Looking out over the homeless encampments in his city, Leo Tolstoy exclaimed, “What then must we do?” His words keep echoing in my mind these turbulent days. Homelessness is only one of many tragic realities playing out in our nation and our world.

            It feels heavy wherever I turn, and yet, in pure self-defense, I have kept a diary of the wisdom of those around me, as well as the wise voices in my own head.

            Aligned with “What then must we do?” is its opposite, “What is it wise Not to do?”

In the agony of looking for answers, some people are given to take on more than they can or should, and I don’t mean obvious choices like recycling, calling your local and national representatives, donating to good causes, or marching in rallies. I’m speaking of the tendency to engage in “us” versus “them” thinking to the point of demonizing the “other.”

            This sometimes inserts itself into family life. As Thanksgiving approaches, I know some people who are choosing not to attend Thanksgiving dinner with those with whom they disagree. Others are rehearsing speeches to confront family members who they judge as “blind” or “stupid”.

            If we seek choices that contribute to healing the split between ourselves and others, angry confrontations don’t seem a wise path. It is also very important to remember to address the splits within ourselves. This is ongoing work, throughout our life cycle. Poet May Sarton wrote of the courage, “to see the dark with open eyes.” Our challenging times call on us to see the dark within ourselves, tend it, know it, ask what it is wanting to teach us.

            I propose that in 2019 and beyond, activism is bi-directional: activism in the world following the integrity of your own path, and activism within your own psyche, facing your own limitations, your strengths, having the courage to examine parts of yourself you would rather keep in the dark.

            Listen to your dreams, and to the “off stage” voice of your waking mind. I call this my “off stage voice” because I never see who’s talking. It is a whisper, or a shout from my unconscious, and never fails to get my attention. Honoring these communications from your psyche is an invaluable tool in making ethical choices.

            And for my money, as you engage in the first two forms of activism, it will lead you to spend more time nurturing and creating relationships, friendships, and family connections.

            Love, joy, humor, adventure—hiking in nature or going to the opera, serve to counterbalance the stream of uncertainty, and divisiveness we are pummeled with. So is limiting your consumption of mass media, social media, and long texts from friends on the state of our political world.

            And now as never before, it is mandatory to follow your passions, create what you love.

            During the war in Bosnia, Leonard Bernstein wrote, “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more passionately, more intensely, more devotedly than ever.”

            Playwright and former president of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel, wrote, “(in violent times) we should engage in activities that are of interest to us, our friends, our families. These need not be expressly political. An example is the brewing of very good beer.”

            Play your music. Make your art. Feel the fire of your own patriotism coming to life. Get out in the streets, call your representative, work political campaigns, run for office —if you are called to. And as you cook your pies for Thanksgiving dinner, love your enemy: that pill of an Auntie across the dinner table whose values are opposite of yours. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with her, but it does mean you can endeavor to see the complexity of her humanity, her shadow, her warmth, her light, as you can see your own.

FINDING BALLAST, DELECTABLE AND PROFOUND                                    

ballast: (3) something that gives stability, esp. in character. American Heritage Dictionary

            These days I feel like a whirligig, the child’s toy that is continuously spinning. The Pandemic affects everything. I wake in the morning, and for an instant, all is enchantingly predictable. Then I remember.  A heavy feeling comes over me, often expressed in the most trivial thoughts. I can’t drop into Office Max and buy Post It notes willy-nilly. My children and granddaughter have made it abundantly clear we are not to sally forth, under any circumstances. One daughter ordered grocery delivery for us, and we stared at the packaging: do we dare touch it? Whose hands carried those bags, what unwitting carrier selected the avocados?

            I glance at the stack of New Yorkers on the back of the commode, “Well, if we run out of toilet paper…” We aren’t hording toilet paper, but do panic at the thought of running out of coffee. Then we turn local news, or Rachel Maddow, with her passionate outrage and footage from Italy, and we feel the pain of our global suffering.

            This teeter-totter instability reverberates not only in our material lives, but deep within the part of us just beyond our conscious awareness. This is the twin of our sensory experience, the country of the soul often called the Unconscious, producing its own images, wisdom, and sense of humor!

If ever there was a time to listen to your intuition and your dreams, it is now.

            To illustrate: a few nights ago. I had a dream that I was back in my childhood home, and it was being remodeled. All the walls were bare, and newly-painted white; sweeping glass windows, tall French doors. A much larger and more elegant home that the one I grew up in.   I walked into an alcove and touched the white wall, ”This used to be the pantry,” I say, somewhat wistfully, “There were rows of spices on small wooden shelves…”

Then, I gaze out the picture window at the sumptuous back yard. A magnificent chartreuse-green weeping willow sways in the breeze. Next to it is a monumental tree, its leaves darker its trunk broad and deep and ancient. It could be an oak, or a maple, or a tree not specific to this earth. “It is Mother,” I whisper.

