My heart, like so many of yours, is breaking for our world. While I feel full what sometimes feels like never-ending grief, I am also keenly aware of the beauty and resiliency in communities coming together, mobilizing actions, and taking care of one another. It's so vital that we stay grounded right now. Grounded in the reality of the crisis and grounded in the reality of what opportunities arise for healing and transformation during a time of such uncertainty. The day is just dawning here and I woke up before light to write what’s on my heart. I’ll tell you a true story and then offer some practices to help support us during these times. (I've also added some new recipes to the previous post)
As the radioactive fallout moves across the pacific, it falls into the beautiful sea, where life began from magical teeny tiny stuff. We’re watching our great mother be poisoned and nuclear is forever. My little human mind can hardly even comprehend the scale of time of nuclear toxicity, though my body knows it well. My own knowledge of how to care for the body and spirit in the face of radiation comes from a profoundly personal place. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when I was 21 years old. Thyroid cancer is pretty rare and has a fairly high survival rate; it also is most common in people with radiation exposure, with spikes in children post- Chernobyl. The year after I was diagnosed, a class action suit was filed from very sick residents of the San Fernando Valley (it’s true, I’m a valley girl, for sure.) against Rocketdyne, a nuclear lab which has had leakages since the 50s. After two hellacious surgeries, I had what is the common treatment for thyroid cancer: Radioactive Iodine 131. I took this tiny pill, had a Geiger counter pointed at me, and was quarantined for a three days, because I myself was radioactive.
14 years later, I am still dealing with the toxic fallout from the treatment for cancer. I bow to cancer and I bow to the spirit of radiation, both big teachers for me in my path as a healer. I know that touching what felt like the bottom of the ocean of my own mortality at such a young age deepened my capacity for compassion and holding the suffering of all beings, grew my fiery passion for justice, and broke open my heart even further to connect with the earth herself, who like me, is a body capable of receiving both love and toxins. Someone recently sent me an email, which said, “Toxic is the new normal.” Yes, we’re exposed to junk all the time- EMF, heavy metals, PCBs, pesticides and even more so if you’re poor or a person of color or someone living in the global south.
It can be hard to not get mired or paralyzed in fear or freak out. It can feel like you are going crazy, living in this world, in which the dominant culture invalidates our experiences and instead offers empty options to numb ourselves with or buy our way out of fear. I just want to say, and maybe I am just talking to myself, that it is normal and so human to be scared, sad, uncertain, shut down, angry, and overwhelmed right now.
I invite you to ask yourself if your feelings of fear or grief can allow you to feel even more connected to everyone and everything, to the whole sparkling web of life? Can you extend your compassion as far as it can reach and also extend it to yourself, at this moment, living in this time of great anguish and uncertainty? And can you let it break your heart right open, so as you feel your pain for the world, you can sense that it is rooted in your love for the world and your love for life?
Last post I listed some nutritional and herbal remedies for these times and so now I want to offer some practices to help us keep on keeping on.
1. Get Present: easy to say, harder to do. A way to come into presence when it's hard is to slow down and take notice of what's inside and outside of you, without judgment or the need to fix or do anything. Be mindful of your consumption of media and how it makes you feel. Breathe.
2. Gratitude: When big waves of fear arise, or any emotions that feel overwhelming, inviting yourself to make a list of things you're thankful for can set your heart right again. This morning I am so grateful for my most precious magical dog curled up at my feet, a cup of nettles, contra dancing, running water, the sounds of the crows in the pine tree out my window. A good way to begin this practice is just to notice the things immediately around you and make yourself count 10-20 things. Place your hand on your heart and feel that pumping muscle and just how much you actually love this intense planet and all the beings here.
3. Gather: be with people. Make soup or a potluck with people and rather than get worked up in a collective freak out, create space to cry, laugh, or make rituals. Make plans for emergencies with your neighbors. Reach out to elders, marginally housed folks, people with disabilities in your buildings or neighborhoods to assess needs in case of emergency. Make a list of all the amazing skills all the people you know have, and then find new friends who have skills that might be missing. Find out about vigils, protests, rituals, or workshops in your area. (see below for some in the bay area and New England)
4. Grieve: I mentioned in the last post the importance of letting the rivers flow. I invite you to create a container with some people, perhaps around a bowl of water, and take turns going in the center of the circle to let tears, fears, or whatever comes come. Also, I love the buddhist practice of tonglen, which is to breathe in suffering and breathe out love, healing, or gratitude. Rather than turn away from the pain, we can experience our own capacities to transform suffering into love.
5. Give: make food for people. give yourself extra love and nourishment with baths or walks or a day off. if you have some extra, give money to doctors without borders or social justice organizations. Make offerings of your tears or songs or prayers to the earth, the sea, the creatures, the people. Give yourself respite from taking in news or images from time to time. Give your time to what's important.
6. Grow: allow your heart to get bigger from being stretched. Grow out of some old patterns. Maybe now's the time to stop eating sugar or stop using your microwave or spend less time on the computer or get involved more or rest more. Grow roots and tendrils, letting yourself grow towards others in solidarity.
7. Gentle: be kind and easy with your self. these are tough times and there's no need to go at anyone else's pace or be in anyone else's process. take a little time each day to tend to the tenderest part of you as if it's a baby. or a toddler. or a kitten. whatever works for you to bring out your kind, nurturing self.
7. keep Going. we're all in this together.
Happy full moon!
May this serious moonlight bathe the planet and all beings in healing, love, and balance and may our fears and grief connect us with everything, everyone and most of all with our love and reverence for life.
with much love,
San Francisco: Elm Dance
Sunday 3/20 5-7pm Justin Hermann Plaza (canceled in the event of rain)
New England : Vigil at Vermont Yankee
Sunday, 3/20 1pm
The Herbal Highway with Sarah Holmes
3/17 show all about herbal and nutritional support for radiation
see below- Joanna Macy's site has links to other health information. Take care not to get too overwhelmed in all the things you should be doing. Keep it simple and remember that we all need seaweed, miso, etc...let's share.
Information on stopping US Government subsidies and loan guarantees to nuclear industries, including bills that are before Congress now.
Joanna Macy http://www.joannamacy.net
information on workshops in the Work that Reconnects