while i was away

before i went off on my journey, i felt a mixture of anxiety and fear and numbness as my primary condition. as blown away as i was, and am, by all the people i work with, my ego was still convinced that the work would suffer without me.

because if i don’t bring something utterly unique to the work, do i have value?
because if they could do it without me, then why didn’t i take this break sooner?
because who am i without my titles?

it’s equal parts silly and shameful to acknowledge that state of mind, but it’s true.

and on the course of the journey, i mostly let it go. i reached a place of realizing that i am valuable just because i exist, just because i was born, because i breath. i am just as valuable as any other living being.

and the people i work with are truly amazing, and whatever work they did was the work that needed to be done.

still – i came back to my inbox with a sense of trepidation – how would this new sense of value for myself and others play out in the thousands of messages i received?

the exciting news is that my ego was just that, ego.

i just finished my email aikido process of five months of email. it took two full days of reading and deleting messages and lots of yoga and social media breaks. and not only did i not see crises – i saw work that was inspiring, conversations happening that needed to happen, love notes and forward motion. my humility is intact, my wonder and curiosity are restored, and my respect is deepened.

i have long thought, and said, that if a leader can’t step back, then that’s a sign that the organization is not sustainable, the vision is not collective, that the power is not shared in the ways it needs to be if we are practicing the path of evolved leadership. its one thing to know that, and another to actually try it.

now, i highly recommend sabbaticals, or other forms of stepping back, simply because it makes you more whole. but i also recommend it because it’s humbling in the best way, because no one person should take up so much space in a piece of work that their absence makes the work fail.

while i was away, everything got stronger, and better, in ways that don’t take anything from my sense of my own value and contribution. i finished email aikido with a sense of celebration and love and release.

they say if you truly love something let it go – if it’s meant to be it will fly back to you, something like that. i’m considering: if you truly love the work, but you are burnt-out? let it go. what you have built and seeded and dreamed will be a home you can return to, familiar and brand new, and ready for the whole you!

“true journey is return” – ursula le guin, through the anarchist leader odo in the dispossessed.

yes, yes it is.

the chosen virgo

every time I have to unpack my bags, I thank whoever chooses virgos for choosing me to be one.

I have unpacked all of my bags, sorted through five months of snail mail, and am beginning to sort through five months of electronic mail – with a heavy and loving delete finger.

along the journey I sent things home ahead of myself – a bag of things I had to buy in morocco, the cold weather clothes I needed in paris and barcelona, the clothes I just wasn’t wearing. unpacking those bags and the ones I lugged along has been a beautiful reliving of the journey.

unpacked items include:
the gaudi books from Spain, postcards from Paris, carpet and teas from Morocco, the art I made in Mexico, the shells and lava rocks from Hawaii, the vision board from windcall in Cali.
the shoes I had to get when I realized the cute boots I brought weren’t made for walking.
the oils, the pumice stone, the scarves. the sweatshirt I got out of a free box for cold nights.
the medicine bag full of stuff I never even touched but was told I had to have, the sage we picked and rolled.
the receipts and astrology charts and phone numbers of new best friends.
the stack of journals which are my most prized possession, full of truth and rants and raves and poems and songs and a-ha moments and sketches and short stories…

it’s silly – some part of me knows that I don’t need anything, that the journey is inside…and another part knows these things are my proof to myself, that I went, in case i ever forget. I didn’t buy a lot of stuff, but I found and grew and uncovered tokens of the journey, items that immediately remind me that I am free and can choose to be centered and healthy and happy.

it feels so good to tuck these things into my home, disperse them from the suitcase to the altar, the desk, the closet, the kitchen, the bathroom, all through the home they didn’t know was waiting for them.

there is a place for everything.

which i need to know, because I am coming home at a larger scale than I left – I feel like wings have unfurled from my back and balance has been redefined in my stance and light is beaming through me. I don’t feel perfect or completed or fixed, I just feel whole and alive, and like its time to start filling up the space of my greater creative unleashed self.

as I make space for good, for sacred, for solution, for truth, for smiling, it feels like an expansive endeavor that opens up more space for every other person I meet, to feel good about all kinds of righteous work and effortfull living.

in the world of my solitude and adventure, I expanded. now, in the world of other people, my work is to stay present, to not contract, to move into the realm of unlimited acceptance of the journeys we are all on towards freedom.

with precision, with a spare clean eye, with an order that allows for release.

and laughing.

down the mountain

all I can do is laugh.

I have come down from the beautiful windcall retreat, where I was up a mountain in an isolated cabin with no human sounds around me, very little Internet, no phone signal, and nothing to do but write, read, sleep, eat, write. heal. make cheese. pet goats. do yoga. write.

now I am a bit stunned by the human experience.

little things like trying to use my phone – which has really too many options on it to focus on just a call. or thinking about how to provide myself with sustenance and transportation. I used to be very good at these things, but I keep laughing as I realize how far I have come from those overly independent days, and how much I have been cared for.

