lessons from a lunar eclipse

(i am a cheap expert on the stars – at some point i stopped buying gossip magazines and put my attention on stars that felt more authentic and reliable, more capable of holding the weight of my projections. i now say things about the stars and other celestial bodies with gravitas, but i am often corrected by my smarter friends. this caveat is to say that what follows is all feeling more than knowing.)

last night was a lunar eclipse and a super wolf blood full moon, aka a bloody howling supreme lunar happening. i learned (at the intersection of multiple websites and listening to what others learned on the internet) that it’s about truly letting go of patterns that don’t serve, about release at the level of system, about making room for something that cannot coexist with that shriveled up rotten moldy crusty whatever that i am dragging along behind me. time to kondo my soul.

so i looked up and i listened for what it is time to release. i learned some things in the watching that feel like clues, if not answers.


(howling bloody lunar wow, rural mn, 1/20/19 11:16pm)

– the moon eclipsed in shadow is gray, quiet, murky, briefly reddish. it looks like it is resting. i am reminded of its passive, orbital nature.

– the moon is not doing anything. not covering up, not unveiling, not demanding. unlike me, the moon’s life isn’t much changed by brief and total shadow.

– to us humans, the moon eclipsed in shadow is dramatic headline material with awesome names…even though it was more dazzling an hour before in super bright fullness. why are we so drawn to the drama of reduced light?

– the body that casts the shadow is not made of shadow. it’s just earth. i often think this is the case between humans…one complex system casts shadows or shines light on another, while being neither darkness nor light.

– but when you’re looking up at something that hurts, it can look like a shadow monster. back lit, broken, the illusion can be confusing. this makes me think that i don’t believe in monsters amongst humans. i believe in shattered spirits, and in souls that get stuck/lost in shadow, and then want to shadow everything.

– this is why, as a mediator, i choose space over punishment every time. space to stop harm, space to look at, release and claim our own shadows.

– and i choose love over pain when i can. pain doesn’t stop or resolve pain. love is what heals – love of self, love from others who see the shadows, love of how we survive. love invites us to occupy the universe, not just some cage of our worst moments.

– i can’t ignore that i am in the martin luther king jr holiday season, reflecting on love, at the edge of saying only light can drive out the darkness you can’t carry. but of course. he was a moon, he held brightness.

– i have been thinking a lot about how to make distinctions between beings and our behavior. in real time, how can i not get confused between the who and the how?

– and, if a being is committed to a certain behavior, and that behavior casts shadows, what are the options? we are not in orbit, we do not have to continue the dance. sometimes we must ask each other to move in massive ways, sometimes we must go around the sun to get to the light, sometimes we are unable.

– you may have noticed i identify with the moon, even though i’m part of the shadow on her face tonight. my work as a facilitator/mediator is often that deep reflection. what beauty is in this darkness? how much light can you handle being? look how bright you are. but always half dark, or more.

– i am generally comfortable holding the dark. i believe it is the balance of light and dark that makes our world miraculous and dynamic. and since light is the anomaly of this universe, perhaps we all need to be comfortable with/in the dark.

– i hold brightness, too. but i think it’s a reflective work, catching and sharing the light of sun creatures like octavia butler, grace lee boggs, audre lorde, ursula le guin, mlk, toni cade bambara and other bright beaming beings. as i write that, i can also see how they caught and shared the light of their teachers. some light is as old as the tao, some as old as a humanish god. and some light is much older than that.

– this moon is telling me to notice every shadow on my face, accept my own darkness, emerge from any shadow that isn’t mine, surrender to the cycle of light and dark, and, when my time comes, be unapologetically bright.


(superfull af moon through branches, 1/21/19, 6:48am)

What is/isn’t transformative justice?

I’ve been thinking a lot about transformative justice lately.

In the past few months I’ve been to a couple of gatherings I was really excited about, and then found myself disappointed, not because drama kicked up, which is inevitable, but because of how we as participants and organizers and people handled those dramas.

Simultaneously I’ve watched several public take downs, call outs and other grievances take place on social and mainstream media.

And I’m wondering if those of us with an intention of transforming the world have a common understanding of the kind of justice we want to practice, now and in the future.

What we do now is find out someone or some group has done (or may have done) something out of alignment with our values. Some of the transgressions are small – saying something fucked up. Some are massive – false identity, sexual assault.

We then tear that person or group to shreds in a way that affirms our values. When we are satisfied that that person or group is destroyed, we move on.

Or sometimes we just move on because the next scandal has arrived.

I’m not above this behavior – I laugh at the memes, like the apoplectic statuses. I feel better about myself because I’m on the right side of history…or at least the news cycle.

But I also wonder: is this what we’re here for? To cultivate a fear-based adherence to reductive common values?

