Spiral of Gift-giving and Receiving

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The level of generosity and kindness was truly astonishing while Andrew and I drove across the country. We were on the road for almost four weeks, and every person we stayed with along the way opened his/ her home and heart to us in ways I did not expect for such short visits.

We were showered with gifts, hearty meals, comfortable beds, and even a full tank of gas. I was given necklaces, pottery, tobacco seeds, a medicinal plant book written by a Laguna Pueblo woman, handmade bags, and paintings. None of these items I asked for, only given as a blessing for making the journey.

What I am now able to see is the infinite spiral of giving and receiving. What does it mean to truly receive? Similar to our digestive process of food, our bodies know how to assimilate nutrients and pass on the waste. The wisdom from Milk Thistle plant spirit captures it so well:

For me, really allowing myself to feel the blessings I was given on this journey means trusting that I am worthy of each gift. The moment I forget my true worthiness, I am not only bringing a dishonor to myself, but also to the giver. Breathing deeply while looking into the eyes of the giver and saying, “Thank you,” is creating space in my heart for the gift. And, the more I receive, naturally, the more I want to give. What if our world was built on this level of gift-giving and gift-receiving?

Particularly in Navajo Nation, I recognized a pattern of emptying our gift box to the many hosts along the trip, then filling it back up before our departure. Our box would never be empty. Loading the car up with even more gifts than when we arrived became tradition. It was not an expectation, it was a surprise.

One evening, after I handed a tin of home grown tobacco to the Laguna Pueblo Grandparents we were visiting, the Grandma turned around and brought back tobacco seeds in a small container.  “Here,” she said, “these are from our garden to yours. I hope they grow.” Tears formed on the edges of my eyelids like clouds swollen with rain, eager to water those seeds already.

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Hopi Blue Corn & Mohawk Tobacco from our garden – Sweetgrass and Creosote bush gifts

We brought our hosts, or relatives, as we began referring to each person,  ground Painted Mountain and Hopi Blue Corn from our garden in small pouches for prayer and offerings. I watched the Grandpa receive the corn by first blessing his own body. He held the pouch up to the sky and then the earth and then his heart, dabbing a taste on his finger, inviting the medicine to enter his body.  Grandma showed us her grinding stone, then they took us outside where Grandpa offered us a very large flat volcanic stone from the yard. “Here,” he said, “now you will have a stone to grind your corn.”

Grandpa goes on to tell us the stories of women singing songs while grinding corn for ceremonies. Tears welled up once again, reminding me of the dozens of stories Andrew tells about meeting relatives during his walk across America when he was 23-years-old. “It’s happening again,” he says, referring to the endless generosity washing over us.

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The next evening we had dinner with a father and son who met Andrew during his walk in 2012. Not only did they bring him a bag of Snickers bars and water bottles while he walked across the unforgiving desert, these relatives flew to California where they greeted him at the ocean upon completing the 4,000 mile journey. Then, they led a ceremony for him back on the East Coast at Andrew’s starting point to symbolize the entrance into manhood. They said, “When you walked through our land, we called you ‘boy who walks.’ Now, you have a new name, ‘man who walks for us.'”

Andrew hadn’t seen these uncles in six years. When we arrived to their home north of Window Rock, they wrapped a beautiful wool blanket around us, sprinkled corn pollen on our heads and pulled us in for a long hug. To be in honest, I was thinking, “Is this really happening, again?” Complete “strangers” just wrapped me in a blanket in a place I’ve never been before. I now know that family is every where. And we’re all just like corn pollen, floating through the wind, hoping to land somewhere full of love, generosity and kindness. The more we can receive the love, the more we can give others.

 

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Armed with Compassion

IMG_0281In all honesty, I’ve considered changing the name of my blog or starting a new one many times because the word “justice” can be misunderstood. Justice, to me, does not imply there is a good side and a bad side; an evil enemy and a loving hero, or that anyone needs to be condemned. Justice lies in the equity of all people and beings we live with on Mother Earth. To me, the root of justice is peace and interbeing.