I learned a special term from a friend recently – ‘c.r.a.f.t.’, meaning: can’t remember a fucking thing. used at moments where something I’m sure I know is not within reach, such as:
ex 1. how do i text on this? craft.
ex 2. what is my address so I can mail home this piece of art I made? craft.

isn’t that nice? works best with a shrug, smile, and slight shake of the head.

in addition to my thought priorities having changed, my sensual experience of the world is completely shifted.

I am now in Oakland and I cannot believe the sound of it, the sounds of the city. the sounds of cars and trucks and motorcycles rushing by each other on the highway, and planes and helicopters, and the breathless speed of it all, the sounds of ambulances or police cars or maybe fire trucks rushing to save or disrupt someone’s life, the sounds of tiny lawns and streetbound trees being mowed and whacked, the vacuums and fighting, the eye popping laughter sounds of stylish teenagers with rainbow hi-top fades and candy colored clothing, the sounds of people folded on top of each other in layers and layers.

loves, it’s been an hour.

so now the next level of work begins, finding the sound of my self, my clear self, in the cacophony of other people. learning to write and create and think and be while in the real world.

I have had a tendency to get overwhelmed, pressing my idealism up against the hard edges of reality and capitalism. talking too fast, interrupting this already full world, to try and respond before i know my response, because the bad is so fast and time is so short…isn’t it?

but, breathing, I keep accumulating more tools for focused listening, and learning. and time is expanding. and my idealism, my love and my belief in love as the pathway forward in every single instance, it’s only deepened in my time away and alone.

the energy of all this living and doing is titillating on some levels – I feel excited, to see people I love and have been dreaming about, to learn what has happened in the world of my familiars.

mostly I feel amused by this busy world taking itself so seriously, and by myself navigating it so effortfully.

now, to find my way to a birthday party for one of my favorite human beings. this should be fun.

Malcolm, at 87?

for years now I’ve had a ritual for Malcolm’s birthday – I either watch Malcolm x, or re-read his autobiography. since I didn’t have the book here, or enough Internet bandwidth to stream the movie, I had to take a different approach.

I put my mind towards Malcolm at 87 – if he had lived, what would he have done, what would he be thinking now, what would his legacy be?

I posted about this thinking on facebook, and someone said, sounds like a great science fiction or alternative history piece. I was thinking that too, so I spent the rest of the day writing one. it was thrilling to imagine Malcolm at 87, his potential futures, his potential impacts – to unfreeze him from history, from his assassination, from his legacy.

it made me realize how much is gained from continuing to evolve, and it made me realize again how much I feel like Malcolm’s potential was not fully realized, how much was stolen, what a tragedy his death was for all people, as inspiring and incredible as his brief life was.

I sent the story to a few friends for feedback, and maybe it will see the light of day somewhere. but the process itself was healing, invigorating – both as a way to extrapolate on my own analysis, my own impact, my own potential, and as a way to grieve for this man who has greatly shaped my life, though he died before my parents hit puberty.

there are not so many figures from history who I feel such love and romanticism for, and yet the more I see Malcolm as a figure of ongoing learning, the more I am able to learn from him, rather than just worshiping him. and of course this feels imperative to the development of my humanity, to move beyond the charisma, and the great story, and really grapple with the ideas, the key questions explored by his existence. to light myself in the arc cast by his life, as a continuation of his learning.

and the gift is this: his life continues to give, continues to grow the human potential.

happy birthday Malcolm.

remembering (echo chamber of transformation)

a few years ago I was sitting in some conference or other, and a brilliant speaker, maybe Malkia Cyril, said we need to create an echo chamber for our progressive radical messages.

just before starting this sabbatical, I dined with Malkia and Anasa Troutman, and over sake and sushi we determined that we need an echo chamber of transformation – not just to hold each other accountable to the hard parts of practicing authenticity and personal sustainability and health, but to shout out in celebration, to normalize the longing for health, for practice, for integrity between what we say we want in the world and how we live every day.

I got a newsletter from my sister autumn today which deeply inspired me, and part of what sparked it is something I had written her. I laughed, thinking, this is the echo chamber of transformation! she speaks of it as ‘remembering’ herself.


I write this sitting on the porch of my little cabin, where I have been remembering myself. of my cabin, I wrote:

‘tucked in a corner in a wood
a way from a world
where a wild thing can go

I love it here because, like many of the gorgeous places I have been on this journey, everything demands my attention, my presentness. can the whole world actually be like this? for me, being present manifests in a number of ways, including a playfulness, a wildness, an explorer self…I like to heft/pet/try/make things, I lean in for a closer look, I laugh when I’m scared.

