Be a rebel, be kind

I’m thinking a lot these days about kindness. Pancho Ramos-Stierle from Casa de Paz writes in his email signature “If you want to be a rebel, be kind.” To people who have their minds focused on dismantling oppressive and deadly systems and institutions, this directive might seem fluffy or naive. Especially, if it is understood to be steering us to be kind even to those people we are encouraged or disposed to think of as enemies or bad guys. Thing is, being unkind is dehumanizing. And a lot of injustices have their roots in a stripping people of their humanity and their status of being human. To be kind is to be a rebel against tyranny and oppression because it is an act of restoring (giving health and strength to) our humanity and what it is to be human.

Humanity is an odd word. I get the impression a lot of people use it to mean being human, of the human species. In the 15th century, it did come to mean that. In the 14th century it came into the english language referring to kindness and graciousness. I have a sense that that its origins presume that the essence of human nature is to be kind.

I like playing around with this notion and stretching it into the idea that when I am being unkind I am diminishing my humanity – reducing my essence. The image that comes to mind is Darth Vader who gradually turned into a machine, losing what it is to be human. Obi-Wan Kenobi actually says: “He’s more machine now than man. Twisted and evil.”

I’m also diminishing the humanity of the person on the receiving end of my unkindness.  I’m making them somehow less than I, in terms of their value as a human being and worthiness of respect and kindness.

In a piece recently published by OpenDemocracy, Wise Fools for Love?, I explain how Wise Fool New Mexico artists I know define social justice as “creating a space for each person’s humanity to thrive….a space that allows people to feel their own empowerment.”

Simple kindnesses definitely play a role in nourishing people to feel their own empowerment and capacity to thrive. My 83 year old father had a massive heart attack two weeks ago. My family has been spending a lot of time in hospital. Since his surgery over a week ago, we’ve made sure one of us is there with him at all time.

In this time, I consciously chose to make an effort to be actively kind to everyone – hospital staff, other patients and their families. With staff, I focused on asking everyone’s names – even if I would only be seeing them for a few seconds – and how their day was going. If we had time for a bit of banter, I would do it. Find out the meaning of a name, for example. Or guess where they are from.

With other families, I offered to get water or coffee or simply to tell them where they could find it. I inquired about the progress of their family member. With other patients, I would say hello and perhaps comment on the color of their robe or what a lovely smile they have.

You might think that this was me being instrumental – be kind to the people who are involved in taking care of my father so they treat him well. Sure, there is something in that. The bigger context though was that for a short period, I was directly in community with these folks. And wherever I am, I want to cultivate beloved community. To me this entails compassion balanced by accountability (aka – justice). It also entails showing through my interactions that I want to see everyone’s humanity thrive.

In a short time, I created warm connections with people. As a result, in a very stressful time for my family and amidst people who have very stressful jobs, we had moments of laughter and tenderness. I do believe I made it clear to the people serving my family – be it the doctor or the person emptying the trash – that I valued them all as human beings. People with names, with smiles, with tough days, with good days, with mistakes, with different talents and abilities.

I do believe I let other patients know that I saw them – I acknowledged their presence in this community.

Hello! What’s your name? Good to meet you. Thank you. Where are you from? How is your day going? Nice yellow socks. Can I buy you a cup of coffee, I’m going to get some for myself?

In a world where people can so easily become invisible, such small kindnesses are rebellious. They are a way of seeing and listening rather than ignoring and blocking out. A way of  saying “Hey, we are in this together, you and I.” A way of restoring (creating health or strength) humanity to my self and others.

 

 

 

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Beloved Community – Responding to the ugliness of injustice with beauty-full expression

Martin Luther King, Jr. once explained: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

What does it look like in practice when power, love and justice come together?

On Wednesday, 22 October, I attended an art intervention outside Santa Fe First Judicial District Court Building. The action was in conjunction with a National Day of Protest to STOP Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.  Concerned Citizens for Community Safety, supported byWise Fool NM and the Peñasco Theatre Collective, organized the event.

In the press release for the intervention, the organizers locate the heart of the matter with the question:  “We have to ask and answer the question of what kind of community we want to live in?” Any community could answer this question in so many ways. Concerned Citizens for Community Safety are emphasizing the importance of creating communities that are rooted in collaborative public policies, mutual respect, restorative justice and a high standard of accountability for elected leaders.

