Tag Archive for 'transformation'

radical gratitude spell

a spell to cast upon meeting a stranger, comrade or friend working for social and/or environmental justice and liberation:

you are a miracle walking
i greet you with wonder
in a world which seeks to own
your joy and your imagination
you have chosen to be free,
every day, as a practice.
i can never know
the struggles you went through to get here,
but i know you have swum upstream
and at times it has been lonely

i want you to know
i honor the choices you made in solitude
and i honor the work you have done to belong
i honor your commitment to that which is larger than yourself
and your journey
to love the particular container of life
that is you

you are enough
your work is enough
you are needed
your work is sacred
you are here
and i am grateful

final letter to Ursula le Guin (sent the day after your departure)

first, a few excerpts from our correspondence, which will be published in the Ursula le Guin Science Fiction and Social Justice Reader this year.

1.
amb: How does imagination help our species survive?
 
UKL: It is through imagination that we think intelligently about what we’ve done, are doing, and should do.

2.
amb: did you ever spend time with Octavia?

UKL: We met only two or three times…She was an extraordinary person, both formidable and lovable.  I always felt she was larger than life, if you know what I mean.

3.
amb: Thanks for your life’s work!
 
UKL: You’re very welcome! I have enjoyed it very much.

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a relationship with a beloved writer can be a very selfish place. you are alone with them, building an understanding of the world through their eyes and some intimate pairing of imaginations – they paint the worlds but all of it happens inside you. i tried to write something more epic and universal, and i trust that will come. but first i wanted to write a letter to her that was about how she shaped me.

dear Ursula,

great teacher.

great spirit.

i’ve been crying since i got the news of your passing, and also feeling very alive.

i got to live at the same time as you.

and i get the honor of grieving you.

there are thoughts and ideas you wrote down that became beliefs for my whole life, marking posts on the journey of freeing myself.

there are questions you asked that changed the way i could think.

many of us don’t get to experience grandparents who can accept us whole. for me you were one of the adults who stepped into that yawning space, who joined the composite of my dream elder.

you let me know i may be in the wrong universe, but i am not wrong, i am not impossible.

you not only matched and fed my queer unorthodox mind, but pushed me further. on relationships and sex alone you had me consider: what about four-way marriage? what about gender as a responsive switchy sexual state that was otherwise nonexistent? what about instead of a period you just had a monthly sexual overdrive and a special place to go orgy for that time?

i am a lucky one – i got to tell you to your face that you were everything – and you were gracious about it.

i am still creating a project about your work. in researching it i became fascinated by you, your abundant correspondence, your art and poetry connected to the worlds you created, your fierce letters to local editors about tree removals, your loves and flirtations.

i still want to read everything. it feels impossible in the best way.

writers cast themselves out to the world with words, so that now you feel fully dispersed more than gone. you were so generous with your gifts. and you were rare – both prolific and genius. so many genius words!

the worlds you wrote increased my trust that white people could imagine something beyond their own supremacy. and that capitalism could be out imagined, like monarchy.

even when i did not seek you, you were there.

when i learned to meditate, you’d left me a framework.

when i fell in love with the Tao, i could turn to your translation.

when i wanted amazing fiction for all my nibblings, you had a series on flying cats.

when i needed to stand up for something, feeling alone in my dignity, you told me about the ones who walk away from a utopia dependent on someone else’s suffering.

when i lost hope in this world, you offered me a plethora of fully formed universes to learn from. you even gave me multiple options for moving between universes, both distant and parallel.

when some aspect of humanity felt beyond my comprehension or compassion, i found books you had written twenty years before that not only opened my heart, opened the possible in me, but generated desire for that specific difference.

when i wondered if imagination could be necessary for revolution and transformation, you said yes, you said our dreams and visions matter, they are the way we make oppression temporary.

88 years. i wanted more. you are that kind of human.

even as i sit in my grief for you, you guide me, you remind me that you are not absent, but complete.