Part of living in peace means remembering our interconnectedness with everything. We are visitors here, on Earth while we’re embodied as human, plant, animal, fungi, rock, or microbe. There is no “better than,” or “less than” for being an ant or the tall tree which the ant crawls upon. Suffering occurs the moment we believe we are separate from one another, separate from the Pachamama, Great Mother Earth. This quote by Thich Nhat Hahn describes interbeing beautifully.

In the midst of another tragic school shooting, I watch my mind attempt to blame, shame, and separate myself from the President, the NRA, the Shooter. “This is insanity!” I want to scream until “they” wake up- as if I’m awake and separate, even better than those men and women in support of arming school teachers.

Once I’ve allowed myself to feel the rage and judgments, because shoving it down is merely fuel for violence in the future, I dig to find the truth beneath my anger. I try to imagine myself in the shoes of the Shooter. I recall a poem, Call Me By My True Names,  which Thich Nhat Hahn wrote after receiving a tragic letter.

“I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,

who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,

and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.”

I believe the line, “my heart yet not capable of seeing and loving” is the root of suffering, the root of violence, the root of school shootings. I ask you all, beloveds, what is your heart not yet capable of seeing and loving about yourself, your community, your work, your country?

My hope is that this inner exploration can be shared together, that we may be vulnerable enough with one another so that we can open the door of our hearts to compassion. This is not a time for being passive or believing we are separate, isolated, alone.  It is another opportunity to find compassion in our hearts for everyone. Instead of arming our teachers with weapons that have the potential to end another’s life, why not arm them with the wisdom to teach our children the bravery of non-violence?

Nonviolence means an ocean of compassion. It means shedding from us every trace of ill will for others. It does not mean abjectness or timidity, or fleeing in fear. It means, on the contrary, firmness of mind and courage, a resolute spirit.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Let us join together to envision and activate plans for rebuilding our nation, our schools, and our minds from a foundation of peace and justice for all. Everyday is a new opportunity to begin again. This time, let us include the voices of our Children, our Mothers and our Sisters. The Founding Fathers needed all of us back then when their hearts and minds were clear enough to say:

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.” —George Washington

and

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them.”

—Thomas Jefferson

Unfortunately, they were still far too distressed to see their innate interbeing with the original inhabitants of  land upon which America was founded. Sadly, this lack of compassion or foresight led to the genocide of indigenous tribes who lived here long before white immigrants arrived.

Now, this nation needs all of us more than ever. Our children need us. Listen to them, listen to their screams. Open your hearts to one another. Show the children that you care and trust that they, too, have potential to lead this nation. The end of war is only possible when we create peace within our own homes.

Feeling discouraged already? I’ll never forget the moment I expressed grief and despair about the violence in our world to my friend Darryl, a Navajo medicine man.  He said, “You have a beautiful garden, so water your garden.” I understand this offering as a reminder to take care of your home, family, community, and the land which gives you life. Start with the place you can have the most influence – with yourself.

Grab a trusted friend and be seen in your fears, hopes, and emotions together. Cry, a lot. It helps move walls damming up your inner courage, your brilliance. Peace begins inside you and ripples out further than you’ll ever know. I believe in you. You are so brave. I invite you to be armed with an indestructible weapon, compassion. 

If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

 

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In Service to the Heart

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“When it comes to healing, when it comes to aging, we admire that eighty-year-old guy who runs a marathon. We want to see that proof that mind can overcome matter because the body is going to be what ends up shutting down. But you need all kinds of strength. You need to be able to also- and it’s an overused word- ‘surrender.’ Being more present, surrendering into the world, feeling more. I don’t mean intellectually. I mean literally having your body as if you’re getting hugged like my son. But your heart feels vulnerable when you let yourself be in the world like that. That’s why we avoid it. Dominance over our bodies is what human beings have done for thousands of years, whether over nature or over each other. That’s one thing we want in our tool belt- to use will when you need to have it. But we are just on the beginning of realizing that there are many other ways to integrate with body. And, in fact, I believe our human survival over time is going to depend on getting much more subtly aware of bodies.” – Matthew Sanford

Bodies. How many of you have cultivated a relationship with the body you’re in? What is that like, to be in a body that is finite? For me, it’s mostly humbling. Each day, each moment, each millisecond, our bodies are doing things we can hardly understand. That is why I slow down and listen to the silence. Because inside, under the flesh, magic is happening. What is so humbling about being in a body is that I will never be 100% in control. When I think of the word “surrender” as Sanford uses above, I feel gratitude to even be here, right now, on planet Earth, inside this temple called body.