I woke from this dream with a sense of peace, and profound gratitude, to my dreaming Unconscious, a force of nature embedded in the Collective Unconscious that lives in us all.

I later told this dream to someone who said that the willow is a fragile tree, often losing all its limbs in a wind storm. From this I gather that the willow symbolizes our temporal bodies: destructible. The Mother Tree is the eternal grounding of life Herself. Indestructible. Our temporal bodies are vulnerable at this time and we are living in a “remodeled” house of self. a house where the ordinary spice of life has been replaced by the blank white wall of the unknown.

            Oh, and did I mention the Unconscious has a sense of humor? The night after the beautific dream of the Mother Tree, I dreamed I am sitting in a small office, working on a manuscript. Barack Obama comes through the door, fresh out of the shower, a white bath towel wrapped around his waist. He has a mischievous grin on his face. “I have cracks, “he says, pointing to the crow’s feet around his eyes. “And here,” he says, pointing to the creases around his mouth—“And you want to see the biggest crack of all?—” “Seriously??!” I gasp. “Why not?” he says, whirling around and whipping off the towel as he shows me his back side. We laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

            I will leave you with this. I’m howling as I write it. May you find ballasts in your loved ones, your community, your own dear self, and in soul images like the Mother Tree, and in the joy and humor from the likes of my mooning Barack.


There are some striking similarities: Joan of Arc was 16 years old, an introverted  girl from a modest family. Greta Thunberg is also 16, from a middle-class Swedish family. Both teenagers heard a “voice” of something much greater than themselves. For Joan it was Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret speaking for God. For Greta it is the voice of Science speaking the warming Earth.

Both have a relationship to fire. Alas Joan was burned at the stake by the British for her success in leading the French army against them. Greta speaks of the fires that are ravaging our forests, and the fire needed in the passion of our souls to extinguish the burning of fossil fuels. In both of them, the burning passion for a higher cause.

At her trial Joan refused to sign a confession that she was an agent of the Devil, in exchange for life imprisonment instead of death. Centuries later, British playwright George Bernard Shaw captured her passion in this immortal speech for his play Saint Joan:

JOAN: Give me that writing (she rushes to the table; snatches up the paper, tears it into fragments) Light your fire: do you think I dread it as much as the life of a mole in a cave. My voices were right. Yes, they told me you were fools You promised me my life; but you lied. You think that life is nothing but not being stone dead. It is not bread and water I fear. I can live on bread. When have I asked for more?…But to shut me from the light of the sky and the sight of the fields and flowers, to chain my feet so that I can never again ride with the soldiers nor climb the hills…and by your wanting to take these things away from me, or any human creature, I know that your counsel is of the Devil, and mine is of God.”

As I typed Joan’s words, I saw Greta saying them in my mind, not as a martyr going to the stake, but with her resounding passion for the earth, the freedom of the human soul to live outside the “prison” of global climate destruction. Greta described in an interview what it was like to be on the boat that brought her to New York City: the quiet, the sight of the Milky Way at night, the waves lapping the boat.

The child hero is an archetype our species has revered through the ages,  in fairy tales, myths, and legends. Why is this character so important, and why are we so drawn to Greta Thunberg in our modern era?

There are many answers to these questions, and I encourage you to think of your own. For me, I think we are always drawn to innocence. A reminder of a time in our own life that was, ideally, safe, carefree, filled with magic. Combine that with courage, and the ability to literally take on the whole world, and Greta becomes a warrior worthy of any era, but deeply needed in our own.

I spend time every week with people who express a deep depression about the state of our world. They feel helpless and hopeless. The powers-that-be are corrupt and oppressive, and our voices seem to drown out in the dark.

Enter Greta and her millions of youth and adult supporters. The mention of her name often produces a gasp of joy in the hopeless.  I doubt that Greta in 2019, and Joan in 1429, thought about this aspect when they began their respective causes, but spreading global inspiration is a powerful anti-depressant. We all need something to champion, to believe in, to give us a sense of purpose. I have enormous gratitude to Greta, for bringing a smile on our faces and a song in our hearts, and allowing us to get beyond our own problems—in Jung’s words, putting our complexes aside, and living from a deeper place in ourselves. From this deeper, more alive place, we can join Greta on the picket lines, call our Congresswoman, meet with friends to plan a community garden, and whatever else the creativity of our souls wants to manifest.


PRESENCE. Allow the feeling of anger to emerge in your body, not suppressing it for fear that it is bad or inappropriate. Expressing blaming anger is a destructive choice, for both the one who expresses the anger, and the one who receives it. A better choice is to allow the anger to be, without judging it or pushing it away. It is a creative challenge to find a way to express your anger that is not destructive. Often physical release helps – walking or chopping wood, painting an entire canvas every shade of red. In this way we take responsibility for our own feelings, and don’t look elsewhere for the release of blame. This doesn’t mean not standing up for yourself. On the contrary. It means being fully present to your feelings and stating it to the person, or circumstance (as in an illness) that is the object of your anger as an “I” rather than a “you” statement.

