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.