Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Reflection 2016

As I reflect back on 2016, I see beautiful uplifting experiences and then the shock of awakening to the
underbelly of American politics and the festering illness of racism, homophobia, misogyny and xenophobia. It’s hard to talk about these topics in a Christmas newsletter but they won’t let me go. I truly believe we are in a time of transformation from the old paradigm to the new, entering the 5th Dimension and the Age of Aquarius and the time of the Feminine, leading with the heart. And yet, we are also in need of profound healing. You don’t realize how much until you hear that a colleague who is articulate, successful, who turns every reading into a community gathering, has been followed often by the police due to the color of his skin. Until you see the photo of someone in the next neighborhood over cleaning the swastika from her garage. Until you see the rows of brown paper bags getting packed with Saturday’s lunch for KidPack and find out that ¾ of the children at the neighboring school are receiving food support because their families are struggling economically. Until you hear the statistics of suicides by GBLT kids and murders of transgender folks.

What can we do?

Be our best, ask questions, follow what calls to us, pray, meditate, gather in community, stand up for what we believe in, donate food, serve meals, have conversations, make art, appreciate the good, pay attention.….work on ourselves. Our own assumptions and ignorance. Our own intolerance and judgment.

You may feel called to protest, write letters to congress, and boycott certain businesses. You may feel called to a rejection of consumerism, purchasing only what you need, recycling, giving away, living more simply. You may feel called to deeper stillness, embodying peace, listening to the inner voice, speaking from the heart. You may feel called to write poems or songs or plant a garden. But whatever you do, do it with love, do it from a place of peace, so that the world we build from the shards of the old is based on peace and love. Read The Most Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible by Charles Eisenstein.

Read poetry: the famous and the local. Attend readings. Buy books. Support literary organizations.

These are some of the things I did last year and will continue to do:

Taught a memoir class at the men’s correctional facility, followed by a  reading of their stories to about 100 audience members and “Writing About Your Ancestors” at the women’s facility, with laughter and tears as we shared stories about grandmothers and mothers. Mn Prison Writing Workshop raised $29,000 in order to continue to fund our programs and to meet the matching funds requirement of our current state grant. Our annual reading was attended by over 250 community members. It is such joy for me to hear the improvements in my students’ writing and to know that some are now publishing. My colleagues are my heroes and my literary community. They are dedicated above and beyond, they are smart and wise, they are open-hearted and compassionate. And they are receiving their own grants, accolades and awards.

Presented a panel on teaching incarcerated writers at Split This Rock Poetry Festival in Washington, DC. It was a renaissance of hope, three days of dynamic, powerful, moving, thought-provoking poetry, panels and workshops. Poetry as activism, as resistance, as subversion. Novice poets mingled with experienced poets, spoken word poets with published poets, all ages, genders, and ethnicities.

Encouraged the children at Unity Minneapolis to meditate, to be in silence and stillness, to know the Divine is within us all. Every Sunday I am in the classroom with a story, art project, game, and/or  discussion.  I am tested by challenging behaviors, tardy families, not enough volunteers, and my own expectations. And every Sunday there is fun, there is a child saying something profoundly wise, there is silence, there is grace, there is wonder.

The Writing Life: 
Going into my fourth year of leading Writing for Healing group at Pathways.
 I am back teaching creative writing at Face to Face Charter High School in St. Paul. 
I was invited to be the key note speaker for Jacob’s Well Women’s Retreat on the topic of resiliency and how to access one’s inner guidance with writing, to be repeated at Unity Minneapolis on Jan 22.
I will teach Writing Through Crisis at The Loft Literary Center in March.
I am looking towards teaching on-line classes in the spring.
The novels and poetry manuscripts, stories and essays and poems are getting sent out but the plethora of writers submitting makes it harder than ever to be published. Nevertheless, I won the National Women Book Association’s contest for Pilgrimage and my essay called Words to Light Our Way will be live on line in Talking Writing the week of Dec 18:

I can’t promise that we don’t have a rocky road ahead. It takes much more determination to stay positive, to use the tools I have learned to use so well: patience, affirmation, trust, gratitude, surrender, staying open, being flexible, blessing those I meet. But I do promise that this is the beginning of something that will change us as human beings, a painful awakening that is inevitable and necessary. Hold to the Light!

You are the Light!  Namasté!

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