Though it was not stated in the press release, I get the distinct impression that Concerned Citizens also want to live in communities rooted in beauty and play.

The art intervention was to protest specifically the recent grand jury decision of ‘justifiable homicide’ in the case of Española, New Mexico Police Officer Jeremy Apodaca killing sixteen year old Victor Villalpando on June 8, 2014. Artists created expressions through physical theatre, dance, poetry, spoken word, cardboard-based art and puppetry.

As well as protesting the grand jury decision with regard’s to Victor’s death, the intervention explicitly named over a hundred victims (under the age of 30) of lethal police violence. People present at the intervention were invited to write messages to the police on the back of cardboard cut out guns that would be delivered to the police in Española.

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Cardboard cut out guns with messages for the police, at an art intervention in Santa Fe, organized by Concerned Citizens for Community Safety, 22 October 2014 – in conjunction with a National Day of Protest to STOP police brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.

I found this intervention restorative – generating health and strength. It gave everyone present the opportunity to express rage, grief, fear and bewilderment in response to the ugliness of unjustifiable, deadly violence. We weren’t left there, however. The song  “Let the Sunshine In” blasted. Led by group of young performers, we were invited to dance to honor and celebrate life. From my perspective, throughout the event, an undercurrent flowed. It carried hope for, and commitment to, creating a different, brighter future. It carried a commitment to Beloved Community. 

Love.

We sometimes easily forget that practices of accountability, mutuality, restorative justice and participatory policymaking are all forms of love. This kind of love is anything but sentimental and anemic.

Power.

At one level, with the decision of the court and the persistence of violent policing, people are feeling powerless. Power means the capacity to act or strength.  At another level, people are feeling powerful. I don’t know about you, but to me, standing up in a public space and speaking out against injustice through self-created forms of imaginative expression embodies power.

What does it look like in practice when power, love,  justice come together? It looks like the beauty-full art intervention I witnessed and participated in on 22 October 2014, in front of the Santa Fe First Judicial District Court Building.

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Photo of performers and a giant puppet (in the image of the teenager Victor Villalpando, who was killed by an Española, NM police officer on 8 June 2014) in a scene created by Concerned Citizens for Community Safety as part of an art intervention in conjunction with the National Day of Protest to STOP Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation – 22 Oct 2014.

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Time to Stand Still, Listen and Connect

I’m back in red nose world, a.k.a. theatrical clowning. I’m taking classes with Sarah Jane Moody at Wise Fool New Mexico. In last week’s class, we were put in pairs to do a little performance. Our task at hand was to fold a sheet that was laying on the floor. Our efforts to complete the task are the show.  The idea is to take the audience on a playful journey with the task at hand. While it was not essential to get the sheet folded, doing so would give rise to much satisfaction for the audience. For my partner and I, the journey was a tough one. We both felt lost. What happened? In terms of my contribution to the situation, I think I was constrained by muddled and unclear connections. At the heart of this muddle, was a loss of connection with my self.

When we did feedback after the scene, our teacher observed that my clown – Matilda – kept rejecting the offers being made by the other clown character (who doesn’t have a name, yet). One time, for example, my clown partner wanted to play with Matilda’s ponytail and Matilda kept blocking her. And like this, my partner would make offers of connection and Matilda-who-is-also-I would block them.

Sometimes, such resistance isn’t a block. In a way, saying “no” to the offer is a form of saying “yes” because it gives rise to a playful tension that is entertaining.  More often than not, however, resistance is a block. For example, a character says “Let’s go to the park” another character can say “Yes, and…” and then build on it. This is accepting an offer. Blocking the offer is when “Let’s go to the park” is met with “No, I don’t feel like it.”

The scene finally drew to a close with my partner’s clown character being totally frustrated  as a reaction to uncooperative Matilda. Some folks in the audience were entertained by the on-going tension. My partner felt lost as a result of it.

So did I.

When I reflected upon our dynamic, I was intrigued that I hadn’t been aware I had been in a constant state of resistance. In the first instance, with the ponytail, I thought I was being playful – holding ground that Matilda’s hair was not to be messed with by others. After that, I was simply muddled. I wasn’t conscious of what I was doing, let alone whether it manifest acceptance or resistance.

What was the nature of this muddle?

