Hermit

The Hermit, from The Brightwing Tarot by Beth Weaver-Kreider and AI.

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Quest, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the tarot cards. I have been using the tarot as a tool for deep inner understanding and spiritual growth and development since 1992, and I thought it was time to do a public exploration of some of the ways in which this tool has helped me to learn more about myself and my connection to others and to the Holy One.

The way out is the way in.

Recently, I have begun praying the rosary. I’m in the middle of a 54-day novena, praying along with a group of others for our heart’s desire. I’ve been praying that I may live wildly and freely, unbound by others’ expectations and boxes. I can feel this prayer working and growing within me every day. The saint that we’ve been focusing on during this novena is St. Thecla, who listened to the apostle Paul and herself became an evangelist. Her story is told in the Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla. Thecla was captivated by Paul’s preaching, particularly with his ideas of celibacy, which seemed to offer her freedom from an arranged marriage and the Roman ideas of respectability proscribed to young women of her day. Instead of being caged within her proscribed gender role, Thecla became a wandering preacher, wearing men’s clothes, and living on her own terms.

I’ve been thinking about St. Thecla quite a bit lately as I have been considering the tarot. The eighth card in the Major Arcana is Strength, which traditionally features a young woman closing the mouth of a lion. In St. Thecla’s story, when she refused the advances of a prince of the city, she was thrown to the lions, but they would not harm her, and one female lion actually protected her from the others. Thecla, like Strength, is portrayed in the company of lions, not dominating them, but quietly present with them.

Later in her life, having survived several attempts by powerful people to have her put to death, she withdrew from human society and lived in a desert cave, as many of the church’s early mothers and fathers did, where she ministered to people who came to visit her, and performed many miracles of healing.

So today’s Tarot character, the Hermit, is also reminiscent of St. Thecla. The Hermit withdraws from the hustle and bustle of society in order to focus and think, to pray and contemplate, to do inner work.

The way out, they say, is the way in.

The Hermit is a special kind of activist, an inner activist, who anchors and focuses the work that must be done through prayer, contemplation, generating healing energy, developing wisdom–not hoarding it. The Fool comes to the Hermit in the wilderness to learn to anchor and channel energy, to balance outward movement with inward contemplation. The Hermit is always portrayed carrying the light of their own inner wisdom in the wilderness. The Fool comes to the Hermit and learns to find the fount of Wisdom within.

One of the lessons I still carry from my college days was one a group of our professors worked hard to help us explore: that the work of the activist to create social justice must be balanced with inner work. Contemplation feeds action. Action enriches contemplation.

If you’re a Hermit, don’t give into feelings of shame that you aren’t doing more active work in the world. Do the work you’re called to do. Anchor energies. Pray. Find wisdom. Welcome the seekers. Be a refreshing fountain where your beloveds who are at the front lines of activism may come and receive your healing calm and wisdom.


Gratitude List:
1. Hummingbird
2. Holiness everywhere. In the Aenid of Virgil is the phrase: Incessu patuit dea. The Goddess is revealed as she passes. Everywhere you turn, She is there.
3. Wide and welcoming tables, and the people who work to create them.
4. My colleagues are so incredibly supportive and welcoming.
5. Cats
May we walk in Beauty!


“What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke


“Hope is a renewable option:
If you run out of it at the end of the day, you get to start over in the morning.” ―Barbara Kingsolver


“There is a voice that doesn’t use words.
Listen.”
―Rumi


“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
―Carl Jung


“I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.”
―Mary Oliver


“We have come into this exquisite world to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom, and light.”
―Hafiz


“Our space was a home because we loved each other in it.” —Barbara Ehrenreich


“A lot of what we experience as strength comes from knowing what to do with weakness.” —Barbara Ehrenreich


“There is a vast difference between positive thinking and existential courage.” —Barbara Ehrenreich

Walking Back to Center

lace-bridge

Perhaps if I keep writing the same thing over and over again, I will find my way into a new story. I keep returning to what the balances are in these days. Contemplation and activism, destruction and building up, resistance and gelassenheit, staying awake and staying sane.