POLARITY. The sister dimension of anger is grief. Sad/mad: two sides of the same nickel. We can sometimes deny or push away anger out of the fear of discovering what is underneath it, ie, profound grief. Rage and mourning need to find an outlet. Often we feel both simultaneously, and must, literally, rage and weep and cry out to the Universe. If these feelings are bottled up, it can literally eat you alive. The body keeps score, and suppressed rage or grief can create physical symptoms from ulcers to migraines to many other maladies.

POWER. Once the full range of feelings has been allowed, the possibility emerges to transform anger into the healing power of the self. By “self” I mean your deepest inner being, your sense of its value, your compassion for its imperfections, your will to love, protect, and advocate for your self. This includes your body. Anger transformed into fierceness on behalf of the self can be a powerful force for healing. It can manifest in many ways, including a sense of inner peace and connection to a larger spiritual experience.

PROTECTION. We all have vulnerabilities, especially when faced with an illness in ourselves or others. Being aware of this, tending our fears, and creating psychological protection, can help us get through such experiences as chemo, radiation, or surgery. This also applies when we are the object of the anger of others. Especially those of us who had known trauma or abuse, are particularly re-traumatized by a blast of anger, or when we are subjected to a necessary but frightening medical procedure. Entering a breast MRI machine with its loud noises and odd music, can feel like an assault. At such times, we can use imagination to put ourselves in a safe place: a cabin in the forest, or, in my case my grandmother’s white porch swing. We can create a “shield” wherever we go. An imaginary protective barrier that protects us from every possible assault. We can put a favorite protective pet on the shield, or an Earth Goddess, or, for Christians, the Virgin Mary, whose very presence would disarm anything or anyone out to do harm.

These reflections on some aspects of Anger were compiled for a workshop I am giving at Cancer LifeLine in Seattle on Saturday, March 23, 2019. Northwest Hospital Medical Arts Building. Free, for those experiencing the illness, and also for families, friends, and caregivers. Register on line at


WALK WITH ME, A Film that Radiates Peace and Joy

It is one week to the day that Christine Blasey Ford and Bret Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the world. In the last week I have felt like the old lady in the black and white opening of The Wizard of Oz, who passes the window riding her bicycle through the tornado. Not that I’m a witch, but I have felt that I’ve been steadily peddling through a blast of dust and fury, that has left considerable emotional devastation for both women and men.

For women, a triggering of trauma, shame, humiliation, grief, and rage. For men, a horror to find themselves of the male gender in this climate. Many are combing through their own adolescent behavior, wondering if they had been stupidly offensive to women in their distant past. To those men I have gently pointed out, “When she said ‘Stop’, you stopped.” This was gratifying to hear, but for many, the shame of being associated with the typically aggressive gender, persists.

In the midst of this, I stumbled upon a Netflix documentary, Walk With Me, a poetic, often humorous, and ultimately inspiring portrayal of life in Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastery in southern France.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist, or even a person of faith, to allow yourself to be immersed in the Zen Master and his community. Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, the filmmakers take us into a world where women and men live, sing, meditate, and tour together.

One can take exception to the chastity provision for nuns and monks imposed by this particular Zen Order. One can certainly speculate about the family circumstances that motivated so many nuns and monks, many of them Americans, to renounce all worldly good and re-locate in this monastery in the south of France.

But all such speculation pales as we, the viewer, walk into a community where all feelings are welcome, all pain seen, known, and honored. The sonorous voice of Cumberbatch guides us with quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh’s journal, Fragrant Palm Leaves, written in the 1960’s when “Tay” was a young monk at a monastery in Viet Nam. He attempted to unite the disparate Buddhist communities, and promoted peace in a country torn apart by war. It was a terrible and divisive time, and Tay was sent into exile, ultimately establishing Plum Village, far away from his beloved homeland.

We can imagine his plight, as we reflect on the divisiveness in our own country: the manipulative, power-grabbing, cultural and political war that has brought shame and outrage to both women and men.

The opening quote of the film provides insight into how Tay began to work toward awareness of a deep human unity, even as everything around him was falling apart: “I know what it is to get angry. And I know the pleasure of being praised. I am often on the verge of tears or laughter.  But underneath all of these emotions, what else is there? How can I touch it? If there isn’t anything, why would I be so certain that there is?” (Fragrant Palm Leaves, Riverside Books, New York, page 84)

I encourage you to find this beautiful film, Walk With Me , on Netflix or on DVD at your local library, or elsewhere. The film touches the heart of this world “underneath” the anger, rancor, power and glory. There, in the dimension of universal consciousness, we can experience peace, and the reality of our intimate relationship to all of nature, and human women and men, for each other.

The Whale Whisperer

“I’m here to answer questions,” said the young woman wearing a Naturalist shirt. She is tall, slender, pale, long dark hair pulled back under a brimmed cap, her eyes large, dark, gentle Though the day is overcast, she seems poised for action, as if expecting brilliant sunlight, or a pod of orcas, to break through at any moment.

