Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Spiral Dancing in the Streets -- on Strike Day

LAST SATURDAY EVENING, surrounded by several hundred people in a dark stadium, I feel the earth moving beneath my feet, the powerful collective energy of humans alive and those that have passed swirling all around me, and sense an opening of the portal of possibility.  In my mind’s eye, I see visions of ancient peoples and the thousands of ways that they protected their kin and their land, and sense their fierce loving dedication to the earth herself, their mother.

I hear a voice in my head: I will not forsake you. I cannot forsake you.

I’m not a person who has the gift of “hearing” very often while in trance or prayer. But this time, in hearing these words, it feels almost as if reality is pulsing or reverberating around and through me – that something multiversal was happening in that moment, something in non-linear time.  It is one of those things that you can’t ask for and never expect, but when it happens, you understand it instantly – or, perhaps more accurately, timelessly.

A couple of months ago, my friend Yarrow was waiting to be arrested at the Tarsands Action in DC (which ended with over 1,000 peaceful, non-violent arrests) and he heard a similar message.  He wrote a beautiful email explaining that for him, this was a message about humanity’s continued dedication to this work of protecting the beautiful green earth.
It's…something a goddess had said to me a long time ago, in a period of great personal pain and despair: "You don't forsake me." Not a promise that /she/ won't forsake /me/ -- an observation that I don't forsake her, as if she'd turned to the back of the book to see how it turns out. The hit I get Saturday is that it's us: /we/ don't forsake her. Implicit in this mass of people waiting patiently to be arrested is a long chain stretching back to the beginning and forward to whatever the end of the book may be, made of heroes, yes, and martyrs, and also ordinary people like me and the others waiting here. We don't forsake her. Not now, not in the future. That's the message.
Standing in the middle of the throng of people that night in Kezar Pavillion, dizzy with dancing and the songs of the ancestors ringing in my ears, I hear this message and it feels connected to his and yet somewhat different: for me, the “I” of “I will not forsake you” is both me and her, in that interconnected microcosm / macrocosm way that Joanna Macy calls, “the Greening the Self.”

Joanna began to develop the concept of “the Greening of the Self” or “the Ecological Self” after a conversation with long-time activist John Seed in which she asked him how he was able to handle the tremendous destruction of the beautiful rainforest that he loved and was fighting to protect:

John replied, “I try to remember that it's not me, John Seed, trying to protect the rainforest. Rather, I am part of the rainforest protecting itself. I am that part of the rainforest recently emerged into human thinking."
This is what I mean by the greening of the self. It involves a combining of the mystical with the practical and the pragmatic, transcending separateness, alienation, and fragmentation. It is a shift that Seed himself calls "a spiritual change,” generating a sense of profound interconnectedness with all life.
This is hardly new to our species. In the past poets and mystics have been speaking and writing about these ideas, but not people on the barricades agitating for social change. Now the sense of an encompassing self, that deep identity with the wider reaches of life, is a motivation…to empower effective action.
-- Joanna Macy, World as Lover, World as Self
For Joanna, a Buddhist, the Greening of the Self is about connecting to the great web of life, the interconnection of all things.

For me, a pagan, it is the Goddess speaking to me and at the same time it is also me -- the little bit of earth that I am, a teeny little bit of Gaia -- speaking to her, “I will not forsake you.”

I understand, suddenly, that the earth cannot forsake me or any of us anymore than I can forsake my lungs breathing or my heart beating.  And knowing this – truly knowing it in my bones and blood – gives me the courage and dedication to not forsake her in turn, to continue to work and push and strive in order to protect the land and my kin of many forms in the face of the destruction caused by those who share my form but not yet an understanding that we are eternally connected and interdependent with all life.

MONDAY, Samhain true.  I begin my moon-blood after a morning thick with dreams, the kind of dreams that you wake from and feel like you’ve been dragging yourself through wet sand all night rather than sleeping.  For me, this blood is like a miracle, because it’s a sign of continued healing for me in spite of all of the stress of travel and Occupying and the like.  It’s also a sign of my fertility, my connection to the seas and the moon, and on this hallowed day, reminds me of the many women of my line who have carried life in their wombs and sang sacred songs to the earth and the ancestors.