What can this lead to in an imperfect world full of sloppy complex humans? Is it possible we will call each other out until there’s no one left beside us?

I’ve had tons of conversations with people who, in these moments of public flaying, avoid stepping up on the side of complexity or curiosity because in the back of our minds is the shared unspoken question: when will y’all come for me?

The places I’m drawn to in movement espouse a desire for transformative justice – justice practices that go all the way to the root of the problem and generate solutions and healing there, such that the conditions that create injustice are transformed.

And yet…we don’t really know how to do it.

We call it transformative justice when we’re throwing knives and insults, exposing each other’s worst mistakes, reducing each other to moments of failure. We call it holding each other accountable.

I’m tired of it. I recently reposted words from Ryan Li Dahlstrom, speaking about this trend in the queer community. But I see it everywhere I turn.

When the response to mistakes, failures and misunderstandings is emotional, psychological, economic and physical punishment, we breed a culture of fear, secrecy and isolation.

So I’m wondering, in a real way: how can we pivot towards practicing transformative justice? How do we shift from individual, interpersonal and inter-organizational anger towards viable generative sustainable systemic change?

In my facilitation and meditation work, I’ve seen three questions that can help us grow. I offer them here with real longing to hear more responses, to get in deep practice that helps us create conditions conducive to life in our movements and communities.

1. Listen with ‘Why?’ as a framework.

People mess up. We lie, exaggerate, betray, hurt, and abandon each other. When we hear that this has happened, it makes sense to feel anger, pain, confusion and sadness. But to move immediately to punishment means that we stay on the surface of what has happened.

To transform the conditions of the ‘wrongdoing’, we have to ask ourselves and each other ‘Why?’

Even – especially – when we are scared of the answer.

It’s easy to decide a person or group is shady, evil, psychopathic. The hard truth (hard because there’s no quick fix) is that long term injustice creates most evil behavior. The percentage of psychopaths in the world is just not high enough to justify the ease with which we assign that condition to others.

In my mediations, ‘Why?’ is often the game changing, possibility opening question. That’s because the answers rehumanize those we feel are perpetuating against us. ‘Why?’ often leads us to grief, abuse, trauma, mental illness, difference, socialization, childhood, scarcity, loneliness.

Also, ‘Why?’ makes it impossible to ignore that we might be capable of a similar transgression in similar circumstances.

We don’t want to see that.

Demonizing is more efficient than relinquishing our world views, which is why we have slavery, holocausts, lynchings and witch trials in our short human history.

‘Why?’ can be an evolutionary question.

2. Ask yourself/selves: what can I /we learn from this?

I love the pop star Rihanna, not just because she smokes blunts in ballgowns, but because one of her earliest tattoos is ‘never a failure, always a lesson’.

If the only thing I can learn from a situation is that some humans do bad things, it’s a waste of my precious time – I already know that.

What I want to know is, what can this teach me/us about how to improve our humanity?

For instance, Bill Cosby’s mass rape history is not a lesson in him being a horrible isolated mass rapist. It’s a lesson in listening to women who identify perpetrators, making sure those perpetrators are not able to continue their violence but experience interventions that transform them, make that injustice impossible. If the first woman raped by Cosby had been listened to, over 40 other women could have been spared.

What can we learn? In every situation there are lessons that lead to transformation.

3. How can my real time actions contribute to transforming this situation (vs making it worse)?

This question feels particularly important in the age of social media, where we can make our pain viral before we’ve even had a chance to feel it.

Often we are well down a path of public shaming and punishment before we have any facts about what’s happening. That’s true of mainstream take downs, and it’s true of interpersonal grievances.

We air our dirt not to each other, but with each other, with hashtags or in specific but nameless rants, to the public, and to those who feed on our weakness and divisions.

We make it less likely to find room for mediation and transformation.

We make less of ourselves.

Again, there are times when that kind of calling out is the only option – particularly with those of great privilege who are not within our reach.

But if you have each other’s phone numbers, or are within two degrees of social media connection, and particularly if you are in the small small percentage of humans trying to change the world – you actually have access to transformative justice in real time. Get mediation support, think of the community, move towards justice.

Real time is slower than social media time, where everything feels urgent. Real time often includes periods of silence, reflection, growth, space, self-forgiveness, processing with loved ones, rest, and responsibility.

Real time transformation requires stating your needs and setting functional boundaries.

Transformative justice requires us at minimum to ask ourselves questions like these before we jump, teeth bared, for the jugular.

I think this is some of the hardest work. It’s not about pack hunting an external enemy, it’s about deep shifts in our own ways of being.

But if we want to create a world in which conflict and trauma aren’t the center of our collective existence, we have to practice something new, ask different questions, access again our curiosity about each other as a species.

And so much more.