In Spanish, “cuerpo” means body. “Cuerpo y alma,” body and spirit, which also is used interchangeably as “heart and spirit. Body is heart. Similar to how the Five Element Chinese System views the organs and how they relate to one another. Everything is in service to the heart. The heart is the Queen, your Queen. So, treating our bodies like Queens and Kings, or Temples, whatever you find to be most special, is the path toward love, the path toward freedom.

Suffering. How many of you experience suffering inside your body? Suffering can be utilized to create awareness of how powerful the mind is. The mind, too, is a great gift. More like a monkey than a beautiful morning dove, the mind can also become a dove. That is in your hands, however. The mind asks us to step into our power, to claim who we are, who we want to be. Surrender to any attachment of this notion of “I am,” and suffering is released, like a flock of caged pigeons freed through an open window. Your heart is that caged pigeon, so free it.

Beloved. You are your own beloved. Look no further than your own body- your beautiful, challenged, aching, weary, innocent body. You are here to serve one another. Befriend your heart. And the body melts into a pool of honey soaked tulsi blossoms. You are nothing but sweet nectar for the bees, anyway.

How will you honor the sacred body you’ve been blessed with today?

Love to each of you beautiful sweet nectar beings,

Hannah

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Love your neighbor

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The hill on the other side of the road, to the east, is called Mount Moon. I discovered this while wandering the forests and coming across a map of what was Hemenway Farm. Learning a place is something I cannot live without. I crave connecting the dots of rivers, hemlock groves, swamps, and ravines. I want to know the land as much as I would a person.

Before deciding to venture outside, the voice of reason says, “Don’t waste your time wandering, there’s work to be done.” If I am present enough to listen deeper, the voice of freedom says, “This walk will change you, take the first step and don’t think too much.”

After the walk, I yearn for more. I want to know what it’s like to connect Mount Moon to those cliffs in the distance. So human of me, to want more instead of sinking into the satisfaction of each moment. My mind wonders where the Moose live and if I will ever come across one? The sun is setting, illuminating the hill with violet blue. It’s time to go home.

IMG_9900Upon returning my neighbor, Jay, is near the driveway. He felled an Ash tree that was nearly dead. The grief in his voice is like the grief of the Ash’s fellow trees, how they will miss their friend of nearly 40 years. In one deep cut of the saw, it is down, the sound of ancient wisdom crashing onto the frozen Earth. It’s weak brittle limbs scattered throughout the snow like shards of glass.

I ask if he’s planning to fell the mighty Birch next to it, who I have grown accustomed to gazing at from my window each day. It’s white bark against the dark forest is like a lightning strike, but longer lasting. It even has a small Chaga mushroom growing from its side, which I will never take for it belongs to the mighty Birch, and I’d rather look than take. What is mine to take? The satisfaction after a long scramble uphill beneath the pines, that is all I need from the forest.

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He has no intention of cutting down anything other than the dead Ashes. He goes on to tell me a story of the first dweller of my house who would stare out his window at the Birch each day. Maybe he and I were not all that different.

“You don’t have to shovel the driveway,” I said. “I’ll take care of it. The snow drift had blown over the drive causing the plow’s efforts to be unnoticeable since the big storm. I had intended to clean it up eventually, but shoveling a 200 ft. driveway by hand can feel daunting.

“How are those chickens fairing?” Jay asked.

“They seem happy,” I replied. “Laying a dozen eggs per day and so far no sign of predation.”

“Ah, well, good,” Jay said. “I’ve been watching the foxes check them out, but I’m glad to hear they’ve respected the fence boundaries.”