“Are they out there?” I asked, scanning the calm surface of Haro Strait, the habitat for J, K, and L pods just off coast of San Juan Island.

Her eyes wandered to the rippling kelp beds. “We’ve lost 17 orcas in the last 5 years. You probably know about J50, the young one they keep giving medicine to, and that poor mom who carried her dead calf with her for so long. She finally let  go… “ Her voice was clam, professional, laced with a gentle mourning.

“Why are they dying?”

“Food source. They’re picky. The kind of salmon they like are being fished out, or dying because of the warming ocean. Dams are making it harder for the salmon to reach the sea.”

Her cell phone beeped. “I’m here,” she said. “Right. I’ll report siting. I promise” She chuckled and hung up.

“So you’re confident they are out there?”

She sighed, sizing me up: would I be open to what she was about to tell me?

I smiled. “What is it?”

Her eyes returned to the sea. “Look, I think of myself as a pretty scientific person. But, with what I’ve seen lately, I’ starting to finally listen to people who talk about whales having, you know, extra-sensory perception.”


“Like, last week, I was out by the lighthouse and I could see a pod way out there, and I knew from the data report that one of them I had, well, communicated with, was swimming out there with the pod.”

“Communicated with?”
“Yeah. So, I got this weird feeling that one of the whales was waiting for me. It’s hard to describe. So, I shouted ‘Galineau! ‘ And, way out there, so far away he couldn’t have heard me, this one whale broke off from the pod and went under. The rest swam out to sea, and I waited, and then I thought ‘Well, that’s that,’ and I reached down to get my pack, and I glanced in the water, and there was a face staring up at me! I walked to water’s edge, and Galineau came up as close to me as he could possibly could!”

“You’re here!” I said, and he raised his dorsal fin and slapped the water!

I laughed, and kept talking, and he slapped and turned his head so his eye could see me real well, almost like he was taking a picture of me in his mind. It went on like this as long as I kept talking. Then, when I stopped, he went under and went out to sea.”

“That’s really amazing.” I said, aware of a slight skepticism in the back of my mind, but she spoke with such sincerity, and astonishment, as anyone with a scientific mind would describe something that seemed inexplicable.

“It keeps happening!” she said, her large dark eyes growing wider.  “Last week I was down at Lime Kiln, you know, where they come real close to the rocks, and I couldn’t see them, and couldn’t see them, and then I hollered out, ‘Ok, Solstice! Ok, Vega! I’ve got to leave at 8:30, boys. Hoped to catch you! Maybe next time!’ “

“Again, nothing. I gathered my stuff up, checked my phone, and then, I glanced out and here come two dorsal fins, heading right toward me. Vega! Solstice!  They came so close I thought they would beach themselves in the low tide!  I looked at my watch. 8:29! I kept talking and shouting their names, and we stayed there together, just the 3 of us, for what seemed like a long time. Then I said, “I really have to go.” And they went under and swam away.”

“You’re an orca whisperer,” I said reverently.

She laughed. “That’s what my mom says. Orcas, their brains are a lot bigger than ours, and I’m starting to believe that they couldn’t have been just cuing off the sound of my voice; they were too far away, and I can’t make my voice heard like one of their own, even if I dived under and shouted through the water. It was something else, like there’s an emotional, spiritual connection between us. Sounds woo woo, doesn’t it?
“Sounds like you’re describing your own experience. How can you deny what you’ve observed and lived?”

She shrugged, suddenly a bit embarrassed for having told me the story.

What’s your name?” I asked.

“Ariel. Like the mermaid.”


We laughed warmly. She turned away and we looked out at the calm waters. I knew she wouldn’t call out to Galineau, Vega, or Solstice while I was still there, and I wanted to honor her private relationship with the whales, so I shook her hand and thanked her, and took my leave.

As I walked up the hill, I felt hopeful, for the future of the whales. Not so much because so many people are working so hard to save them, but because of the orca’s special genius for communicating with a human, by “extra sensory” or spiritual perception. If only we could learn to do this, to connect across what often seems to be impossible boundaries, species to species, human beings to one another.


Does it happen every year, this disconnection to myself in the dark days of winter? Sages tell us it should be the opposite: a deepening into spiritual practice as the days grow shorter, the night calling us to enfold ourselves into a quieter, less distracted state.

For me, this year has been a winter of increasing disconnection from spirit, from soul, arguably at the very time I need it the most. Why? Because of the angst of the world, the turbulence in our democracy, the illness of friends, my own aging body….

A perfect storm of  concerns that seems to have led me to neglect my inner landscape in favor of time-honored distractions, ie, consuming too much dark chocolate (“it’s good for me”), buying too many books (“Oh, this one has a more optimistic view of the future”), too many movies, even as I recoil from the parade of violence and despair so many portray.

What have I been searching for?

Whatever it is, I have been behaving as if it is out there.

