grief into gratitude, through grit

Right now I’m meant to be organizing a 6 minute 40 second talk to accompany 20 photos focused on How to use Grit to turn Grief into Gratitude, but it seems Life is busy teaching me what that even means. My most recent devastation is this one at the river where I’ve been doing my prayer songs each morning since July.

Before this, through sibling relations, something very ancient in me was triggered. And through that I remembered the story of feeling powerless to change my situation before I could even speak. I couldn’t get out of my crib & I couldn’t get into the room where my mother was. Left with only myself, I used my own shit to protest by smearing it all over the walls, the crib, every surface I could reach. Since then I have struggled to find a balance between extremes. One end is chaotic, even destructive, anger, sometimes even rage, at the injustices & violences in the world. The other end is collapse. Without capable channeling, my righteous anger has turned inwards &, finding no outlet, has settled down into my core like distant rumbling molten lava.

My brief experience in Iceland gave me a sense that the humans there had greater reverence for their land, partly because it was still actively showing its power through its volcanoes. So is that what it takes for men to wise up & be respectful? A periodic, medicinal, dose of molten lava? Go ahead, use your lil diggers all you like puny humans, I can imagine big Mama Earth chuckling, we’ll see who has the last say when it comes to how this land is formed & who gets to stick around to enjoy it…

Yesterday when I went to the river to pray I was later than dawn & there was a giant crane crushing the newly-budding trees along the river. The birds were flying chaotically & calling out as their homes were destroyed, likely with springtime eggs in their nests. This sort of heartbreaking incident is where I would normally collapse. Feeling powerless to stop the crane, to save the birds & the trees, I would walk away dejected & weeping. I tried changing tactics. I stayed with the horror of watching trees unnecessarily shredded. And I sang & I drummed & I wept nearly the entire time. I had to be much louder to even hear myself over the machine.

I still feel powerless to stop man’s destruction, in this instance.

Yet I didn’t let that stop me giving voice to it.

Today the man who trains his hunting spaniels in the mornings stopped to talk with me, even though I was almost unintelligible through my weeping. And I realized that while you need strength & anger to be an activist, perhaps another way of making an impact is to honestly show how you yourself are impacted. Maybe we could all use a little more weeping, even keening. Wailing for the horrors. Strapping our tender naked bodies to the metal machines & wailing for the losses to the trees, the birds, the earth & the river.

Here is a humorous, skillful story of keening by two remarkable comedians, to help balance the story:

This recent volcanic eruption in me has also been affecting my teaching & social interactions. I find I have almost no tolerance for denial. I have no patience anymore for the stories we tell ourselves to put ourselves to sleep. It’s time to wake up. I find I am only willing to be with, & work with, those who are willing to wake up, face themselves squarely & do the work that’s necessary to shift themselves out of their own shit. I have all-ways been about empowering others to empower themselves, about shapeshifting the shit into shine. Only now I feel a more finely stoked blaze, like in Adyashanti’s poem (which we use in the sacral/fire chakra practices):

If you prefer smoke over fire
then get up now and leave.
For I do not intend to perfume
your mind’s clothing
with more sooty knowledge.

No, I have something else in mind.
Today I hold a flame in my left hand
and a sword in my right.
There will be no damage control today.

For God is in a mood
to plunder your riches and
fling you nakedly
into such breathtaking poverty
that all that will be left of you
will be a tendency to shine.

So don’t just sit around this flame
choking on your mind.
For this is no campfire song
to mindlessly mantra yourself to sleep with.

Jump now into the space
between thoughts
and exit this dream
before I burn the damn place down.


And in seeking out that poem I discovered another of his called Everlasting Inheritance. Here is a portion that really spoke to me & also to our current Southern Hemisphere First Spring focus in the roots systems, particularly our feet:

“Longing is the true measure of a man or woman and alone has the power to draw us out of ourselves and into the vast air of eternity. But we shall not rely only on the winds of longing, for they can be fickle and unpredictable. We shall also need the fire of intent—that fine-tipped arrow of courage flying true and straight to its goal, piercing through the fabric of our dreams as it goes.

This is as fair a day as any to begin the journey back to your origin. So lift your foot together with mine and we will step off the well-trodden paths and into the uncharted woods where the essence of things lies waiting for you to open your eyes.

It is time to begin watching your steps, dear companion. For you have already wasted the goodness of too many days stumbling along with the unconscious drove. Today I bid you to place no foot upon the earth without feeling the sinews, skin, and bone of your feet with each step. How awake you are to the least of things will determine how awake you become to the greatest in due time.”


As I grieved the trees, I struggled to find gratitude. When I dug deeper I found it in how I was being woken up. I thanked the trees & the birds for their sacrifice.

Tell me–what do you long for, what do you care deeply enough about, that you’d shift out of your current comfort zone to stand by it, even if you couldn’t save it?

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