This morning, after I had posted yet another horrifying news blurb (this one about the WH stance on the press as the enemy) on Facebook, my friend Anna politely and respectfully asked me whether there might be a point at which the continued reposting of the outrages might actually feed the energy of the current administration. This makes a lot of sense to me. When I live in a state of high anxiety about the meanness or pettiness or rudeness of someone else, I hand that person power, I let the bully control me. When I name someone my enemy, I bind myself to that person in a powerful way, and then every move that person makes becomes something I need to react to.

So. Cut the bindings. I can’t let these news cycles control me, can’t let every new atrocity throw me out of kilter. Yet this sounds dangerously similar to dis-engagement, to willful ignorance, something my privilege might allow me to do, but something my conscience cannot allow. How can I keep from being battered about by every move of this bully giant we’ve brought into existence, but still keep close enough to lend my strength to the toppling of the giant?

This is the thing I keep re-writing, over and over and over again: How can I keep from being carried along blindly by the waves of outrage, and still stay awake to the very real dangers that this giant poses to my Beloved Community?  How can we live with a sense of peace and purpose in the midst of the storm? Resist AND persist?

I think that the next four years are going to necessitate a constant reassessment of that balance, and it may not be the same for every person.  Here are some things I am going to try:

1. Listen to my wise Beloveds. Like Anna. Like you.
2. Learn to ask tender gentle questions like Anna did for me. Little wake-ups that help bring people around to themselves.
3. Remember to call people by their truest name: Beloved.
4. Limit the news. I need it in order to stay awake, to know my Work, but I can’t let it control my emotional state.
5. Read the words of MLK. He found a balance.
6. Watch more videos of baby fruit bats with their expressive ears and eyes.
7. Don’t fall into the pit of thinking that action is better than prayer.
8. Don’t fall into the pit of thinking that the Work is done when the prayer is done.
9. Feed action with contemplation.
10. Go outside and look up. Feel the wind. Feel the rain. Absorb color like sunlight.

Gratitude List:
1. The voice of the travelers in the morning, high above. “You do not have to be good.” “What we need is here.” (Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry references.)
2. The way winter trees stand against the sky, letting the magenta or the Maryblue or the aquamarine slip through their branches and twigs.
3. Although it was a little scary to drive through it, the way that storm front moved through. The scary clouds are also beautiful and exhilarating. Is there a life lesson in that? Sounds a little like Little Red in “Into the woods.”
4. All my Beloveds. We can always widen our circles to contain more and more Beloveds. Our hearts have limitless capacity.
5. A small retreat I took today at Radiance, to write and meditate and make art based on the chakras.

May we walk in Beauty!

Back to the Streets

Several years ago, when our nation was plunging headlong into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I found myself going to street protests sometimes twice in a week.  The level of work and focus and organizing was exhausting, but the community experience of standing silent witness together helped me to get through some of the really shadowy spaces I inhabited during those times.  Still, I burned out.  And when I moved to the farm and had children, and our country settled in for the long haul in these wars, I found myself slipping out of the realm of the activist.

So it was with a little trepidation and a little excitement that I tucked my children into the car today to run to Lancaster for the March Against Monsanto.  My youngsters are really too young to understand the implications of Genetically Modified Organisms, and I don’t want to bring them too close to the shadowy places where I walk in regard to this story: the sense that nothing we can do will change things, that we can have a majority of Americans wanting to know what’s in their food but that we still can’t change the system because it’s not really about democracy, it’s about money.  You see how I spiral down into it?  So I try to protect them from it, let them get the sense that somehow speaking out will make a difference.  And I try to believe that, too.

It’s fun to imagine that Monsanto execs went into their ivory tower this evening and said, “Well, time to wrap it up, folks.  The people have spoken.  They don’t want us.”  But I don’t think we did anything to frighten the monster today.

I do think that we raised a lot of energy today, all over the world, like a prayer, like a magic spell.  There was deep respect and joy and energy and hope at the march today.  It was a lovely experience, and I was glad that I took my children.  If we can just all grab hold of a little of that energy, spread it around a little, throw out strands of it like a great web, keep raising consciousness tenderly and with compassion, keep remembering that to withhold our dollars from the beast is the best way to starve it. . .then just maybe we can make a difference.

I have to believe that.

Gratitude List:
1.  Taking to the Streets
2.  Watching the boys play together up the hill, discovering the spray of mist leaking from the irrigation hose.
3.  Believing in the future
4.  Our Little Sisters the Bees
5.  Rhubarb Tort

May we walk in beauty.