And we had such high hopes for 2017.
Trump is still president. Charlottesville. Texas. Florida. Puerto Rico. Hundreds of thousands of acres burned by wildfires. And now. Las Vegas.
Whenever tragedy or misfortune strikes, whether it’s on a global, national or personal scale, the immediate thought is to send “thoughts and prayers” or “love and light.”
But that’s not enough. Thoughts and prayers are not going to bring back the Las Vegas shooting victims. Love and light is not going to create change in outdated policies.
Well, the truth is, I believe love and light and thoughts and prayers COULD create the change we want to see in the world IF we all really stopped what we are doing and sent the loving and healing energy we say we’re going to send– and IF we all did it on an intense and synchronized daily basis. But we don’t. We send a few heartbeats of love, shed a few tears, donate a few dollars and go on with out lives until the next tragedy happens.
And it’s understandable. We don’t know what else to do. Often, we’re restricted by geography or resources to do much else than that anyway. Appropriate and effective action isn’t always so clear. “Love and light” isn’t always appropriate. We can’t white-light pain and trauma away. What’s more, sending love and light to someone’s pain and trauma can also be indicative of our pain and trauma-free privilege; just like someone may use their privilege to gloss over racial issues by claiming to be “color-blind.” Color-blindness is a choice. A very privileged choice. Sending love and light is also a privileged choice.
Because pain and trauma don’t need the light. They need to be held in the sacred darkness. They need to be processed in the dark void. They need to be sat with, peered into and integrated to be truly healed. If you breach that process with love and light, you’ve put a band-aid over a bullet wound.
Okay, maybe I’ve starting to stretch this metaphor a little thin. Let’s get to the point: So what can we do instead of sending love and light, thoughts and prayers? What can we do in addition to sending loving energy that will be supportive and possibly change-making?
Well I’m glad you asked. Below is a list of things to do when tragedy strikes on the personal, national or global level. It’s not an exhaustive list but it’s actionable.
When a close friend or family member has experienced something painful you can:
- Sit with them and witness their pain. Don’t say anything. Don’t try to comfort them. Perhaps refrain from touching them too (better to ask them). Just sit there and let them weep or rage. They need to know that it’s okay to experience these emotions. That the world will not end and they will not die if they experience their emotions. That they will heal faster if they experience their emotions. Sit there with them and witness. Hold this most sacred of spaces.
- Ask if you can donate some time or money. Donate a house cleaning service or roll up your sleeves and do it for them yourself. Organize other friends or family members to support the person with food or food services.
- Send a handwritten letter or card. Remember how people used to do that? If someone has died, write a happy memory of that person in the card or letter. Even better? Put the one year anniversary of that person’s death in your calendar and endeavor to send a second card or letter to acknowledge and support this important anniversary.
- Send a thoughtful and appropriate gift. Mourning jewelry is a thing. A beautiful thing. Commission an art piece via an artist on Etsy. Seek out a grief counselor or death midwife and ask them to help you support your friend or family member. There are also trauma midwives out there on the beautiful world wide web. Pottery is an ancient and appropriate gift: a vase, a plate.
- Commit to praying for the person every day for a set amount of days. A week, a lunar cycle . . . whatever feel appropriate. Then do it, everyday. Try to do it at the same time every day and for the same length of time to build energy.
- Commit to lighting a tea candle for the person every day. Light the candle and spend a few moments in prayer. Let the candle burn itself out and repeat for a set number of days.
When something happens in your country, like a mass shooting, and although you’re not directly affected, you’d like to help:
- Donate blood.
- Donate money.
- Donate supplies (clothes, bottled water, blankets) to your local Red Cross– even if those supplies don’t directly go to the tragedy, you’re still contributing and helping.
- Donate to your local volunteer ambulance. My mom started and is the chief of the volunteer ambulance service in the little community where I grew up. Money, blankets, teddy bears for children– it all is needed and invaluable.
- Donate tampons and diapers! These items are not provided by government-funded relief programs.