I just refilled my water, carrying it back balanced on my head because something in my body remembers that that is a good way to bear a heavy load. before that, I stocked my kindling and firewood, and soon I will go in and get a fire going for the night. I love the particular warmth that kicks out from the wood stove, I love the smell of it, I love watching it get hotter and hotter inside, remembering little tricks to get it going, to keep it going. I toast the humans who discovered fire.

today a friend came in to teach us tips in sitting meditation, and i was delighted when my body found the right posture, the familiarity of support in my body apparently just waiting to be noticed. i sat for 25 minutes before i needed to move (usually after three minutes i’m adjusting).

last night I had a gorgeous and hard solo yoga session in front of the fire while listening to John Coltrane’s ‘my favorite things’. I looped the album so that my shivasana pose aligned with the 13 minute title track, and had tender memories of watching the sound of music with my sisters, with my family. I was flooded with gratitude once again for the things I already have in my life, and just need to remember.

when I think of these months, I can’t really think of that much i have learned which has been new. the difference has been my beginner’s mindset, a willingness to start fresh with practicing, to really learn these things i supposedly know. and even now I am just beginning to know.

almost everything that makes me happy – nonstop writing, reading a book a day, yoga and swimming, the sun, the magnificent cooking and eating, the ability to clear my mind and truly listen to another person, or truly be with my feelings – all of these are aspects of myself that i know, but in practice, they have been pushed back by the grind of life.

this week in particular, though it sounds like im in heaven, is actually one of the hardest weeks I have ever had. unbloggably hard. and yet I feel more present, and more capable, than I have felt on easier weeks. I feel alive. I remember that I can handle this, either on my own or by reaching out to my community. I’ve remembered how to ask for help, and the many ways help can look.

for instance, the echo chamber of transformation is helpful for me – seeing and feeling the vulnerability of others, and the commitment to return to the authentic self, to the gifts we are given, the work we are called to, the right to exist – to not settle into sleepwalking or burning out and calling that life.

massive eucalyptus trees are whining and whispering over my head. a hawk just coasted by. lavender and rosemary bushes are overflowing the air with my favorite smells. the light spilling through the trees seems determined to light up every single leaf. I am writing, which is what I am meant to do.

i am of a world that operates a certain way – given space and sustenance at the root, we grow.

as a super awesome bonus, here is an excerpt from autumn’s newsletter:

As I sat down to write this month’s newsletter, I found myself in a posture that I am often in these days: leaning over the table, head in my hands, struggling to sum up the vastness and complexity of the transition I find myself in, struggling to put words to something I am not yet used to articulating – because I am still in it – and in the end, coming up short. Sound bites feel most comfortable: “I am going thru puberty. Again.” Or “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.” Or “Whew, saturn is Re.Turn.Ing.”

I have reached a turning point in my life and my work, a point of profound reflection and evaluation of what my work has been, and frighteningly open expansion on all that it could be. In this oceanic and emotional process, it is my core sense of self that is struggling to remain afloat. I feel like a woman trying to remember herself (I welcome love notes as reminders), grasping onto one-liners and deep thoughts to give meaning to the chaos. And reading my horoscope. A lot.

My sister Adrienne, who is dope and brilliant and has a blog, recently wrote to me that she has remembered that she is more valuable than her work, and that the most important thing to the people who love her is her happiness. I sobbed like a little baby when she shared that with me because I realized that in my machinations about what I should be doing with myself, I had forgotten my actual SELF. Before I was ever a facilitator, an organizer, a theologian, a musician, a writer, an actress, a dancer, a mother, a partner, a producer of monthly newsletters and deep thoughts, I was a valuable person. And if I left off of any of those identities tomorrow – by force or by choice – I would still be a valuable person.

So as I move into and through this process of deep re-evaluation, I do it from the place of protecting this thing I now understand as true: I am the thing that is valuable, and yet I cannot attach a value to myself. But if I see myself only through the lens of my work, attaching value to myself is exactly what I do. Who do I want to be working with? What do I need in order to sustain my practice and be happy? What do I deserve in a friendship, a collaboration, a political framework? These are essential questions for me right now. Like most organizers, I talk a big game about sustainability and still find myself on verge of burnout half of the time. I teach my students to trust the process and let go of ego, while I am scrambling to retain control of my own experience. How often are we working counter to our own wisdom? 

So this spring and summer, I plan to plant a lot of vegetables and water them and watch them grow. I plan to write a short story once a week, so that my wild dreams can find a home and my mind can get some creative exercise. I plan to take a real break from some of my burdens. I will remember myself. I will remember. 

Full moon night

I cannot fully express how beautiful it is where I am, how utterly safe and cared for I feel. These months have done me good, I am reading a book a day, writing in a way that feels prolific, being in a way that feels authentic and like such a relief, a lack of effort. I feel valued outside of my work, of what I can do – I feel that my happiness is truly all that matters to those who love me. It is healing. I was recently reminded that being born, being the miraculous incarnation of stardust and breath and reason, is enough to yield the right to exist. I don’t have to fight, to grab, to prove it. So simple, yet basking in this truth is making me whole – what I have always known for others, and wished for others and given others, now I receive – whole love.

Here is a poem for the night:

What a holy quiet
The moon blazing over ancient trees,
Her cold silent light –
Then the owls wailing, far off
An under sound, an echo 
Against the whispered rush of creek and wind
Trying to be still

I know the predator slips through the darkness
Leaving prints loud only in sunlight
Yet I stay away from my fire
Bask in the silence
New among my thoughts
Everything here is my elder
Telling me story
Calm is this wisdom

I feel so human
Deep in the absence
Of my kind,
So fragile
In the flesh
Of my species,
So safe
In the grand order
Of this hush and shadow,
So bright in the blackness
Of this
Full moon night.