I lost my sense of relationship. I didn’t have a heartfelt sense of the nature of  my relationships with my self, my partner, the audience and the object. Lost and befuddled in my heart and mind, listening to my partner was an after thought. How could I listen and tune in to her when I had tuned out from my self?

On stage, listening isn’t a matter of simply hearing words. Often no words are spoken. It is about paying attention to what kind of connection or relationship is existing in any given moment. It is about seeing offers and accepting them in ways that give rise to playfulness. Listening is about hearing when the audience laughs or sensing that the audience is waiting for the tension to be broken.

Listening is a tuning into my environment. It is also a tuning into what I am feeling and thinking. In this scene, I wasn’t able to listen to myself;  I was disconnected from my own thoughts and feelings.

Now, perhaps you are feeling a bit muddled. What am I trying to convey to you through all this muddle and disconnect?

Essentially, at one level, I think my partner and I had a communication breakdown. We ended up doing a little dance, moving this way and that while feeling lost and unsatisfied. At the root of this dis-satisfaction and navigational error was a lack of clarity on the nature of our connection. Were we in a fight? What was Matilda (my clown character) feeling? Because I didn’t know my self, I couldn’t express it – so my partner couldn’t know either.

And I’m wondering how often our relationships are like this – how often are we doing these awkward dances where we feel frustrated and lost? I’m speculating that when I’m in such a situation, the thing to do might be to go still and check in with my self. What’s going on? What am I feeling? What is important to me right now?

Where this muddling seems to have taken me is to this question: In our culture dominated by busy-ness and ceaseless doing, how much disconnect are we creating in our relationships with one another because we are lost and unclear in our connections and relationships with our selves?

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Talking about freedom rather than change

I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately. The word and this idea of social change. What does it mean to be a social change activist? Not very much, it seems. I say this wondering what is social change? I used to be satisfied that social change refers to changing how we live together. That rings hollow to me now. I’m no longer intent on giving rise to change. Instead, I’m intent on giving rise to freedom.

I exist, therefore I change. Life is like that. From one second to the next, everything is changing. Energy shifts, atoms appear and disappear. To say that I am creating change seems silly to me right now because whether or not I will it, change is constantly happening. Much of it is not consciously generated. Of course, living together differently requires changes; changes to our beliefs, assumptions and stories.

In my experience, changes in these realms happen in different ways, through disciplined practices of acceptance, inquiry, surrender and conscious creativity. And while, at different stages, some people might say “You’ve changed, Veena” At a fundamental level, I don’t believe it is true. That is, I am who I have always been: a mass of energy in constant motion. The wiring has changed, but the overall make up is the same. Masks have been taken off or have dissolved. Light has opened up darkness. From the darkness has emerged truth and this truth expands freedom.

I venture to believe that my shackles and your shackles are the same. I have been carrying beliefs, assumptions and stories that keep wounds open, give rise to pain and suffering. Haven’t you experienced this in one way or another?

When I am wounded and led by anger, fear and sadness, I often create beliefs, assumptions and stories that weave themselves into my relationships. They take forms which might include defensiveness, aggressiveness, distrust, distancing and manipulating my power (capacity to act) in order to constrain others.

In this way, I put shackles on my self – on my self who is compassionate, kind, caring, tender and eager to be in useful service to the world. Sometimes I give rise to a vicious circle. I sense I am constrained and then I get angry about being constrained and my creativity and power simply become more deeply rooted in fear and loathing.

Maybe, I could say I’m a root changer. Wanting to replace the roots of fear and loathing with roots of love and justice. Wanting radical – of the roots – change.

Ultimately, though, the intention of changing roots is to give rise to freedom. I am in an on-going process of liberating my self; freeing my self to step fully into my potential as a human being committed to a daily practice of cultivating love and justice.

I, you, the person over there – we are all in a state of constant change. How freely we move, that is what varies. Moment by moment we make choices – consciously or unconsciously. The more conscious we are, the more free we are in our choices. We can choose to alleviate suffering, to honor and respect one another and the planet, to create nourishing rather than toxic relationships.

What shackles are constraining your freedom?

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Justice: correcting everything that stands against love

I recently published a paper – [R]evolution Road – travelling the terrains of creativity, power and love – where I define [r]evolution as a daily practicing of consciously rooting our creativity and power in love, as a means of evolving our relationships with our selves, each other and the planet. I make a reference to a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” I have a sense that I’ve just stepped into a deeper understanding of this MLK statement. 