            And I know better. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the Holy Grail, the Kingdom of God, all are to be found within. I have been guilty of a spiritual amnesia. Weary, perhaps, of this lofty stuff, settling for small consumptions, stemming from a culturally-sanctioned concept of the human appetite.

But now, happily, I have come to realize I am hungry for something else, something I know in my bones, for the body, the mind, the soul are truly One.

How do I get so far astray? Oh, I can follow the breadcrumbs backwards, to complaining about the winter weather so that I neglected to my walking meditation (“it’s cold and rainy”); boredom with vegetables, craving sugar (“I need more energy to keep going”); checking my phone too often, and all the rest.

I am very good at nourishing others, at joining with my clients in an exploration of how they conceive of caring for themselves, but this winter I starved myself in spirit, in favor of what Ronna Kabatznick in The Zen of Eating calls “the numinous muffin”. And I didn’t even know it. .

So as I read about renewable energy and wonder about the future of the planet, can I turn to my own need for renewable, sustainable energy of the soul?

What does this look like this morning, as I watch a Beewick’s wren run along the fence beneath the brilliant yellow blossoms of the forsythia?

It looks like gratitude, for the spring, for the emerging of new life.

It looks like acceptance, that in spite of my aging body and all its new needs, I am still vital, and have a lot of energy to sit with people, share ideas, and listen. Stephen Hawkings said, when asked about his life with ALS, “In my mind, I am free.” Wonderful role-modeling for all of us as we watch our bodies change with the biology of time.

It looks like discernment: turning off the violent movies, and limiting consumption of  political news. I don’t want to isolate myself from the world, but I have been too fascinated with this Winter of Trumpian Discontent. I need to heed the advice of a dear friend who recently told me, “don’t turn it on”. I  do want to stay connected enough to be aware of what petitions to sign, what causes to support, and what to say when I call my Congresswoman, but I’m definitely starting to limit my intake of the madness.

Renewable energy of the soul also looks like changing my perspective on consumption: smelling the rapture of the Mr. Chocolate store without going in to raid the samples. Stir-frying those vegetables, and remembering the farmer who grew them, the soil of the Earth that nourished them. Not buying another flowered blouse in a vain attempt to feel the blooming of my soul by wearing blossoms on my body!

Energy of the soul also looks like joy. Finding it in every exchange in life: the funny waddle of a toddler in front of me at the bookstore; a text from my granddaughter; stopping to take in the brilliant pink of the cherry blossoms along the trail, and taking that moment to listen to the peace and blessed silence within my own self.

Where do you find sustainable, renewable, joy of the soul, in the bounty of the outer, and inner spring?


Jung, wrote,  “Where love reigns, there is no will to power, and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other.” (Collected Works, vol. 7, par 8)

I invite you to sit with this for a moment. Can you think of a time when you were motivated by the will to power? Even a very subtle behavior. I know I can, certainly going back to adolescence, and even last week. I stormed out of the Starbucks, practically mowing down a person who was trying to sweep up, because I was hungry and I was late.  Take a moment to remember…What feelings emerge?. … Now, its opposite, the desire for love—and here we could ask, “What is love?’ How related to the desire for approval or to fill in the cracks of self-doubt. Think of an example in your own life. I know I have floodgates on this one…

Introspection is essential as we struggle to position ourselves in the daily chaos of our time. In a recent interview on line at, Jungian analyst Murray Stein quoted the words of Winston Churchill from World War II: “Keep Calm and Carry On” Dr. Stein went on to say, “The psychological reality is that racism, to pick just one of the negative items embodied by Trump will never be effectively dealt with unless we all recognize its existence in ourselves individually and collectively. That’s our ‘Inner Trump’.”

Of course, the young man I mowed down in the Starbucks was African-American. I didn’t even realize it until I was in the car and on the road. I felt awful.

I agree with Dr. Stein that we must look inward. Notice and own when we exercise the will to power, or inappropriately act to gain love, or approval, to compensate for an inadequate connection to ourselves.

At the end of his interview Dr. Stein reflects on the difference, the split in substance and perception, between Barack Obama and Donald Trump. With what I imagine was a catch in his voice, Dr. Stein said, “Personally, I feel that America does not deserve a president as balanced, brilliant, and perspicacious (showing mental discernment, clear sighted – I looked it up) as Obama. He is a Nobel Prize winner for a reason. If there were an anti-Nobel Prize, Trump would be the top candidate for it. What comes after this? Will it be a swing to the opposite of Trump, which would perpetuate the split in the collective, or will it be a “third” , as Jung writes about the resolution of opposites? I’m afraid that the nation’s fate hangs on this question. Without a uniting Third, the split will deepen and could destroy us as a nation.”

With the tragedy in Las Vegas, this theme has been echoed in the media. In his column reprinted from the New York Times in the October 9th edition of the Seattle Times, David Brooks writes, “Guns are a proxy for larger issues. The real reason the gun rights side is winning is postindustrialization. It is an issue of values and identity. Today, people in agricultural and industrial America feel that their way of life is being threatened by postindustrial society.  Owning a gun has become an identity marker for freedom, self-reliance and the ability to control your own destiny. Today we need a grand synthesis that can move us beyond the current divide.”