“true journey is return.”

love
amb

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from the new yorker’s piece “the fantastic Ursula le Guin”

loving the people like Fred Hampton

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“i’m going to live for the people
because i love the people”
– Fred Hampton

lately everything has been changing fast
and we are reminded, in case we forgot,
that our blood is sacred
that it might be required
for the spell, the strategy, the next move
we are called extremists for our love
of ourselves
of our people
of our humanity

it is not enough to articulate
a radical politic
we have to declare a warrior nature
we have to embody yes-to-the-mystery
for, knowing nothing about our deaths,
we must promise to give our lives
to the future
to the children
to strangers with our skin

and maybe it isn’t your last breath
that is most needed right now
but, for the people, would you change?
for the people, would you apologize? forgive?
for the people, would you be honest?
for the people, would you learn, and learn?
– not for me
not for you
but for all of us?

because if you refuse to change
to look within and seek yourself out
your freest self, and your systemic self
your self which is imperfect and must grow
your harmed self who causes harm
your heartbroken self, and your resilient self
how can i trust your blood
how can i trust your work
how can i trust your love?

we do not survive when we live for ourselves
when we die our truths are forgotten
held in no heart, at most a legend
part of no wholeness, tender in no memory
when we live for the people
we never die, seeded so deeply in each other
love yourself, and the people
give your life for the people
give yourself to the people

outgrowing patriarchy (tarot spread)

some of you know about #resistancetarot, #movementtarot – each day since the 2016 election i have consulted the tarot to ask the universe for guidance for our movements for justice for people and the planet. i post these on instagram. on saturdays i do a past/present/future spread on the week we just survived and the one to come. on sundays i do a relationship spread to explore our interactions with various experiences or systems – trauma, funding, etc.

this came through yesterday and i want to lift it up.

soundtrack, Roxette’s classic Listen to Your Heart, and Björk’s stunning new album Utopia (she read Octavia as research for it!! #swoon)

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#sundayspread on the relationship between movements and (outgrowing) patriarchy. patriarchy is dying as a system, fighting for air where no more can be offered. so what do movements that include men, masculine of center people, and others shaped in reaction to/defense from patriarchy do/be now?

we bring the energy of the queen of swords: “reinvention. here we are being asked to renounce old roles. we can get stuck in certain modes of performance, thinking that this is the only way we can exist, be loved, nurtured or accepted. we are being asked to grow out of these roles and find the truth of who we really are.”

ooh.

the work of outgrowing patriarchy (nothing just disappears, it must transform) is queen of cups work: “openness, transparent emotions, authenticity. in a hard world it can be more than difficult to remain tender. go the distance in your emotional being and pull out the gems through your own tenderness. remain open to others, in spite of any trauma.”

oof.

the composite energy is the star. “divine clarity. it takes time for ideas and wisdom to crystallize within us, but when they do, the clarity shines down like a northern star, guiding us and inspiring us.”

true.

the next step is in the realm of the lovers. “communication, awakening through bond. two wolves howl at the sky. they bring each other to higher levels of consciousness. but in order to find union, they first must be confident on their own. this card asks us to find our own voice, love ourselves. mantra: I work on myself in love.”

well damn. unexpected deep read. from serpentfire tarot deck.

choose your own adventure: an affirmation

i learn experientially.

i often feel slow, behind the clarity, behind the certainty that others have. my questions focus on things i feel, things happening under the surface. sometimes that’s all i can feel, and the more overt reality has to be pointed out to me.

i also often feel clear, out ahead in a mysterious fog or body of water, afloat, gently feeling my way forward and then calling back, ‘this way, this way is new’…not safe, but not what we’ve already done.

sometimes i feel immense belonging, an interconnectedness so profound that i know everything, i just know.

other times i feel overwhelmingly alone – lonely, or, more and more often, at peace in the solitude and mystery; a star that cannot feel the constellation i’ve been clustered into, just the darkness.

joy is possible in each place, and in the transitions.

i’m learning that because i learn experientially, i have to be so intentional. i have to move towards experiences that keep growing me up, that challenge me and demand my authentic self. and can meet my authentic self when i show up.

there’s so much of the storyline of my life and grief that i don’t get to choose. i do get to make decisions along the way. i get to think for myself…it’s important that i keep doing so, keep feeling for myself.

i get to determine how much i will let others see and feel me in real time. i know now that i see good in people, and in moments, brighter than anything else. i am learning to listen and feel beyond what i can see, to believe the shadows as much as the light. i am learning that i don’t get to determine what others think about themselves, or about me.

i take the actions, build the relationships, hold the boundaries and shape the life that keeps me in right relationship with myself.

lately things keep happening in my life that are so deep, so true and so good that i can’t believe it. not perfect. not tidy. but absolutely mine, my lessons, my good news, my adventure.

i am accepting responsibility for what i’ve been given. i am accepting the blessing of the time i have left. i know this life is precious.