- Call your elected officials! It is their job to hear from you and represent your concerns and desires. This article has everything you need to know about contacting your officials, including phone and letter scripts.
- Get to know the legislative process. Understanding what your Senators and Representatives have to do, and how, empowers you as constituent. As a teenager, I spent a few weeks working in my state capitol as a page for my senator. I spent another couple of weeks interning in Washington D.C. as part of a leadership program. If your knowledge of the legislative branch is rusty, re-educate yourself. If you have a teenager, seek out your state’s page program and encourage them to become involved. It doesn’t mean they have to commit to a life of politics, but it will empower them for their life. Learn about the legislative process here.
Contact your local senator’s office to learn about becoming a page.
- Again, commit to praying and/or lighting a candle every day for a set number of days. Consider organizing a prayer circle with your friends, community or facebook group and make a set time to meet or pray at the same time.
When something happens in another country and you’d like to help (most of these suggestions can also be applied to national tragedies):
- Donate to the International Committee of the Red Cross
- Research newspapers articles that are local to the event and see which organizations they are recommending people donate too.
- Take a moment of silence or a moment of darkness to honor the victims.
- Again, donate tampons and diapers. Baby blankets and baby carriers are also sorely needed after large scale disasters or misplacements.
- Pray for the souls of the dead who are likely shocked and in denial that they are dead. Ask Archangel Michael to help guide them to cross over.
- Make a donation to a local-to-the-event women’s shelter. Consider matching that donation to a local-to-you women’s shelter as well.
- Contact a local-to-the-event flower shop and have flowers sent to the street memorial that has likely popped up. It’s a more tangible way of sending “love and light” and is likely to make an impression on the florist, who may want to match your kindness or spread the story, which spreads hope and unity. Plus, flowers bring earth energy and magic to the scene, which help us digest and process the intense and heavy emotions that come with a tragic event. Politely ask the florist to send you a photo of your donation at the shrine if you’d like.
- Organize a local vigil with your community. Light candles and hold space to honor the victims and their families. This is a more powerful and actionable way to send “thoughts and prayers.” Contact your local newspaper for coverage. Getting coverage will help spread the idea of taking action and participating in the solution. Go to your local newspaper’s website and look through the list of journalists until you find the one that covers local events and/or is a “General” reporter. Tell them what you’re doing, when and why and invite them to come.
All cultures have a history with ancestral reverence and tending to the spirits of the dead– if you go back far enough. Some cultures have a living and breathing ancestral reverence practice to this day.
There are a lot of reasons tending our ancestors has fallen out of style: the busy modern lifestyle, globalization, intense focus on the development of the individual over the collective (no judgement there– it just is), organized religion creating fear about communicating with the spirit world, etc.
On top of it all, we’ve created a culture that fears death. Death (and physical ageing) is to be avoided at all costs and all expense. Elders are often removed from society in part because they remind us of our own mortality. When it is time to die, few of us know how to do it correctly and peacefully. We fear it, the unknown that comes after and we cling to life– sometimes causing long and unnecessarily painful deaths.
When a loved one does die, the body is often whisked away as quickly as possible and prepared for burial or processed for cremation by strangers. In some families the public expression of grief can also be stymied by social convention– blocking an important part of the dying process for the dead. It sounds a little strange, but our tears and our wailing help the dead find passage to the other side.
Complicating things further, when someone dies their soul can sort of “shatter.” Trauma, rage, grief, addictions and other unresolved emotions and situations can’t crossover. While the soul at large may crossover, imprints of these unresolved or unexpressed emotions stay earth-bound are are often responsible for hauntings, psychic disturbances and even the transference of issues to the living.
