I spent June in Europe alongside my little sister and best friend as she fulfilled her lifelong dream of a Fairy Tale Wedding. She's a producer in Hollywood so when she thinks "fairy tale" she really means it! Reception feast in front of the majestic Prague Castle overlooking the city in all of its gilded glory, ceremony on a yacht underneath the historical beauty of Charles Bridge, welcome dinner in a medieval cave filled with fire breathing belly dancers wearing giant snakes around their necks and husky Celtic men baring swords while playing bagpipes. Definitely Hollywood- worthy!
June is the month of commitment- named for the Roman Goddess of love & marriage, Juno. Even as the days are long and steamy, the sun constantly beckoning us to play, embodying the peak abundance of the year's vital force, after the Summer Solstice on June 21st we've officially entered into the dark half of the year. Knowing that time is passing, the leaves will soon shed and once again we will enter into the damp richness of winter's rest, this is the time of the year when nature invites us ask "what am I committing to?"
Photography by Petr Pelucha
As Amy & Michael pledged their lives to each other with such palpable sincerity, it dawned on me- I, myself, was due for a wedding- a sacred commitment to dedicate my life to something larger than myself, a commitment to guide my decisions, both mundane and significant, by placing the relationship above all else, a statement of infinite mutual support, acceptance and trust.
Floating on the Vlatava River in the bliss haze of their heart opening ceremony, I stood in front of the wedding altar and proposed- to my Spirit. For those with a different linguistic relationship to the mystery of the ineffable, we could say I proposed to my highest self or that I made a lifelong soul contract to trust my life, my intuition and my inner wisdom fully over the daily seduction of stress, self doubt, anxiety and apathy.
To make to a lifelong pledge is to surrender to unconditional love as a teacher. Like all effective teachers, it nurtures our potential by challenging us, pushing the limited boundaries of what we think we are capable of.
Most of us are in a relationship of conditional love with ourselves. We judge when we are good enough and berate ourselves when we screw up. We often play both the tough parent, prodding ourselves to external markers of success at the expense of our wellbeing and inner wisdom, as well as the absent parent, not offering ourselves the healthy boundaries of rest, play, nourishment, sensuality, work and inner development that allow us to thrive in a chaotic world. As the parent is to the child, so the mind is to the body. Our mind, seen as superior in Western civilization, often takes the role of overbearing parent and our body the role of neglected child.
My sisters and I, like many, are children of divorce. Without knowing what healthy love looks like, we have a hard time creating it in our lives and in our relationship with ourselves. But many argue that, in fact, we are all children of the Great Divorce.
We talk about the paleo diet but what about the paleo spiritual diet? The archetype of the Goddess as a symbolic source of connection, nurturing and nourishment was worshipped by our ancestors for at least 25,000 years during the Paleolithic and Neolithic historical periods and is still deeply buried in the collective unconscious, conspicuous in her absence.
The Great Father, without wife or daughter, powerful yet distant, is the sole protagonist in our western spiritual mythology. His immediate son is been crucified for our sins, judged gulity from birth. In the words of Dr. Anodea Judith, author of Eastern Body, Western Mind:
In the divorce settlement we are the motherless children who were taken to live with the father. And our new household, mother was not to be discussed and became forgotten. We have all inherited the myth of a broken home. We are the motherless children in our distant father's house, trying to find wholeness in a world that is longing for the magic and mystery of love. This is our story. These are our parents. We are the children of an unacknowledged marriage. No wonder we have a yearning for romantic love and the myth of happily-ever-after pervades our collective fantasies, a compulsive need to complete ourselves through another (225).
The legacy of this divorce is the cultural myth of separation that permeates every layer of our culture from the individual to the collective. We are separate from nature, from each other and from the divine, our mind is separate from our body, our spirit, if acknowledged at all, is above both the body and mind. These painful and unnatural separations are projected outward as race, gender and class and manifest as walled borders, internment camps, prisons, high rates of suicide and homocide, depression, anxiety and divorce.
The primary task for those of us committed to healing this world and ensuring its future is to break down the walls of separation in our own hearts. We heal the wounds of the Great Divorce between Mother Earth and Father Sky through the discipline of daily practice, daily commitment to taking the time amidst the chaos and fear mongering headlines to connect with our deeper selves.
When we truly take the time to connect with our romantic partner through conscious lovemaking or dating or just simple acts of kindness- a sweet touch or doing a little extra around the house as an act of devotion and gratitude, even when the children and work beckon- we receive immediate benefits of a more meaning-filled relationship.
The same goes for our relationship with ourselves. Committing to taking time to date ourselves daily, to feel our breathe, to re-fill our bodies with life-force, to sing and dance and connect with the natural world that is the Goddess embodied reminds us of the underlying wholeness that is our true nature. To forsake self-dating is to sacrifice meaning for anxiety and stress.
Spirit is the space where mind and body meet, ever present, yet shrouded by the daily dust of 'busy. ' When we take time to take care of our body by moving joyfully we just feel better and we begin to understand Rumi's words "the body is a screen to shield and partially reveal the light that's blazing inside of you."
Acknowledging that life as a love affair between our form and our spirit and honoring our physical body as the embodiment of the marriage between Mother Earth and Father Sky through daily practice invites us back into the house of belonging with all of nature and away from existential homelessness.
The horrific violence we see on the news starts and ends with us. As sacred activists, we must step up in our own lives to heal the soul crushing division of our own body with our own mind, of humans with nature, of the great Goddess waiting to be acknowledged in our unconcious with the great God guarding the collective superego.
It sounds like a weighty and intense mission, but, in fact, it just means committing to take time to do something that brings us joy, that reminds us that we are supported and loved. To feel the breathe move through our body, to be in the peace of nature as a practice of self-remembrance or to move, dance, exercise or practice yoga so that we are flooded with enough life force to counter the daily dust and remind us of the reason we are here.
Like any good romantic partner, an we accept ourselves unconditionally while holding ourselves to our highest potential? Can we commit to releasing the judgement of ourselves that becomes judgement of others and ultimately creates otherness the underlies racist, sexist and classist policies of the government we voted to represent us?
As I placed a ring on my finger by the riverside under the auburn sunset of the Sierras, I repeated aloud to my spirit these beautiful vows written by my sister, Amy:
I pledge to tear down any walls that build up within us or between us; and instead, build a fortress AROUND us; to protect our love until the day I die. And while these walls around us will be built strong, I equally pledge to provide the flexibility for them to shift, bend, flex and evolve with time & circumstance.
And followed them with these written by my new brother, Michael, to his beloved:
When work takes over, I promise I won’t forget that love is more important and to take a moment to remember that. With all the love we have for life, I promise to live it to the fullest and create a wild adventures for us together. And when my body starts to fail, I promise to love you with all that’s left - even with my last breathe.
I gulped down a last shred of fear and doubt, felt my feet solidly on the earth and said aloud to my spirit, "I do."
Looking eastward at the moon already rising over the pine covered mountains, a hawk soared above, echoing my vow with a wild call of her own.