We are a planet full of violent, toxic communities. We, the people, created and keep creating these communities. Why? Why do we do this to ourselves, each other and the planet?

I think MLK was saying that our relationships with power, justice and love are off-kilter. All over the place, people are seeking power without love. All over the place, people claiming to be loving are standing idly by in the face of injustices. All over the place, people are reaching for justice without love and in the process giving rise to greater injustices.

In western cultures, going back to the Romans, justice is represented by a goddess. She carries a sword for vengeance. She carries scales for considering competing claims. She represents divine law. If I worship a vengeful God (or Goddess) then so-called divine law becomes vengeance-based, no? 

MLK steered us to remember to give justice a heart, a heart that justice will consistently seek to protect and honor. This practice of “correcting everything that stands against love” is an art. In the name of protecting love, we can find ourselves standing against it. In the name of love, we can be vengeful. In the name of love, we can practice hate. Lost in a haze of fear, we can lose sight of love altogether. 

I recently attended an intensive workshop, Cultivating Women’s Leadership. We explored the importance of balancing the masculine and the feminine. We distilled feminine into compassion. We distilled masculine into accountability. Compassion refers to being receptive and open, to understanding and connection, to using our power (the capacity to act) to be nurturing and restorative.

The key, it seems, is not to get carried away with this acceptance, to ensure that acceptance doesn’t turn into passivity. Otherwise love becomes, as MLK says, sentimental and anemic. Accountability refers to taking responsibility by owning our actions and firmly insisting others do the same. Motivated by love we might forgive. Motivated by accountability we might firmly (but not violently) force people to own up to what they have done. Motivated by accountability, we might give an apology and find concrete ways to repair damage we have done, if possible. For some damages and hurt, no adequate reparation exists. 

Compassion is one way of talking about love. Accountability is one way of talking about justice. The two are inextricably entwined. MLK asked us to root our power in both love and justice, in compassion and accountability, in the feminine and masculine.

With this in mind, I’ve inserted justice into my definition of [r]evolution – a daily practicing of consciously rooting our creativity and power in love and justice, as a means of evolving our relationships with our selves, each other and the planet. 

So what? I’ve changed a definition. Well, at one level it is just wordplay. And wordplay for myself, at that. I try to use [r]evolution as my compass for how I live my life. Re-articulating what I mean by [r]evolution is me fine-tuning my compass.

This fine-tuning, however, has got me thinking about the world around me. 

I’m thinking, for example, about the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In particular, I’m thinking about Kazu Haga’s piece, Honoring the Anger in Ferguson. Haga’s writing brings me straight back to MLK’s directive about power, love and justice. This directive calls on us to stand firmly in the truth of what exists in our hearts – including rage, pain and grief.

We must not try and diminish this truth, as people do when they say “Calm down, calm down!!”  I think of this as standing in the fire. Rooting our power in love and justice calls on us to stand in the fire and to bear witness what we see in the fire. It further calls upon us to take action in a way that holds ourselves and others accountable. To be truly powerful, MLK was steering us to root this accountability in love, so that we don’t respond to abuse with abuse, harm with harm.

How do we steadfastly confront people who are standing against love?  What does it mean to you, in practice, to root your creativity and power in love and justice? What can you – or any of us – do to honor the anger in Ferguson? What can we – any and all of us – do to stand up for both justice and love, in response to police violence and abuse of power anywhere in the US?  

 

 

 

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Reflections on how a circus intensive made me stronger…

A few days ago, I wrote about BUST and CWL (Cultivating Women’s Leadership) in relation to fueling the fires of beloved community.  BUST is a six week non-residential circus intensive for women only, with all classes and the final performance taking place at Wise Fool New Mexico. BUST is a group of women getting together and learning circus skills. I’m guessing that when people think BUST, they think fun, physical and cool (well it is, isn’t it?). Though the blurb about it on the Wise Fool NM website mentions building trust and community, I’m not so sure it is self-evident how that works. How does a program like BUST play a valuable role in giving women the opportunity to experience and strengthen our capacity to create not just any kind of community, but beloved community?

I’ve written a number of posts to share my reflections about my journey through BUST: What does it take to support each other to rise and shine?

Roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour

Ugly is as Ugly does…

A Balancing Act – the art of caring for self while caring for others

When does self-care turn into self-indulgence?

