These questions come up for me as I prepare to co-facilitate a mini Shabbaton for Jewish preteens in Vermont. Currently we are in the 6th week of the Omer; the week of sefirot Yesod: exploring the parts of our soul meridians involving connection, intimacy, & foundation. As a land based people, much of our spiritual practice is rooted in our being physically present on a piece of land. Granted we have been practicing through 2749 years of exiles and resulting diaspora, somehow adapting to stay aligned amidst our changing circumstances. Like any species on the planet trying to survive and evolve and like so many original peoples of this planet, we are continually in responsive dialogue with the past and future through how we practice in the present.
Lately disturbing circumstances and disappointing group dynamics in small circles where I serve have led me to remember what one of my dear permaculture teachers, Dave Jacke once taught which was that no matter how many amazing guilds and polycultures you plant, no matter how many deep healing practices are offered, regardless of how tight a bioremediating project is, the limiting factor will always be the humans involved. Wow!!!
Recently I spent four days pecking and grinding stone to make a celt and felt the sheer power required to communicate with the rock cycle. While I listened a lot, it was quite different than listening to a plant or tree. It required a different type of listening that I believe may take many years of deep canyon time for me to really develop to the degree where I could hear and perhaps understand a snippet of stone wisdom. As I pondered how the commandments were etched into rock, I could not help but think about all the ways in which we humans currently use force to effectively break into rock cycle language and thereby create a lifestyle based on this ‘interference.’ Thousands to millions of years of sedimentation, heat and pressure, rifting open and releasing, cooling and hardening involve a language far beyond any linguistics we have learned in school. While I remember on long fasts in the wilderness being able to receive a lot of energy from laying on, holding, and hugging rocks I also know that through fracking, drilling…we are able to extract tremendous amounts of energy. This is a complex relationship and what we do with the energy and how it reenters the web is the issue at hand as well as our means of obtaining it. What are we giving back to our mantle which I see as the earth’s altar?
When I expand into geologic time and explore with high school biology studentsI the trails of our predecessors (according to Western science though some would say there are metamorphic hints and corresponding allusions in Genesis), it is humbling to feel out to those first microbes, the blue green algaes, the stromatolites, the lichen, and the billions of beings in the phylogenetic tree which issued forth and upon whose backs we Homo sapiens entered the scene.
A bright spot in recent journeys was davenning mincha before Shabbas when paddling with other kin across the Hudson river to protest the bomb trains and then Shacharit the next morning while marching with a thousand other folks in solidarity with the Break Free From Fossil Fuel Movement. While singing and walking through the Ezra Prentice low-income housing neighborhood, whose playground is a stone’s throw from the tracks and whose walls shake at night as the trains barrel through., it felt good to walk my prayer for peace, for unity, for an end to unjust practices. What was so inspiring about joining others at this Break Free event (while communities all around the world hosted similar protests) was how this local inner city community guided the rally in their streets, even beckoning some of their neighbors to join. For years in the environmental movement, even most recently this summer at the Earth First Rendezvous, I have witnessed how the somewhat elitist, classist boundaries of privilege prevented folks uniting against the same forces that are threatening the planet’s equilibrium. Environmental racism was called out that day in a way I have yet to witness as it was dovetailed with words from Martin Luther King and a spiritual from people’s whose ancestors wrote it. I bring this up because more than ever I am honing on where people unite and where are those mysterious gaps in communication, in partnership, in alliances, in collaboration with curiosity and a hand lens. This was a neat moment led by those on the front lines, supported by those who benefit from the exploitation.
So in weaving these seemingly disparate strands together I return to the birds’ companion calls which are trails of creatures checking in with each other continually. As mentor Jon Young anthropomorphosizes ‘Hey how are you, are you ok?,’ he is onto something in that these touch-ins are lifelines; beings checking in on each other. How much we can learn from them and their communication!!!
May you and all be blessed on your journey to receive original instructions whether it be from a beech tree with new leaves, still soft from their recent emerging or the from Aitz Chaim, a root of our holy tree of life etched in stone or written in scrolls via the ten commandments. May all parts of your soul be purified so your experience of transmission, your reception, and your vesselhood is lucid.