive fires, and monster storms are occurring somewhere in the world on almost a daily basis? Does the existence of violence and hatred make peace on earth a lost cause? I don’t think so. Maybe this is exactly the time to look at the possibility of global harmony and balance. After all, paradise is not really external-world perfection as we have come to think of it. It arises instead from our own hearts, our own perceptions. In this week’s video blog, I talk about how paradise, and perfection, live within us at all times….
Shiva is the power of destruction, dissolution, or transformation in our lives. Nothing entirely new and innovative can be created without this strong, and often unsettling, force that turns the tables on the status quo, normality, and habituation. Without Shiva, our lives would be dull and uneventful—one long Groundhog Day, playing the same scene over and over again. Yet the word destruction strikes fear in our hearts; we freeze at the very thought of losing what is dear to us. Of losing everything.
Hurricanes like Irma, Maria, and Harvey embody this extreme aspect of Shiva. Monumental raging winds and rising water completely obliterate the old, often leaving thousands homeless and grieving the deaths of friends and family. In the aftermath, something new is eventually created, but loss of home and loss of life are not easily assimilated or accepted. Those affected may experience emotional trauma as well as financial burdens. These human crises break our hearts. How do we face life at times like these?
Not easy. Granted, hurricanes are not daily occurrences, but loss of one kind or another is. There is not a day that passes in our lives that we don’t lose something—or believe that we do. Life on Earth brings us face to face with the end of relationships, jobs, living situations, and life itself. We cannot avoid it. Grief at times like these is entirely natural, but our beliefs about those experiences shape what comes after. Unless we can move on and create something new afterward, despair may take hold. This is where faith comes in. Trust in some greater, ultimately benevolent presence in the universe, and in the compassion of our fellow human beings. Belief in a positive outcome, whatever the circumstance.
Recently, I took part in a weekend spiritual retreat that was the energetic equivalent of a hurricane. Everything that had been superimposed on my soul’s essence over the years was wiped out, dissolved. This had been happening bit by bit anyway, but now I was becoming something like a clean slate. There was nothing to attach the memories of my old self to anymore. Both liberating and painful. The painful part was that my recent experiences of oneness and illumination were also gone—or at least seemingly so. I could feel no connection to God whatsoever. Or to anything or anyone else. I felt as if I were ghost-walking through my own life, lost and alone. An island on which all lines of communication have been knocked out.
Gradually, however, I began to gain some insight into what was occurring. I was being asked to go further and dive deeper—beyond surrender and trust, to faith. Faith that God, or Goddess, was present even when I couldn’t feel that presence. Faith that everything was happening for a reason: to ultimately bring me to an even more expansive awareness of God/dess within me. I couldn’t completely experience that until what had come before had been dissolved. Within spaciousness, life unfolds, the Divine manifests. Slowly, this has occurred, like restoring downed lines after a hurricane. Day by day, moment by moment, I am feeling divine connection again, and with it, a deeper faith in its ever-presence, which reconnects me to the world as well.
This kind of process can be set in motion by any great loss or unforeseen ending, in the course of which we are swept clean and sent on our way again to experience life at a deeper level, beyond what we thought was final. We learn that even in the worst of times, if we reach out to one another and open ourselves to new beginnings, we will survive. Faith replaces fear. It is the bird singing in the darkness, reminding us that dawn is at hand.
Often we believe death to be the ultimate ending, but it too is transition, transformation. God consciousness, embodied in you and me, is never-ending. Our souls know this, and it is this inner faith that will carry us forward if we experience loss or disconnection. Eventually, the creative force of life fills us with divine energy, and we are transformed yet again through the powerful hidden blessing that is Shiva.