From Fear-Full to Fear-less Still Being

Letting go of shame-full beliefs

The Art of Creating Healthy and Nurturing Community

So, what has my BUST experience taught me or affirmed for me with regards to what it takes to create beloved community? Based on what I’ve written to date, I’d say that  beloved community seems to take self-awareness; conscious action to be nurturing; a commitment to finding balance between the needs of “I” and the needs of “we”; the practice of responding to the ‘ugly’ with beauty and love; a willingness to be vulnerable; and the holding of a safe space.

Creating beloved community also requires a belief and trust in magic – some people might call this belief “faith.”

What else does it take? In the CWL training, the facilitators made a distinction between being kind and being nice. I valued this. Why? Because being nice is being nice – it is saying nice things to someone. At its root, the practice of being nice can be a way of covering up fear of conflict, fear of confrontation, fear of telling the truth. The end result is a dishonesty that prevents relationships from evolving into higher levels.

Being kind is more complicated.Being kind entails being truthful.  I tell you honestly how I experienced a situation. This doesn’t mean it is THE truth of it – but it is my truth at that time. Thing is, what I have to say might leave you feeling uncomfortable because my experience of what you said or did wasn’t a very positive one for me. What’s seems crucial to me these days is understanding that being kind, telling our truth, entails an important element of responsibility.

I once had a conversation with a BUSTer who had been having a challenging experience with it all. She didn’t feel safe, she had a lot of triggers being pushed and at one point was a bit fed up. In any community this can happen. Someone just isn’t feeling the love, as it were.

I know that when I have felt unloved, not held or insecure and unsafe, I have lashed out at the people around me. I’ve gotten angry. The anger is real. It feels like truth at the time. In that mode of being, I have often woven stories to show how it is that a community is failing to support me and possibly even harming me.

The thing is, under those circumstances, keeping quiet can just lead to pent up resentment that eventually leads to an explosion. I know this, because I’ve exploded before. A question arises: When we aren’t feeling the love, what’s the best way to express ourselves – to express what seems true for us at the time?

Authenticity – speaking and living one’s truth – is increasingly becoming a buzzword in certain communities. I hear it all the time in Santa Fe. When we were chatting, this BUSTer and I agreed that sometimes authenticity is used as excuse for someone to be an asshole.

That is to say, just because I feel wronged in some way, does not justify my lashing out at others. Does not justify hurling out judgement-laden, aggressive accusations. Let’s face it – when we go in that mode, it tends to become challenging for people to respond to us from a place of love. Instead, we often all slip into defensive-aggressive modes that take us away from beloved community.

How can I speak my truth in a way that is kind (rather than hateful or vengeful)? It might be critical (and thus, not nice) and it certainly could be angry (kindness and anger don’t have to be mutually exclusive).

How do I do that? I take responsibility.

Responsibility to express anger both honestly and with loving-kindness. Responsibility to respond to anger – even when it is not expressed in a loving way – honestly and lovingly. Often, both are easier said then done.

Practice. Practice in taking responsibility for how I go about stepping into my truth and expressing my self – including my disappointments, frustrations and needs. Practice. Practice in taking responsibility to listen lovingly to others when they are expressing their selves. Practice. Practice in firmly setting boundaries (in and of itself an act of loving-kindness) when someone else is expressing their truth in harmful ways.

When an organization like Wise Fool NM creates a circle of women (or teenage girls, as it does with Teen BUST), it is offering up a space where people are asked to make a conscious commitment to doing what it takes to create beloved community.

Like circus arts, creating beloved community is not for the faint-hearted. Consciously created spaces, like BUST, play vital and valuable roles in giving us practice-time so that we can strengthen the necessary muscles required to lift our selves and each other into our higher selves on a regular basis.

This summer in BUST, some of us (teachers and students) were pushed to our edges. Our beloved community included dynamics that asked a lot from the collective in terms of how deeply we were prepared to go into a practice of love and loving-kindness.  For many of us,  we aspire for a program like BUST to be a liberating space from the oppression of our everyday lives. Challenging interpersonal dynamics can give rise to disappointment and frustration.