Jay was born and raised in the same house where he and his wife live now. He’s never flown anywhere, which for a man in his mid 40s is rare. He is of this place. His knowledge, stories, and skills show it. We feel blessed to have him as our neighbor. He reminds me of my Grandfather, who had a most generous heart.

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Andrew with the ladies – photo by Therese Jornlin

Jay asks if I’d like an extra set of nest boxes for our new layer hens. It was his father’s, who passed away about 4 years prior, and the grief is still heavy on his heart. He was going to bring them to the scrap metal center, but would rather them be put to good use. I imagine him carrying out his father’s legacy on the land here. Tapping the sugar maples, clearing brush, hanging garlic to cure, tracking wildlife, and reading the trees for when they are ready to be felled.

“Yes, we could certainly use it,” I said. “Thank you.”

“ I’ll drag it over. Good luck getting up the driveway, now,” he said as he heads for his yard.

I handed Jay a few eggs for his offering the nest boxes. There is nothing more satisfying than when generosity meets generosity.

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The end of the outbreath

She arrived in a snow storm. Carefully carried home by my sister as the roads slickened with ice. I found her by the grace of god and internet searching. What a world we have been brought into. Quiet as a church mouse was the description the shelter gave her, and a sweet, sweet demeanor. No physical abuse, only abandoned. Her brother, too.

My beloveds backed my readiness for raising this young pup of 3 months. With muddy paws and seal whiskers, she was called Bella. Beauty. Like the way the autumn sun hits the bright red leaves at the most beautiful angle illuminating the ordinary. She was extraordinary. All love this one precious soul.

Placing her paws one at a time into your hands as she greeted you. Person, oh, yes, let’s connect. She pulled people into her love and wrapped them with soft nose kisses. Intelligent as can be. She learned to sit, down, stay, and come in less than two weeks. She was hungry for more ways to obey my voice, which was an invisible leash, or a bond between us. When she listened to me, she was safe. When she ignored my call, it was only for a short while because she knew her importance in the pack of us wild wolves of Windy Hollow.

Two days before she knew me there was Greg and 15 other pack members, maybe 20 including the other dogs. She stayed in the pack, hiking over streams and thick meadows, smelling the life inside each rodent hole.

I dismantled the crate and lay down a sheepskin at the foot of my bed for her. She did not cry at night any longer. She was home, with me, and we found each other, and that is all that mattered. I woke in the morning with her little nose nudging the side of the bed. She never jumped up, only wanted to be the first spirit to greet me for the new day.

It took her several weeks to learn to love walks. To trust that walks out back meant we were going for pleasure, always to return home. She gathered dozens of ticks, dug up holes, leaped over the brook not always making it entirely, her hind legs sopping wet. She shook off the water and sprinted up the hill to the greening pasture. She always knew the path home. And when she was ready, she would take it regardless of where I was, waiting in front of the barn. I learned to love her love for the comfort of home.

Bella Luna was the name she grew into during a visit with family. Only a few minutes with her light and they heard her name in full. Beautiful Moon. We joked that when she’s gone someday we’ll look up at the moon and there she’ll be. We did not know at that time she would make that departure sooner than we’d like.

She taught me to open my heart even when I could not bear the imminent pain of her leaving. She taught me that healing does not mean cured, it means loving the way I know how and listening to the one who has come to my door. When the root of illness is nothing I can touch, I can still offer comfort, full body strokes, kisses on her forehead, my song. Plants are powerful allies, and they do not always cure the root cause of illness. They can offer comfort and ease the body’s suffering as it disintegrates.

Bella Luna was born with a small deck of cards and her time was limited. Her light burned twice as bright for her short time here. The archetype and size of her kidneys would not support her body as long as we’d assumed. “Hope for the best, expect the worst,” was the motto she gave us. “My spirit will always be here with you even if my body fails me,” said this most enlightened little being. Her brave soul did not fear the transition. She lived in the present. Therefore, each moment was an opportunity to love her even more.

Loving someone or something is a risk because they may die. I am willing to take that risk. The heart breaks are always worthy of feeling, rather than closing down, swallowing the fear of abandonment. Deep down I knew she was destined to depart much sooner than I could imagine. She was a puppy, less than one year and still so much ahead for her. And her destiny was out of my control. Regardless, she and I, and Papa Andrew did our best for one another. We loved each other and did not want to be apart.