love love love

i believe we are living on the precipice of the next phase of our species. and i’m with such good people, people who cry hard and laugh harder. and do one to move through the other, rolling across the full emotional span in epic waves. we feel what’s gaping and yawning underneath both of those releases, that scale of lovegrief that can’t be captured in any words i know…we let it be in our eyes, at our core.

the more i learn/remember how to feel, the more in love i fall with the particular aliveness that only sparks between us. that met longing felt when the interior world unfolding in me comes to a border and longs to be porous, expansive, vast, one, multitudes. this opening, these moments, this work, this makes a viable future possible.

today i remembered a song i was taught over a decade ago:

“oh i say thank you
oh i say thank you
oh great spirits
in this way
i long to give my life to you
in love and devotion
in love and devotion”
(this was taught to me as a gwitch’in song from haida gwaii)

even now, especially now, with a mask over my mouth and a storm at my back, i am learning what i must realize in myself, what i must defend and protect, what i must cultivate in the face of fear and death and supremacy: love, love, love.

the scale of epiphany

all of my adult life i’ve navigated depression. it doesn’t show up in obvious ways. but i know when it’s running the ship.

i lose touch with the miracle, the clarity, the deeper compassion that allows me to move through the world and it’s sharp edges. i notice myself getting drawn towards my favorite things that numb me, it gets foggy around me, hard to see clearly, hard to ask for what i need.

turning inward brings me back. sometimes it’s extreme – like i have to go all the way to where its darkest and find the little light.

often its just moving through cloud, gray, a heavy gray that resembles the nothing from Never Ending Story because that’s the formative threat-of-apocalypse narrative of my life.

the last us election sent me into the fog. i wrote and worked and drank and smoked and got all cranes in the sky…but…i couldn’t get away.

so i’ve been moving through. into the unknown. into my own not knowing, more precisely. some people may know what’s going to happen, i believe that they believe.

but i don’t know. and when i try to imagine beyond a certain point, there is static as often as vision these days. i think we’re in a crucial place of making a viable future, and we might not make a compelling case for ourselves. i believe we have all the potential. but are we willing to practice anything new?

i have been working with groups and movements i believe carry portions of an answer i can imagine living inside.

i’ve been slowing way down. no one likes this. everyone likes it in theory but they still want their things attended to. it’s OK. i got a turtle tattoo to whisper ‘go slow’ in my ear.

and Sunday i took the day off. not just from work, but from chores. i looked at piled dishes and travel laundry and unswept floors and said ‘it’s my day off. i am not doing you.’

i slept so well last night. woke up and read the Ursula le Guin rendition of the Tao te Ching. then i read several graphic novels, between calls for interesting work and the (super amazing exciting deep sweet awesome) new podcast i’m recording with autumn, which included a talk about our summer bodies. in the midst of that conversation i realized and remembered how much i’m loving my whole body these days.

i put on the trolls soundtrack and danced while cleaning the house. i checked in on my heart, my mind, my body, my spirit. i cared for myself in many ways, and planted several seeds for things i want to do/experience in the next few months. i made a gorgeous dinner and ate it on the back deck in my fanciest robe. i listened to Bruno Mars and Superfruit to intentionally let the music lift me.

i feel a fog dissipating, a fire burning. and again the small epiphany: oh, the balance between solitude and togetherness! oh, using the body feels good. oh, no is a complete sentence and emotion. oh. the miracles continue. even when we aren’t worthy, grateful, gracious or even aware. the miracle is the river that doesn’t stop.

Oh.

stagger

it helps to say that i’m on the edge of burnout. in the past i flew right by all the telltale signs and right into the flames, almost welcoming the rest that came when i relinquished all ability to live in my life.

right now i feel like i don’t want the rest that comes inside of, or post, burnout. i want to intentionally bring my attention to my well being, and make adjustments so that i can sustain. i want all of us who are tired to learn how to stagger our efforts with each other.

when i think of staggering, i think of geese migrating long distances, and how they take turns holding the lead position because it is the hardest labor. cutting against the wind, setting the direction, setting the pace – it’s maximum effort. we all need to hold that position sometimes, and we all need to fall back in the formation sometimes, in order to all make it, to collectively go all the way.

that means collectively paying attention to the signs of burnout.

