Fears, courage and promise: How exploring our traditions impacts our lives

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Fears, courage and promise | WillowEoL

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A while back I bought a book that I’m afraid to start reading. Even though the book was described by author and women’s wellness advocate Dr. Christiane Northrup as “A masterpiece of women’s wisdom,” I hadn’t been moved enough to crack it open. The book is The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine, by Sue Monk Kidd, first published in 1996. The discussion inside our recent Reality of our Mortality Learning Circle helped me understand what’s underneath my fears and motivated me to act.

Our circle focussed on exploring the role of our spiritual, cultural and community traditions around supporting us (or not) with our inevitable death and dying. We pondered what we identify as our spiritual heritages and named how we feel supported by them, how they let us down and what we yearn for. It was a fascinating peek into the joy, uncertainty and disappointment many of us feel around our traditions and customs.

Traditions hold the promise for human connection and expressing our essence.

I’m afraid that reading Kidd’s book will make crystal clear to me the void and disconnect I feel in relation to my traditions. I’m afraid I’ll feel compelled to take action, which will add to my to-do list. Mostly, I fear the disruptions that are sure to come if I follow my yearnings. I know in my bones however, that the cost of inaction is much greater. For more than two decades I lived my life without an active and fulfilling spiritual practice and community. During my time away from the Divine, I felt a deep but unexpressed loss that muted my joy.

And I discovered, with the help of my circle companions, that it is precisely our traditions that hold the promise of weaving us into a connected human story, expressing our essence, guiding us along the path, and cradling who we are.

From the introduction of The Dance of the Dissident Daughter:

“I was listening to National Public Radio the other day when someone asked the question: “Once you wake up, can you wake up any more?” Yes, I thought. In a way my whole life has been about waking up and then waking up some more.”

Gulp. Waking up some more takes courage. May we all seek and find what we need to feel supported as we journey.

What about you?

What book or chapter have you not cracked open?

How has the reality of your mortality helped you to wake up before your time’s up?


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  • Great blog, and it resonates with me completely. I have been avoiding reading a book called “Eating Animals” which my friend recommended. The reality of impermanence continues to awaken me. It has been a process that gets interrupted with maintaining a livelihood.. or maybe that is just part of the process.

    • Thanks for your note Daphne. It means so much to us to know that what we write resonates. I think that awakening is a 24 /7 process and our beings need time and space to integrate. Perhaps interruption is integration in disguise?!?

  • Lorraine Robinson April 12, 2018 at 1:20 am

    If I lived in Vancouver, likely I would attend. Some of my ancestors are buried at Mountain View and as a teenager at McGee High-school submitted a project that won Honours. It was on the Crematorium and burial.

    Personally the traditions I grew up with did not meet my needs. I have chosen arrangements by a Medicine Woman I know and remains will be distributed in some waters or forest floor to meet those many family gone before me.

    It is written in my instructions and talked about any time I can catch a family member. Such is Life.

    You are doing good works.

    • Thanks for your comment Lorraine. We are honoured to build on the good work of those who’ve come before us. Paying attention to our individual and collective needs/desires/yearnings and how they are being met or not, is really key isn’t it. I wonder if anyone if your extended family is interested in grave re-use at Mountain View.

  • I must thank you for your work and express the hope of one day being engaged beyond reading your e-news.

    I’m struck by my own recognition that death is not a once and for all event at the end of life. During the past couple of years, I’ve felt the closeness of death – more a dying of my spirit. As it turned out, my very real feelings of my body dying that often kept me from restorative sleep turned out to be a serious (and now treated) illness I didn’t know I had.

    Why do I share this? Because I think a big part – THE big part of your work is about creating spaces for people to safely give voice to our feelings and fears about the fragility and fickleness of life and of our bodies in the here and now – every day – not only when we near actual death. Some people face this daily because of severe illness that they know will end their lives. Others may only face a once in a lifetime moment. Without tools to navigate we can become depressed, anxious, addicted and terrified by the revelation that we are not as in control of our destinies as we thought.

    I don’t know where this thought takes me but, like you, I walked away from religion 17 years ago but I have had little to replace it except my wonderful friends and mostly meaningful though difficult jobs. I have lost several friends in their 50s dnd 60s to cancer, a stroke and a heart attack, and a friend recently lost her 30 something daughter. They were ALL deeply engaged in life and important work at the time. I’m not sure any considered they’d be gone as quickly as they were. Perhaps it’s the baby boomer cohort that needs and wants this conversation. Certainly your work draws people and things like death cafes also do. It’s important work.

    • Dear Ren, It means so much to us to hear from you regarding your journey and how this piece resonates. Thank you for taking the time to write to us. I am deeply moved and personally touched by what you’ve shared. The reality of a physical body is woven is really so integral to this transformation work but it seems to consistently be considered in isolation.

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