We boiled strong brews of herbal tea, we formulated tinctures, we made castor oil packs, we cooked every meal from scratch, we grounded vitamins into her food, we harvested nettle seeds, we sourced local meat, we read books, we gave her shiatsu and cleared her chakras, we sang, we brought her to healers, to veterinarians, to gatherings, to rivers, and we prayed.

She lived two months longer than her prognosis. During that time she was allowed to be in any room on any soft surface of the house. She slept in our bed, she cuddled onto the couch, even had her own little throne near the kitchen so she could keep her eye on us while we cooked for dinner parties. She wanted to be part of it all. She knew she belonged. Bella Luna claimed us, she claimed her space and allowed her body to be as it is. She never gave up, as we say, she surrendered to the essence of Being. I called her Baby B, and she truly knew how to just Be.

As part of letting go, we also stopped using the word, “No.” Our puppy training morphed into only love, only positive affirmation. My need to control her dissipated. I wondered why I ever felt like I had to be in charge all the time? I wanted to protect her from harm.

I wanted to write this story of miracles. I prayed the doctors were wrong and that I could heal her with herbs. I bow to the truth of healing. I bow to the false guidance of right and wrong. I open to the impermanence of bodies. I forgive myself. I honor the wise woman inside who is trying to her best. I honor the brave partner I am blessed to experience it all with. Andrew gave it everything he could to care for Bella Luna. When I was hopeless deep in despair, he stepped in. When he was grief struck and questioning everything, I stepped in.

Our strength grew and Bella affirmed us each time we embraced. Andrew recalls the moment we learned how ill she was. We lay on the couch weeping. She came over and nudged his hand into mine. Wagged her tail and walked away. She knew our love. And she praised our love.

Baby B took her last breath inside that frail aching body during a monsoon of rain. The winds howled, calling her home. The foliage broke free and whipped through the air before landing on the earth to decompose. The sound of water pummeled our windows as if the ancestors were cooing her back to the mystery.

While I slept by her side, I dreamt she morphed into a giant blue whale and leaped over my head, diving deep into the ocean. Upon waking, we sang her the song, Baby Beluga.

I gathered mullein, yarrow, dandelion, red clover, sweet birch, tobacco, goldenrod, and white sage for her grave. A tennis ball which she loved to fetch, too. While placing each item to form a soft bed for her, I called in each direction. The wind responded with a force greater than my mind can comprehend, but I felt it in my bones. The rain soaked my coat and seeped down my vertebrae. Who am I but a river flowing down into this deep hole where the earth will soon hold my sweet B?

She went fast and with grace. Dignity, courage, strength, power, forgiveness, light, playful, tender, vulnerable, trusting, she returned. I surrendered as her spirit rose, trusting the heaven and earth will hold her now.

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10 Guidelines for a Balanced Approach to Life & Career

IMG_3120I attended a wonderful class with herbalist, Brittany Wood Nickerson yesterday afternoon. She shared her stories and key insights into running an herbal practice for the past 10 years.

It was one of those experiences that showed up at the perfect time. Brittany offered messages I need to hear in regard to where I am currently standing as I begin my fourth year in business. Her gentle, yet to the point wisdom, and honest reflections as an herbalist inspire me to not only become a better businesswoman, but also a more balanced human being.

At the very beginning of the class Brittany said, “Trust when you take care of your own needs, your business will unfold.”

Read that line again.

This is so contradictory to our fast paced, capitalist society that constantly screams, “The harder you work, the faster you will succeed! There is no time to rest.”

I would much rather embrace Brittany’s wisdom and trust that my needs will be met if I prioritize self care by setting up my days to work for me. Part of why I love being self employed is that I can structure my time with enough space to walk the dog, sleep in late, spend time with family and friends, take spontaneous trips to beautiful places, and give my relationships the attention they deserve. When I set up my business taking into consideration my health and stability, I am much happier.

Imagine that! Makes sense, right?