I decide to take a fast from technology, from caffeine, and from the Occupations.  Somehow, I know that there’s another message waiting for me on this day that we pagans say that the veils between the worlds are thinnest, and that I will only be able to hear it if I sink more deeply into present time and the living space of walking in the world (versus the virtual worlds of the internet and the adulterated time of caffeine and cars).

Sitting in the sun on my porch with The Great Cosmic Mother and my cat on my lap feels good and wholesome and nourishing, and as I read and write in my journal and let the beauty of the day fill me, I notice also a growing sense of dread within me, dread for the tomorrow that will bring me back to work and the internet and the plaza in the middle of the city of Oakland that has become a gravitational pull for me, the way a pigeon is called home through some sense of magnetism that humans can only guess at. But even stronger is the growing sense of dread when I think about Strike Day, which looms as a chaotic, frenetic, and possibly dangerous cloud on my personal horizon.

Luckily, I’ve done enough of shadow work to know that the messages I most need to hear are often cloaked in grumpiness and frustration, so with my trusty pen in hand, I begin peering deeper into the anxiety that has somehow become associated with something that I had thought I really wanted – a day that might truly be a revolutionary moment, a day that somehow might define the massive transformation that I’ve felt as an undercurrent for the whole year, since last winter solstice's lunar eclipse.

And I realize that although it feels like it is the earth herself calling me to do this kind of work in the world, when I do, I often feel incredibly from her and her rhythms.  My garden is literally dying, not because of the growing chill in the air and shorter days, but because it is parched and thirsty, uncared for (I keep thinking its going to rain).  I’ve completely abandoned my yoga practice, not to mention the daily practices of cooking my own food fresh from the farmer’s market and making herbal medicine, or hiking in the woods and swimming in the waters, in order to fully enmesh myself in the very human-world of politics and social justice.  It’s a powerful thing, this work of Occupying, but it doesn’t feed my soul in and of itself, perhaps because it doesn’t help me feel connected to those things that I consider to be the most sacred: the ancestors, the many living things that I share this planet with, the songs and dances of the stars, the dark potentiality of Mystery.  That connection to the sacred, and the more-than-human, often feels missing or lost in the busy, human-focused movement for financial equality, the elimination of student loan debt, and healthcare for all.

The whole world is watching, I think, seemingly out of the blue.  It’s a phrase I’ve heard often lately, when the cops are beating someone down, or when something dramatic happens in Zuccotti Park, or when we’ve been at Strike Planning meetings.  I’m not sure why it has suddenly popped into my head, but it seems unfinished, so I try to tease the thought out.

The whole world is watching…

What else? Something else.

The whole world is watching…

The song of the earth is emerging…

With each new day dawning,

The tides of power are turning.

A SPIRAL DANCE!  That’s the answer to my problem, I realize.  This is where all of this started, and it’s circling back around to it – because a spiral dance can help me hear the voice of the earth and experience the magic of connecting with others and is a powerful way to stop traffic or block an intersection, all rolled into one.

And so, TODAY on El Dia De Los Muertos, we will dance the spiral and sing in the streets.  Certainly, there’s a part of me that would rather be hanging out in my sweet little sanctuary in Berkeley with a warm fire in the fireplace and a cup of chai-honey tea, and perhaps I’ll get that tomorrow, too.  But first, let there be drums and chants and prayers in the streets as we celebrate our mother and ancestors and defend our birthrights for common land, pure water, clean air and passionate expression. I hope that you will be there too, dancing with me.  Perhaps She will tell some of us, again, that we will not / can not forsake one another.  Perhaps something new will emerge, a new message or a new spell.  Whatever happens, I feel quite confident that if we start the day with intention and beauty, there will be magic.

There couldn’t possibly be a better time for it.

We'll meet at the North end of Frank Ogawa Plaza (a.k.a. Oscar Grant Plaza) at 11:30 for the first spiral dance.  You can follow me on twitter for updates throughout the day: 


  1. Oh, blessed be! I haven't been in a spiral dance for years. I've taken a personal day from my job teaching math at a community college, and I plan to work on refinancing my home (from B of A to my credit union) and visiting Occupy Oakland. I'm a single mom, so I have to be careful not to get arrested (like I used to). But a spiral dance is too perfect.

  2. Couldn't find any spiral dancing. But I was very glad to be there.