Unity of Opposites. The “Third”. The Grand Synthesis.  The Reign of the Madness of Trumpism has certainly pulled the duct tape off our eyes, ignited our anger, and unleashed our grief. But out of this, I’m asking if we can we use this heightened state of being to shepherd the Will to Power—in ourselves and those around us— through an alchemical tunnel to become the Power of Insight, Action, and Unity, with Love as its guiding principle?

A tall order? I agree. But essential, at this crossroads in the development of the human psyche on our fragile, beautiful earth.

To help us hold these concepts I turn to Andrew Harvey, author and spiritual “investigator”, his essay on the Black Madonna. He first encountered Her in Ann Baring’s book, The Myth of the Goddess. Some time later, Dr. Harvey did a pilgrimage to Chartres cathedral. He writes, “I worshiped for the first time with the fullness of my being the Black Madonna in the ‘Virgin of the Pillar’. I came to understand very deep things about Her….Her agony, power, and extreme vibrant, violent purity of compassion could be revealed to me.”

I am struck by his choice of words, “Vibrant, violent purity of compassion.”

I recently saw a photograph that I believe captures this vibrant, violent purity in a modern day Black Madonna. Taken in the Congo by Seattle Jungian analyst Eberhard Riedal, it is titled simply “Remembering”.  Her gentle features and composure belie her brutal history of rape by warring tribal soldiers, at 13 and throughout her adolescence.

The Black Madonna is our blessed Goddess of Paradox. Like Kali, the ancient Hindu goddess, some of you have seen pictures or statues of her – 4 arms in constant motion. She holds the tension of opposites of Creation and Destruction, In The Dark Goddess and the Transformation of Consciousness, Marion Woodman and Elinor Dickson write, “At first Kali comes across as the devouring mother – swords and a human head in her hand – a closer look, however, reveals a great halo around her head, attesting to her need to be understood not only as a devourer, but also as a transformer.”

I have colleagues who refer to our modern era, with the destruction of climate, the deconstruction of so much in our lives, as the Kali Yurga – a cycle of destructiveness, out of which a new creative energy will emerge. Woodman and Dickson write that Kali is very threatening to the patriarchy, because she holds the unity of creation/ destruction as one reality.  Patriarchs are deeply invested in a black and white view of the world. They must be Right—everyone else Wrong. Kali and the Black Madonna hold this “Third” reality, that black and white are One.

Andrew Harvey believes that this cycle of destruction will lead us to awaking to a time of divine power. This is the “wisdom of the dark night” known well to great mystics like of Rumi and Teresa of Avila. Out of this destruction will come a new consciousness of our divine nature through the birth canal of apocalyptic energy.

Harvey writes, “We have a natural need to recognize The Mournful Face of God”—Eberhard’s Madonna of the Congo – It is only when the Dark Feminine is not recognized that She is tormented, though us. When denied, She disappears from our conscious life only to become an unconscious, unquenchable, and destructive drive to disavow all suffering , at all costs…”

Let this sink in… When we deny the Dark Feminine, push her aside in our own denial and need for distraction, She becomes a destructive drive, within us, and in the world, the anima mundi. Seen from this perspective, we have an influence on the Kali Yurga. I think this is good news. A part of our identity, our self- determination. I invite you to take a moment. If you choose close your eyes. Breathe. Place an image in your mind of a conflict in your life, a tension of opposites begging to be unified; the Grand Synthesis or the Third. What are some feelings, some hopes, some fears, that accompany this image. I will imagine my Libertarian brother.

With my brother, I realize how I often used my will to power to convince him he is Wrong/ I am Right. What folly. As Tali Sharot notes in her book, The Influential Mind when you present people with evidence that goes against their deeply held beliefs, the evidence doesn’t sway them. If anything they become more adamant about their position. So, with my brother, without denying the differences, I transform my Will to Power, into the power of a loving choice: in political discussion I listen and don’t lecture, respecting his values, and we always have our mutual love of art, theater, and beauty, and there we find our Third.

Andrew Harvey offers another powerful essay, Mystical Activism. I have distilled the major points:

First, How We Got Here. What Harvey calls The Seven Heads of the Beast of Total Destruction :

  1. Population explosion
  2. Environmental degradation
  3. Growth of fundamentalism (We often think of this as occurring in the Middle East, but, for example, the Evangelical Christian brother of my brother-in-law is on a rampage in protest of their gay marriage. He has ordered everyone in the family to shun his brother and mine, declaring, “I will be unfaithful to God if I ever talk to my brother again.”
  4. Selling of weapons of mass destruction
  5. Alienation from Nature
  6. Media – especially reality tv, fake news, not telling the truth of all of the above
  7. Hectic, busy life of anxiety, no calm to perceive divine reality.