These are the lessons I have to learn over and over again- the beauty of being a human who sometimes forgets what really matters. Thanks, Brittany, for reminding me about these important pieces of running a business. I think they apply to many aspects of living on this Earth at this time, not only if you are self-employed.

dsc0004510 Guidelines for a Balanced Approach to Life & Career

wisdom from Brittany Wood Nickerson of Thyme Herbal

1) Connect with mentors you trust.

2) If you feel resistance, take it as an opportunity to look deeper into yourself. What is the red flag telling you?

3) Refine what you love to. What are your strengths?

4) Always go back to what really makes you happy. Don’t let these slip away, and if they do, come back to them.

5) Let go of attachment to outcome.

6) Take risks and the universe will send clear messages along the way to support you.

7) Live in the abundance mindset. Let go of fears about scarcity.

8) Market yourself, nobody else can offer your unique gifts.

9) Saying “No” often means you are creating space to say “Yes” to something else you may not even be aware of yet. (I’m still learning this one, but it does get a bit easier with practice).

10) Ask yourself in regard to decisions: “Does it make my heart ping or thud?” Listen to your body, it does not lie.

IMG_4266This spring, I am taking these 10 guidelines into my heart and planting them like seeds in the garden. I look forward to seeing what grows from this wisdom!

In Balance,

Hannah

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Protect What Is Sacred

The New Moon in Aquarius last Friday invited us to look deep within at our core values.

  • What is sacred?

  • What would I die fighting to protect?

fullsizerender_3As the Nation faces an uprooting of core beliefs and structures, now is the time to really stand up for what we believe in. Here is what my heart says about the current instability since a new leader has taken the oath one week ago.

1) Get crystal clear on what is sacred to you. Drop into your heart and be quiet to hear the answers. Write them down.

2) Self-care is crucial. A well-rested, well-fed warrior is far more effective than an exhausted, burnt out warrior. Tips: How to Stay Outraged Without Losing Your Mind.

3) Feel emotions. Welcome grief, anger, and despair just as much as you welcome joy, happiness, and peace. Everything moves in waves and if we ignore how we feel, we are operating from a place of denial. Move through the emotions so you can make decisions from a place of stability and truth.

4) Love yourself no matter how you show up in each moment. Whether you feel inspired to attend a rally and call congress, or you want to stay in bed all day- be compassionate with yourself. Learn to love all the parts of you, even the darkness.

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Women’s March in Washington, D.C. January 21, 2017

5) When taking actions, start by committing to one movement. They are all equally important. LGBTQ rights are just as important as protecting the environment. Comparing the worthiness of social movements is not helpful. There are millions of people working on projects to ensure more peace and justice to all. Pick one that you can fully show up to. Do not divert your energies too much as this can dilute your overall impact.

6) Balance your attention. Remember to laugh and have fun together! Take a break from organizing to go for a walk, read a book, dance to your favorite song, whatever you do to get back into your body in the present moment.

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7) Listening is powerful medicine. Ask each other how we’re doing and really listen. Healing happens when we know someone is listening to us and cares about us. Offer your ear to a friend without interruption. What may seem like small actions are actually immeasurable. Peace and justice ripple beyond the mind’s capacity to compartmentalize.

8) Be aware of tendencies to fall into the trap of “us” and “them.”  Explore the parts of you that feel unlovable. I challenge you to meditate on having compassion for Trump and those who voted for him. I am not saying you have to love and accept anything he is doing. Experiment by bringing your attention to the parts of you that hate another person. It’s juicy in there.

“Dehumanization is a predecessor of war. When you see your opponents as subhuman in their morals, conscience, or intelligence, then you will have to defeat them by force.” – Charles Eisenstein from This Is How War Begins

9) Tell people how much you care about them. Love cannot be defeated. Real present moment human connection is powerful.

10)  Sing your song. Be loud, be visible, make your voice heard, run for political offices, write a letter. However you contribute toward building a more peaceful planet with justice for all, go for it. This may mean going on a silent retreat for weeks at a time.

There is No Peace without Peace Within.

11) Trust in the Divine Orchestration of the Universe. Kali is here.

kaliimwithher

 

 

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