For example: Old Uncle Bill passes away of liver disease. He became an alcoholic early in life as a result of PTSD from the Vietnam War. His generation, and perhaps his culture, didn’t encourage therapy or the processing of emotions much so he died a very haunted man. Upon death, part of his soul shattered– the traumatized parts. The shattered piece of Uncle Bill that was addicted to alcohol happened to lodge itself in his grandson, Tom. Tom is young at 22 and hasn’t yet developed a firm sense of self or of personal boundaries, making it easy for spiritual attachments to form in situations like this. Further, Tom is at a stage in life where he frequently goes out to bars and clubs and drinks with his friends. Tom is far from an alcoholic but the alcoholic and traumatized part of Uncle Bill’s soul recognizes an opportunity to “stay alive” and to keep feeding the addiction (it really can be parasitic). A few weeks after Uncle Bill’s death, Tom is beginning to wonder what’s “wrong” with him and he’s starting to feel a bit out of control: He’s drinking more often and more heavily than usual. Instead of drinking to socialize he’s finding himself craving the drink even when he’s alone. He’s also experiencing some frightening nightmares that he can’t make sense of and finds his nervous system is always on edge, as if he’s waiting for an attack . . . until he takes a drink.
(Please note: if this explanation of death and dying doesn’t resonate with you, just let it go. You don’t have to be on board with this cosmology to continue with the course, although I do encourage you to keep an open mind).
And in my course: Become An Ancestral Flame Tender, we’ll return to Tom and Uncle Bill with some suggestions on what to do to prevent this situation and how to clean up the mess if it’s already been made.
But the point is: the consequences of forsaking our dead have never been more grave or more clear: intergenerational pain and trauma. Patterns of addiction and even death that jump from generation to generation– waiting to be resolved. And, to solidly place myself even further down the rabbit hole, I believe (and I’m not the only one) that the world’s current political climate and even global climate change are in part exasperated by the unresolved issues of the dead. These issues hang around, polluting the global consciousness.
If you join Become An Ancestral Flame Tender you are stepping up as part of the solution. Every little ember stoked by ancestral flame tending has a butterfly effect in this world and in the spirit world. And I haven’t even told you the best part yet! There are rich gifts that come along with being an ancestral flame tender: fierce physical and spiritual protection, blessings, guidance and trans-generational healing included.
But hurry, this course begins this Sunday, October 1st and enrollment closes Sunday morning.
Learn more here.
I believe that everything, everything, has spiritual DNA. From the tiniest of newborn humans to the oldest of ancient rocks. Encoded in your cells and in your soul you will find your spiritual DNA.
What is this spiritual DNA? I imagine it is made up of this lifetime’s ancestral heritage as well as major events and trainings your soul has undergone in between lifetimes and perhaps even in other lifetimes. I imagine stamped along this DNA is your soul’s contract for this lifetime: what you’ve agreed to do, learn and give in this lifetime to this world.
I say “imagine” because I don’t really know. But I do know we do have spiritual DNA. I do know that we have undergone specific trainings in between lifetimes to help further the development of our soul and the gifts and challenges we will face while incarnated on Earth. I do know that we have a soul contract for each lifetime and that it makes sense that this would be stamped into our DNA.
Your spiritual DNA expresses itself in the tugs and nudges that we call “intuition” or “women’s knowing” (though men have it too). Your spiritual DNA leads you to dabble in this and learn from that– leading you to remember or awaken to mysteries within.
For example: Say you’re a red-blooded American but have an inexplicable draw to Eastern religions. That’s your spiritual DNA speaking to you. There’s something in the Eastern religions that you’ve learned in a past life or that is in someway fundamental to this life that you need to remember. So you go there. It doesn’t mean you need to spend your life as a Buddhist nun and it doesn’t mean you have the right to culturally appropriate traditions and ideas you don’t know enough about. But it does mean that you need to sift around. Open your mind and your heart. See what’s making your blood sing and what you need to do about it.
I also believe that many of the ancient Mystery Schools were established to protect spiritual DNA and to carefully awaken the secret codes within initiates. Even the Bible says: “We speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden … No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him, but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” (NIV). 1 Corinthians 2:7-10.
Has this secret wisdom been hidden in our DNA? I think so.
Genocide, war, immigration, colonization and assimilation are among many of the reasons we have forgotten we have spiritual DNA, much less are able to access it. But I also believe that part of what’s encoded in my spiritual DNA is the mandate to help others reconnect to their spiritual DNA.