Next Harvey postulates The Seven Stages of the Birth of Humanity – down the birth canal past all of the devastation above.

  1. Awareness of the 7 aspects of destruction
  2. Technology to transform the world
  3. Media, internet grassroots
  4. Great mystical texts of the world’s great religions—meditation, seeking our own inner transformation
  5. Return of the divine feminine, the “bride of God” being brought back in all of her joy and splendor and fury and majestic tenderness
  6. God’s love working through the activists motivated by love: Gandhi, MLK, Nelson Mandela, Malala, etc.
  7. God as Mother, protecting us.

Harvey believes it is not sufficient to have just mystical awareness OR activism, but to be effective in the world today, we must combine the two in MYSTICAL ACTIVISIM. For this, he offers the following powerful guidelines:

  1. Commit to a spiritual practice that “irrigates you with holy intensity. By marrying sacred practices of peace and passion, (love and power) the masculine and feminine androgyny is born.”
  2. Keep steady awareness of our divine and deathless identity. We must all go on a profound journey, not just to read about divine identity, but to steadily be in touch with the indestructible soul that is our immortal reality.
  3. Know that evil is real.
  4. Allow yourself to feel anger and outrage and not hold yourself down from the power of anger.
  5. “Right Action” (a Buddhist term) You must learn to give up the fruits of your action to the divine. No private agenda, or pouting if you don’t get your way. (put your Ego aside). You are like a feather floating on the breath of God, a pen held in the hand of God, Gandhi said, “If you are standing in the Self, nothing can defeat you, not even endless defeat”.
  6. Ferocity –( the true power of the Self, motivated by great love of life, humanity, eternity) Satyagraha, the soul force.
  7. None of us can do it alone.

Recently a wise woman told me, “Self care is the most radical form of Social Activism”. So true. We must all hold this in our minds and hearts. And as we care for ourselves, how do we “reach across the aisle , to our neighbors and families, transforming our Will to Power into the Power of Compassionate Choice, uniting Power and Love into a vibrant Whole?


  2. ON THE BLACK MADONNA, Interview with Andrew Harvey, THE MOONLIT PATH: REFLECTIONS ON THE DARK FEMININE, Fred Gustavson (ed) (Berwich ME: Nicholas Hays ) 2005
  3. MYSTICAL ACTIVISM, by Andrew Harvey, HEALING THE HEART OF THE WORLD, Dawson Church (ed)( Santa Rosa: Elite books) 2005
  4. TWO ESSAYS ON ANALYTICAL PSYCHOLOGY, C.G Jung,  clinical example of when the shadow of Power and Love at work in the psyche.
  5. THE MYTH OF THE GODDESS, by Ann Baring. Andrew Harvey’s introduction to the Black Madonna was through this book.
  6. DREAM OF THE COSMOS by Ann Baring. Her breathtaking view of our multi-dimensional existence.
  7. THE DANGEROUS CASE OF DONALD TRUMP, ed. Bandy Lee, essays by 27 psychiatrist and therapists on the duty to warn re: diagnosing Donald Trump, whose mental illness poses a danger to America and the world.  Also, a You Tube interview with Dr. Lee on MSNBC with Lawrence O’Donnel.
  9. 9. Arlie Russel Hochschild’s STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN LAND: ANGER AND MOURNING ON THE AMERICAN RIGHT. (A progressive Berkley journalist and author who goes into the heart of Trump country trying to understand and empathize with his supporters)
  11. Tali Sharot’s THE INFLUENTIAL MIND
  12. Muhammad Yunus’s A WORLD OF 3 ZEROES: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, Zero Carbon Emissions (a book by a visionary leader in Bangladesh who has pioneered a method of poor people creating their own businesses. 97 % of them are women. Dr. Yunus sees this as a model for a world in which Capitalism has run its course.)


This week I got my first tattoo, an almond blossom bough: white flowers, coral-red center—

“Look at this picture online,” said Roni Falgout, legendary artist I had waited months to work with, “The center of the blossom has some yellow in it too, even streaks of green—“

“Beautiful, “ I said, “You’re the artist.”

Yes, and, she emphasized, this was about me. Every aspect had to be precisely what I wanted: color, form, positioning of the design in relation to the scar from my left breast mastectomy.  I felt proud to join a growing legion of women who find beauty, value, and self worth in celebrating their bodies as they are, rather than opting for artificial implants that conform to a cultural and often male-centric image of female beauty. Not to demonize women who choose reconstruction. It is a powerful choice for many women. Not for me.

“New growth from damaged soil,” I told Roni at our first consultation. I had clipped a bough from the pear tree in my back yard and photographed it on my left breast. “Like this, only with almond blossoms,” I had said.

“Why almond?”

“It means Hope and Awakening.”  It is also a symbol from my play, On the Doorstep of the Castle, signifying feminine freedom to claim your unique value and destiny.

