Step Up to the Fire

One of my favorite year-end practices comes at Solstice time, when we gather with friends to mark the longest night. While we welcome the return of the light, we let go of what no longer serves us.

My spouse and I have been doing this with various groupings of women friends for a couple decades now. We build a fire and each burn something to symbolize what we’re ready to release.

IMG_4453Over the years I’ve noticed a shift in the types of things people throw on the fire. If I remember right, in our 20s and 30s we often burned things like business cards, to symbolize an important job transition. I recall burning “toxic” letters, wanting to shift a problematic relationship.

Looking back, the focus felt external to some degree: We needed to declare that something was over and done, and move on.

(I do recall that one creative soul burned a photocopy of a sponge, to indicate she no longer needed to absorb everyone else’s “stuff.”)

In general, nowadays, it feels like we all are more apt to turn our focus inward. What is it within me that is ready to slough off? Is it my need to be right? my habit of pushing? my fears? my dismissive self-talk?

One by one, we step up to the fire and burn the pattern that’s holding us back.

At our 2013 Solstice celebration, this is what I committed to the fire: my need to distract myself. What would happen, I wondered, if every time I thoughtlessly drifted to Facebook, email, or some other addiction, I first checked in on my inner world?

The result, over the course of the year, was a deepening of quiet, and an opening of possibility. I began to turn toward whatever plagued me instead of overriding it. I began to listen more carefully to guidance, to seek it, to act on it.

I had been moving in this direction since my dear friend, energy healer Merry Henn, introduced me to energy work several years back. In a 15-year quest to heal from fibromyalgia, the “invisible arts” (as I sometimes call them) proved indispensable. In combination with other healthy practices, energy healing and emotional clearing have brought me back to resilience. I no longer get sick at the drop of a hat, and I no longer need the maintenance regimen that sustained me for so long.

Now I find myself offering intuitive sessions and hands-on healing work to others, integrating everything I’ve learned. I never imagined myself in this role. But it turns out to be one of the most meaningful contributions I could ever make to a new Story of Reunion.

It was the Solstice ritual that helped me receive this unexpected gift.

I won’t say yet what I burned at the 2014 Solstice gathering, but who knows what magic is afoot after that releasing?

A Whole World Alive

I recently heard Michael Pollan speaking on NPR’s Science Friday show about research into plants’ intelligence. He revealed how mycelium (the vegetative part of fungus) figures into communications among the trees of a forest. (We learned about mycelium earlier in Peter McCoy’s guest post on radical mycology.)

Hyphae (branches of the mycelium) as seen under an overturned log. Photo by TheAlphaWolf (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Hyphae (branches of the mycelium) as seen under an overturned log. Photo by TheAlphaWolf (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Pollan said:

“The trees in a fir forest are networked, in a very complicated network, held together by the mycelium of mycorrhizal fungi, connect(ing) all the trees in a fir forest. A scientist in British Colombia named Suzanne Simard has studied this. She injects a fir tree with radioactive carbon isotopes, and then using a geiger counter and other devices follows the trail of that carbon.

And what she’s found is astounding! All the trees are connected. They use that network to send information, such as warnings of insect attack. They use that network to send nutrients to their offspring…They can even use that network to trade nutrients with other species…”

Isn’t that miraculous? And I suspect that—as the Wendell Berry quote in my previous post implied—everyone and everything, everywhere, might be invisibly interconnected in a similar way.

If this is true, what harms one, harms all. What uplifts one, uplifts all.

Is this possible? Perhaps. On an energetic level. What I’m talking about is rising above the zero sum game that’s so indoctrinated in us. Making space to see that without all of us being OK, none of us are OK.

We lack instruments fine enough to fully measure the energy field surrounding us (and surrounding every natural thing, every boulder and ant and trout and evergreen, every human and tulip and mountain). But I believe that through this field we have an impact on each other, on the whole of life, every moment we live, whether we know it or not.

It isn’t possible to live apart from each other. Not truly. The web of life knits us one to another, even if we are unaware of its strands.

Photo by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, via Wikimedia Commons.

The ancient sages say that if you pull one thread in the web, the others vibrate.

Quantum physics … the mycelium … the Internet even—all are outer manifestations of this esoteric truth.

For a while now I’ve taken a few moments every morning to ground myself, feeling and seeing my “roots” going deep into the earth. Lately I find myself connecting not just vertically but horizontally, under the earth’s surface, with the mycelium.

There’s a whole world alive under our feet that we don’t usually see. So it is with our energetic world.