In the end, though, I think we collectively rose to the occasion – including people who had been struggling with their experiences of the community. We came together and gave three playful, energetic performances. Throughout these performances, we held each other through ups and downs. I like to think that despite the challenging times, we all came out of BUST with stronger, more developed muscles for lifting up our selves and each other. Muscles that we can then use in the so-called real world.

In the different communities you inhabit, what kind of opportunities do you have dedicate time and energy to strengthen your muscles for creating beloved community? Sure, we all could be doing this day-in and day-out. Yet, this question refers to time-limited dedicated spaces where the majority of people are consciously committed to doing this work individually, collectively and intensively. Well, what opportunities do you have for such strength-building?

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How are we fueling the fires of beloved community?

Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Beloved community. 

What is beloved community? I think of it as community where the art and practice of love is woven into a community’s fabric. Is beloved community all peace, love and light? Nope. Beloved community is practicing love, cultivating peace and shedding light. Over and over again. As a way of meeting the fear, anger, shame, sadness, guilt, violence and injustice that are inherent to being human.

Beloved community is an intention and a practice. 

Last week, I wrote about the community we cultivated in BUST.  The intention was to create a healthy and nurturing community. The daily practice was explicitly rooted in supporting one another to act from and unleash our highest selves. Wise Fool NM, with programs like BUST, seeks to give people the opportunity to experience beloved community – a safe space for risk-taking, for reflection, for play, for struggle, for imaginative leaps, for standing in our power, for standing in our vulnerability. 

The idea is for participants to feel cared for, nurtured and attended to – to feel loved and held. 

Currently, I’m writing about CWL – Cultivating Women’s Leadership. Last month, I attended a CWL retreat. This retreat involved twenty three women in total, as participants and facilitators (not including the staff of the Ocamora retreat center, who were in daily service to looking after our well-being in a variety of ways). In my experience, CWL is rooted in the intention of creating beloved community. Living together – working and playing – for five days we had the opportunity to practice cultivating beloved community as a group of women, ages twenty four to sixty three. 

Daily – momentarily, that is, in each moment –  around the world, women are undermining our selves and each other in a variety (often rather imaginative) ways. So many reasons for why we do this. A crucial reason is that in reaction to the oppression we experience collective and individually from toxic cultures and systems, we lash out. It isn’t just women who do this. We all do this – men and women around the world. But I’m here talking about cultivating beloved community among women. 

CWL offers up a counter-narrative to women lashing out at each other: women being allies – to our selves and one another. 

Ally – The noun means one in helpful association to another (www.freedictionary.com). 

In other words, we set the intention of trying to be helpful to one another. I prefer the idea of being in service to one another. These days ‘help’ feels like a loaded worded to me. Because frequently in the name of ‘helping’ others, we are very destructive. But that’s fodder for another blog post. 

Not just any kind of service. I’m talking here about being in service to beloved community by specifically setting an intention to be more loving with our selves and other women. What about the men? Yes, well – I’m not excluding them and I don’t encourage anyone to exclude them. At the same time, I’m increasingly thinking about how through the millenia women have had strong circles with each other. I don’t want to romanticize women’s relationships or the past. I do want to place value on strong, healthy women’s circles. These circles symbolize containers for cultivating healthy community through cultivating our relationships with our selves, one another, the planet and spirit. 

In industrialized cultures we have lost and devalued women’s circles, our ties with what we call nature (as though nature and human beings are separate), and the importance of tending to the fires.

Fire. Fire is at the center of the earth. Fire harms – certainly. Fire also cleanses and creates clearings. Fire illuminates. Fire warms. Fire nourishes. Fire is magic. Fire is an essential source of life. 

This past summer, I’ve come to see how, driven by rage and fear, I was on fire – I’ve been on fire much of my life. I’ve continued fueling this fire that burns and harms. I’m still on fire. Only now, I am the other kind of fire – driven by love, beauty, play. Wanting to be nourishing and nurturing. 

Cultivating beloved community, if I may riff on Dr. King’s words, requires that I, you, we put out some fires and ignite others. Cultivating beloved community requires that we re-form strong and healthy women’s circles. 

What kind of fires burn within you most of the time? What kinds of fires are fueling the different communities you inhabit? How can you be fuel for the flames that give rise to beloved community? What’s your experience of being in a nurturing circle of women? Where around you do you see circles of women through which nurturing and nourishing flames are being tended and fueled? 

Open fire as part of Santa Fe, New Mexico Christmas celebrations (December 2014)

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