This all sounds very fine and lofty, but when the day came to actually ink the tattoo, I was terrified. I was knocked out for the mastectomy surgery—I would be wide awake for this one!

“It will really hurt,” said my oldest daughter, who sports three tattoos.

“I can’t believe you’re doing this,” said my husband, who has no tattoos, “It will be excruciating.”

My youngest daughter, bereft of tattoos, simply looked at me out of the corner of her eyes and whistled.

Roni also looked at me out of the corner of her eyes, but she smiled, “It’s 90% mental. You’ll be fine.”

And I was. It hurt, but like one continuous bee sting. I soon abandoned my meditative coping strategy and started sharing stories with Roni. We laughed so much I was afraid all my giggling body would disrupt the tattoo. It didn’t.

At one point it suddenly hurt a lot more, like the pen was going all the way through my body.

“Where are you?” I asked.

“Right over the scar. You ok?”

“Yeah—“ I whispered, “I can do this…” I slowed my breath, picturing the color she was putting on the leaves. Earlier she had asked if I wanted to go with lime green, “Or, I can do this darker, antique-y, avocado color—“

“Roni, I’m already an antique.”

“Lime green, then,” she chuckled.

It was all over in an hour and a half. Since then I’ve been learning about aftercare for a new tattoo, and I feel a simple joy each morning when I look in the mirror: that such a beautiful, permanent thing could emerge from a part of me that was permanently taken away…..

A final surprise: I feel connected to every blossom I see. I pick up a leaf in the park and feel as if I’m holding a part of myself in my hand.  I have always loved nature, but now, I am no longer a passive observer. I am nature.

It has also shifted my experience of grief and loss. Those whom I love, who have passed back into the mystery of nature,  now feel in me, as never before. And my own mortality is not frightening. The leaf in my hand is not separate from the lime- colored leaf on my left breast. All one substance, in the palm of the divine.


“No gifts,” said the bride, “But if you have some words of wisdom…..

Wisdom? About that? Something so complex and compelling thousand books, have been written about it. I couldn’t possibly measure up. Why couldn’t I just buy them some dinner plates?

Refusing to give in to my “less than” self, I gave it some thought. Whatever wisdom I have comes from my own experience, not the pundits of the self-help world, valuable though much of their work may be. I’ve been with my husband for 38 years.  It took us awhile to find each other, or more precisely, to be mature enough to know a good thing when it came along. We both entered into the relationship with some wounds of the heart and good ideas about what we didn’t want, and right from the beginning this one felt “different”. I could be myself, didn’t feel I was going to offend him or make a mess of things. Most of our core values lined up, from our love of nature, to our relaxed attitude about putting away the dishes.  A few weeks in, he said with a smile of gratitude, “You don’t talk in the morning,”

Also, he didn’t seem to have assumptions about what was my role, as the “woman”. He pitched in naturally, whether picking up a heavy grocery sack, or flipping the crepes, or saying our one common morning phrase, “Coffee?”

This wasn’t always seamless. The assumption-maker in all of us runs deep. As baby boomers we grew up in households where men were breadwinners,  women, housewives. This seemed to roll out in subtle, unconscious ways through the years, and our ability to confront pre-conceived ideas, and communicate them to each other, has been the critical “cleansing” agent across time.

Time and again I discovered I got frustrated or angry when I had expectations that were not about seeing—and accepting– my husband for who he really is.  And the source? Inevitably about me not seeing —or accepting– myself, with all my limitations and strengths. It has been a long journey for me to claim and assert my worth, and at each step along this path, the relationship has become more healthy. Recently I have used the phrase, “Separate, Together” Like two trees close to one another in the forest, with roots that go deep and intertwine, but stem from a separate source.

If you are fortunate enough to know yourself and your partner over many years, you get to see them expand their identity, learn new things, and deepen their awareness. This may be the best-kept secret about long term relationships. The person you marry becomes someone else over time, and the dialog between you can nourish this transformation. Nothing is predictable, or as boring as following some culture-bound notion of “activities” one should take up at any given age or stage. The ability to embrace the unexpected, and support your mutual identity formation is perhaps the greatest creative opportunity offered to human beings. Does this cause tension? Frequently. Frustration? Usually. Compromise? Surely. Bring you closer? You bet.

Paradoxically, all this growth filters through the years into a lightness of being. Delight in the simple things: the thrum of the hummingbird on our fuchsia, sharing the first pea pods from the garden, watching for bats to come out as clouds cross the full moon on a summer’s night.

And let’s not neglect humor. In the most stressful times, especially of transition or loss, we often find ourselves awake in the middle of the night, laughing until we cry, finding the absurd in the things we cannot change, from aging, to world politics.

And, for us, physical contact is a touchstone that only seems to increase with time. The most subtle moments become a sustaining thread: my hand on his shoulder in the morning, his hand guiding mine to plant seeds in the garden;  both of us, standing perfectly still in the kitchen door, my arm touching his, as we watch the hummingbird come so close, it takes our breath away.