From growing up on my ancestral homelands, to spending my life as a cultural insider-outsider, to becoming a journalist with an activist streak bent on portraying cultural and racial minorities in a living and breathing light, to spending five years studying how we create and sustain our cultural identities and legacies intergenerationally (and earning a M.A. in the process), to unexpectedly becoming an expat in a foreign land . . . my entire life has insisted I return to my spiritual DNA in order to ground myself and my soul in this life and in the multi-layered cultural identities I have taken on. Half-breed. Mixed Race. Okanagan. Expat. Foreigner. Insider-Outsider. Racially ambiguous. White-passing. Chameleon.
I believe that for those of us who have been separated from our heritage and traditions by space, time, genocide and/or oppression, the first step to discovering and reconnecting to our spiritual DNA is to reconnect to our body’s DNA. Where did our people come from? What stories shaped their experiences and are stamped in our blood? Were they alive spiritually? How were they alive spiritually?
In the Northern Hemisphere we are approaching the Thinning of the Veil: the veil between this world and the spirit world will be it’s thinnest from October 31-November 2nd, also known as Halloween/Samhain/All Saint’s Day/Day of the Dead. It is a time of the year when cultures all over the world have traditionally honored their spiritual and physical DNA in the form of ancestral remembrance and reverence.
If you would l like to meaningfully participate in this ancient observance, but perhaps avoid making a more long-term commitment to your ancestors (you know– dip your toes and test the waters so-to-speak) I have created a 60-minute workshop that will guide you through everything you need to know to situate yourself in a healthy relationship with your ancestors and to create a seasonal reverence practice.
Learn more here.
Hope to see you there.
In love and sacred darkness,
Despite being a July-baby, Autumn has always been my favorite season. Up in the far north, where I grew up, Autumn meant a change in the light. There was a crispness in the air that could sharpen your senses or even cut your skin. As the leaves changed color and began to carpet the ground, naked tree branches altered the view of our reality and shifted familiar landscapes.
I didn’t recognize it then, but I know now: We were beginning to sink into sacred space.
When I enter into scared space for journey or healing work, it looks much the same way. I take my ordinary room and alter the lighting. Off with the overheard lights. Out with the candles. The air becomes electrified with the scent of incense or essential oils– sharpening my senses and anchoring me in the present. Deep breathing, deep listening and calling in ancestral and spiritual support helps shift my view of reality. This reality is always there, always supporting the ordinary reality, but you have to clear away some of the leaves to see it.
Autumn does this for us naturally.
First there’s the ritual of going back to school. New clothes. New gear. New and old friends. Then, as the weather changes, there’s the anticipation of Halloween. Samhain. The Day of the Dead. The excitement of a new school year gives way to the thought and preparation of Fall and the Halloween costumes that come with it. You may even begin decorating your house– altering your ordinary reality a bit, creating sacred temporary space.
What am I afraid of? What needs my attention before winter? How are my Dead?
After an evening of slipping into a different character (or consciousness if you will), or of remembering our Dead and the cycle of life, we move onto the preparations of Thanksgiving. We spend an evening with family and loved ones, remembering that it’s good to be alive and be together (well. mostly). Stories are told. Memories are created. Gratitude is given.
The ancient alchemy of cooking. Pilgrimage.
You know what comes next.
The weather doubles down on our senses: making it colder and brisker. As Christmas approaches we alter our reality again: Christmas lights. Christmas smells. Christmas decor. Our thoughts turn to what we need and want to manifest in our lives: both as holiday gifts and as a reality for the fast-approaching new year. We also begin thinking about how to help others manifest what they need and want in their lives as holiday gifts.
What do I want to attract? What do I want to ask for? What can I help someone else receive?
So much magic is created around the holidays and it’s not by accident. By the time the clock strikes midnight on the New Year, we’ve likely spent three if not four months cultivating sacred space in our homes. Did you realize you were doing this?