I want us to do better. I want to feel like we are responsible for each other’s transformation. Not the transformation from vibrant flawed humans to bits of ash, but rather the transformation from broken people and communities to whole ones.

I believe transformative justice could yield deeper trust, resilience and interdependence. All these mass and intimate punishments keep us small and fragile. And right now our movements and the people within them need to be massive and complex and strong.

I want to hear what y’all think, and what you’re practicing in the spirit of transformative justice.

Towards wholeness and evolution, loves.

consider it…

consider for a moment that you are not destined for something great – not in the way that we have imagined greatness. your name will not be remembered. no quotes, no recordings, no transcripts, no iconic images, no published journals.

consider that instead of a life legacy of fame, celebrity and followers, your entire purpose is to be part of something greater than any individual. that you are a temporary conduit of the miraculous mysterious unfolding of the entire universe.

would you be a cog in a wheel? a hater? would you commute? gossip? chatter? do things you don’t love? suffer?

visual: a bubble is simply space, air caught, floating through air, space in space. it is beautiful, awesome. it holds within it the same complex miraculous air that is all around it. and then it pops. it lands against some hard surface. it ceases to exist. but the space within it doesn’t cease, it just becomes part of the greater space, pushed by a fan to cool someone’s face, breathed into damaged lungs, transforming, transforming, but always there.

consider: we are like that. fragile and complex and temporary. made of the same stuff as planets, as soil, as oceans. we are heat, like suns, stars, fire. everything that exists, caught in the shell of us, and then the shell is gone, our singularity, our temporary container: poof.

bubbles don’t reason, surely they don’t come into existence and then fling themselves against the world in ways that can only end them…but we do. we reason, and with all of our capacity for dreaming and thinking and wondering and learning, we fling ourselves against each other and the world in ways that weaken our fragile containers.

the little stuff in me that feels familiar is like – pure mediation. there is something within me that feels like the air and space and stuff of mediation. not famous mediation, or celebrity mediation, or even highly paid mediation.

i have been thinking lately of why i don’t have more hustle. i get told often about things i could do to raise my profile, get more people to hear me and follow me. and i consistently have so little interest in that. the ideas that interest me most are not mine, they are collections and collisions of other people’s ideas and observations. i hold the ideas for a while, but the brain with which i process these ideas is far more temporary than the ideas themselves – they existed before me, they will exist and grow after my body and brain are gone.

consider: the world is full of information and experiences, truth and reflections. i see the species coming up with all kinds of ways to process that information – categorize it, label it, own it, store it, share it, be horrified by it, use it to shock and awe, ultimately forget it (how do you interact with…data?).

i can see the temptation of all of that – to feel like it is important to just process all the information coming at us. but sometimes i see that all the information creates patterns and pathways, a way forward, a fusion. sometimes i can see that middle ground of existence, or of organizing methodology, or of humanity, or of life – like a bright purple shell in clear water, or a point in space that is actually a dark hole of transformation. it’s not the opposition, or resistance, or liberalism, or progressive thought, or conservatism, the anarchy, the marches, the elections, the spirit of entrepreneurs, the globalization of every little thing…it’s nothing obedient or reactive at all. it’s where all of those things break out of our definition of them and merge, history happens when all of those forces merge, and it is the fusion that advances through time.

this isn’t to say i am anti-extreme, sometimes all of the energy of the world is tilted towards an extreme and the learnings from our pursuit and survival of that extreme become part of our collective knowledge and values. extremes are more important than mainstreams, because extremes are often compelled into action.

we haven’t yet figured out the way to act/live our values, collectively. we know, for instance, that it is right to at least speak of civil rights, equality, things like that. in practice, this is a generation of inhumane behavior and great inequality. we might as well name prisons after martin luther king, jr considering where black men reside these days. king’s name, his image, his words – they are applied to all sorts of things that have nothing to do with deep and pure nonviolence, with beloved communities, with his life’s work. the ideas he espoused are now carried by his name, not by a deep transformations in the way we are with each other as a mass level. his is one of the many names that we know now, and consider important, people who were only advancing a moment. their truth may or may not hold.

how can we use our reason to learn and live our values? stop floating, and start advancing our existence? if we were really listening, containing the truth of our ancestors and elders, and evolving…consider: what would you do?

how would you interact with your family?
who would you forgive?
who would you love?
what behaviors would you give up?
what practices would you begin?
who would you be?
what would you give?
how would you live?

i know i have considered these questions…
i would practice dependence and independence with my family.
i would compost, recycle, use less water, eat more greens and localize my diet. i would forgive myself for neglecting my body for so long.
i would give up reaction and practice being present.
i would choose love and do love.
i would be physical every day, i would give my time and my ability to mediate.

there is nothing stopping me…i am not angry anymore. i am giving up the hustle and getting into the flow.

consider – what are you being called to? why aren’t you listening?