my signs include feeling tired and irritable and uninspired to connect with others or engage new ideas. i recently found myself rewriting the words to that song “if you don’t know me by now”, adding the lyric “i may never ever want to know you.” crispy.

in groups i often see signs like flakiness and haphazard communications, constant conflict that people accept as inevitable, and a shape of power under – no one wanting to take responsibility for impact, everyone feeling like victims of the world, powerless to shape the future.

i’m naming this precarious personal state as an invitation to stagger. i recognize that i am not alone in my exhaustion and we all need to name how we are and what we need so we can sustain our efforts.

for now, if you don’t need me, let me rest. there are so many incredible people out there! i list many of them in Emergent Strategy, and there are lists of awesome people at Social Transformation Project, or this list Mia Henry just pulled together.

if you have energy to lead, i am down to follow and support.

free labor feels heavier right now, so if you just need information, consider picking the internet instead of my/others brains.

if you do need me, be gentle and spacious with it – urgency feels like a serrated knife right now.

i’m practicing emergent strategy and resting and stretching and taking my vitamins and hydrating and shifting my diet and adding turquoise and ceremony and easing my schedule and all the other unglamorous things which make it possible for me to give what i can right now, and give more as my cup fills back up.

it already feels better.

how does crying work?

last weekend i cried in front of people. i suspected it could happen – i was teaching a somatics course and was being vulnerable in front of the class.

it wasn’t just a few tears, it’s the kind of crying where you feel ugly and want to be smaller and picked up by someone who has the answers and will carry you back to some time before you knew adult suffering.

it doesn’t much matter what i started crying about, when it was time to be done, my tears were not done. they felt non-specific and available, like new thoughts, old memories and ongoing longings would float up in my mind and they also wanted tears.

the crying, the feelings made me pale and tired and prickly and pushy and honest without sweetness. thank octavia i love so many patient people, or i think i would truly have to go find the castaway/lost island and learn to open coconuts on rocks.

yesterday i was driving from one home to another and in a pause between two songs, more tears came, suddenly, strong enough that i pulled off at the next exit. my tears almost always come at the sharp point of a singular true thought – “this person is gone”, “i was thoughtless”, “someone scared my nibbling and i wasn’t there”, “why is my species suicidal?”, “i miss my grandparents”.

later i drove through a storm and finally, for the first time since crying in front of people, felt just right. lightning shot down bright fingers trying to scorch earth, thunder clapped and undulated overhead saying “wrong way, wrong way, turn around”, and the rain was so abundant.

i saw how you can’t rush the rain, can’t rush a storm.

i’ve been trying to rush through my amazing life, my own transitions, rushing to share everything i learn, rushing to be everywhere at once. leaving no time for big messy beautiful storms, for my rage, my overwhelm, my celebration.

tears are another way the body takes time. slows things down.

my body says: “slower.

slower.

know nothing, know nothing, just listen. no, listen. fill up your cup and then, maybe, pour into others.

slower.

it may even seem like you stop for a moment. slow like that.”

i spent time with my bestie-nibbling yesterday. she’s been in this world nine months now, and she is learning about crying, testing out her lungs and her discontent. we stepped onto her balcony and the rain had just cleared. her face was calming, a fat tear lingering on her cheek. she looked up in wonder and watched a flock of birds fly by us. i just watched her face, the full range of feeling there.

i want to live at this pace.

my face is wet, my breath is deeper, i’m catching up with myself. i want to really be here for my life.

i’m thinking of rewriting the tortoise and the hare as a shapeshifting story. with my body.

chimamandagate

this morning as i was catching up on chimamandagate i found myself feeling a ton of gratitude to trans, gender nonconforming and nonbinary people who have stayed with me through my unlearning process,
through my misgendering them, trying to argue grammar (even though in nearly every other instance i dismiss grammar rules and all other rules),
through my defensive reactions (“but half my lovers are trans/gnc i couldn’t be transphobic”),
through my feelings of scarcity around my womanhood and women’s spaces,
through delicate/scary conversations around transracial vs transgender journeys,
through my unrequested advice or protection,
through my absence when support was needed.
through my fascination and curiosity,
through my putting them on pedestals,
through my forgetting them in spaces where they needed inclusion and/or centering.
and through my fumbling love.

i wish i could say each of these lessons took me hours to learn, but some of it has taken days, weeks, years – sometimes i never made it back to thank the teachers of specific lessons, especially the ones that were hard.

and i am still unlearning.

and i am still grateful.