This sacred space is the container responsible for holding the magic of the holidays. As adults we often forget to drop in and be present within the container. Children live in the container 24/7. It’s part of the reason they look forward to the holiday season so passionately. They thrive in the sacred space. They don’t miss a moment of magic’s presence and they’re thrilled that the magic is finally being reflected by their outward surroundings and acknowledged by the adults.
This holiday season, be aware of the sacred space you are creating. Put some extra intention in it. Take the opportunity each day to sit in it and be present with the magic. If you have children, delight in their delight and try to remember how the sacred space of the holidays made you feel as a child. Can you reach that place now? As an adult?
If you’re not sure where to begin, my rule of thumb is to incorporate at least one element for each of the senses:
Sight: Add some simple holiday decor and/or dim the lights more often and bring out candles.
Smell: Burn seasonal candles, incense or even keep a pot of bubbling cider or mulled wine on the stove.
Taste: Revel in the seasonal harvest. Go apple picking. Learn a new autumn recipe. Create a favorite food from your childhood holiday memories.
Listen: Play music more often that shifts your consciousness. Turn off the music and the television and listen to the Autumn wind howl. Take a few deep breaths, turn inwards and listen to your ancestors.
Touch: Bring new textures into your wardrobe or home. Wool. Flannel. Cashmere. Comfy and cozy is the language of the season whether it’s a new table runner, new pillow throws or a new skirt.
If you’d like more ideas on bringing intention into creating the sacred space of the holidays, make sure you are signed up for my e-mail updates. Next week I am releasing a seasonal product that will help you do just that.
With love and cider spices,
At the end of August, 2017, I traveled to Oregon to begin a six-month practitioner training in ancestral medicine. A large portion of this training is dedicated to healing and receiving the blessings from our own ancestral lineages– specifically all eight lines from all eight of our great-grandparents. This not only gives us a great deal of practice, but it helps keep the healing modality in integrity: because I will be well with my ancestral lineages before I begin helping you with yours.
As I was healing my mother’s, mother’s, mother’s line I received a beautiful vision:
She shows me the garden built on the bones and ashes of my ancestors and she shows me the sun shining down on this garden. In between the garden and the sun I can see the air particles. A lot of the particles are dirty, ill and full of all sorts of sicknesses. She explains to me that “the ancestors hold up the sun.” She goes on to explain that as we begin to tend to our untended dead, we begin to metaphorically AND literally “clear the air” between the sun and the earth– making the quality of life here on earth be that much richer and healthier and allowing the sun to do it’s job of warming, protecting, nurturing and cleansing the earth with less impediment.
She showed me the sun shining down, free of dirty air particle filters, and nurturing our ancestral gardens. She showed me beautiful, healthy, things growing up out of those beds. Beautiful, healthy children. Beautiful, healthy lives. Beautiful, healthy experiences. Beautiful, healthy emotions. A beautiful, healthy Earth.
She told me that our tears are offerings that can water these ancestral garden beds. Shed your tears for your dead freely. Offer your tears to you ancestors and to the Earth. In lieu of tears, offerings of clean, healthy water are also important.
As we begin to heal our ancestral lineages, we also begin to heal the confusing and negative energies in the world that are behind large controlling thought forms such as patriarchy, racism and misogyny as well as phenomena like climate change and social unrest.
Halloween/Samhain/Day of the Dead is approaching. This time of the year the veil thins and it’s a great opportunity to honor your ancestors, remember your dead and offer them your tears or a generous glass of water. I’ll be suggesting other ways to work with your ancestors as we approach the thinning of the veil and I’ll be offering ancestral healing sessions shortly after the new year. In the meantime, you can learn more about ancestral medicine or find a practitioner here.
If nothing else, for now, remember that The Ancestors Hold Up The Sun, and offer them a little water. Placing a small offering dish of water on your altar or outside and inviting your well ancestors (you don’t want to invite the unwell yet) to partake is a wonderful first step and will go a long way in giving them the energy to keep working in the spiritual world on our behalf.
In love and sacred darkness,