At the Crossroads

Lately I always hear the breathi6ebf5d_e8bbb910b5c3406de19362373f9a7613.jpg_1024ng of the place where something old and important is waiting for something young and impatient to notice a deeper magic alive in the world, to come close enough to truly behold the magnificence being offered beneath and beyond the chaos and mundanity of appearances, to become slow and present enough to care.

I have heard, and hearken to this call, yet knowing that there is so much more that I can do, so much more yet to be done. It resounds in me as a call to the life that I know is possible, not just on the level of the ego and what it wants to keep the body alive and flourishing, but on the level of Soul. This call sings to me of magic, and asks if I will live as a magical act. This call asks if I will live as if every thought, every feeling, every breath, action, and response were a thread that I were weaving into the great story of Life on Earth. Because it is, and I know that.

I wonder if we will all hear this call and answer it, or enough of us to turn the tide.

This is the crux of it now: life waits with baited breath for us to care and from that caring to arrive into full participation. Beyond the confines of our individual selves and lives, where we care while remaining separate and in which we engage in various forms of numbing and avoiding, life waits, watches, and wonders if we will reach beyond ourselves, stretch beyond our comforts, to weave our care into a great continuum of being that will envelope and include the entire world. It’s within us to do this, but it’s not destined or decided that we will. It’s the great invitation of our time, and the only way through the moment.

Our collective intent is writ large across the land. Clear-cut forests lay exposed like gaping wounds, bereft of the teeming life and luscious vitality that define a living, intact woods, absent of animals, birds, plants, mycelium, insects, the holy presence of wise old trees remembering the turning of seasons and holding the ground together. Ruthlessly turned from life to product. Coffee cups and toothpicks, anyone? Mono-cropped plains that once were valley grasslands full of wild life now shrivel beneath the starvation wrought by chemicals that suck life from the soil and fell birds and bees from the skies, or in the unnatural monotony that even organic farms, at the industrial level, force upon the land that needs diversity to flourish. Our skies are striped with cocktails of chemicals that can haze away the sun for days at a time as autism and cancer soar amongst us. Our oceans are becoming a sludge of toxic, plastic goo as the refuse of our endlessly consumptive lifestyles gathers in gyres as broad as continents and miles deep, and the radiation from a failed and still uncontained nuclear disaster still flows into her wet and welcoming arms, once a place of life and healing, becoming now a place of death and sickness. Desperate moans and howling pleas for mercy float on fetid draughts from the wretched confines of factory farms and slaughterhouses, places where an ancient covenant of respect and reciprocity has been streamlined into an industry of murder and oblivion. The oblivion is ours, not our animal kindreds. They know what’s happening. We accept the insulated comfort of denial and carry on with our daily lives.   Miles of rainforest fall to the blade everyday, even though we know that the rainforest makes the oxygen that we breathe. The sixth mass extinction of life on earth is well underway, and we are all, from politicians to homemakers, focused on the lie of economy and industry as if it were more meaningful and important that Life itself.

In the immortal words of a dear friend, “it doesn’t matter how much money you have if you can’t breathe the air or drink the water.”

It’s incomprehensible the degree to which we have abandoned our kinship and broken our promises. We behave as if we are not inextricably linked with the health of this breathing world inside of which we are nested, as if the very nature of industrial society is not utterly, deplorably violent. It builds and sustains itself on the backs of billions of lives violently wasted in an endless pursuit of material benefit, a pursuit that is never satisfied. To the material, capitalist mind, there is never enough. We behave as if the violent decimation of all forms of life that industrial society metes out in tons to the natural world is not a violence we heap upon our own souls, as if it were not a suicidal self-sentencing of our lives to becoming short, banal, and empty of the true magnificence and beauty of life. We have been born into a world where the violence of severance from the beating heart of life itself has been enshrined as normal, and if you’re not a full participant, you’re some kind of fringe radical with a “soft heart,” a tree hugger, quaint and possibly beautiful, but not to be taken seriously.

We negotiate the degree to which we can be “green” inside of a constantly shifting equation of making our lives work. Can we afford to be “green”? Can we afford that good food, that organic clothing, that house built well with earth-friendly materials? Can we afford to let this copse of trees stand? There’s valuable timber in there. Can we afford to leave that oil, ore, gas in the ground to save the habitat of the endangered animal whose lives depend on the intactness of that space on the earth? There’s money to be made. People need energy. Lights and refrigerators need to run. Don’t question that, that’s the basis of a good life.

Rarely, if ever, do we change or abandon a plan if the consequences to life or planet are too great. Endless struggle ensues between people working for conservation and governments and businesses hunting prospects over the negotiation between life and money.   This fact ranges from the micro to the macro. This is not only something that a mysterious them out there is doing, this is a system that we are all nested inside of and complicit in.

Now here, let us take a moment to recognize something: this is what has been chosen for us, what we have been born into. That arrangement of circumstances makes awakening and becoming a change agent a more challenging prospect, since what we are born into we are immersed in as normal – “this is how it is.” Awakening inside of something and recognizing that something different would lead to a better life for all, without a tangible, living example of what that other something is, is a profound challenge. It’s a profound invitation. And it’s the one we’re facing now. What an amazing opportunity has been presented to us! We are standing in the opportunity to fully embody the greatness of the human potential, and to become fully integrated family with the holy, breathing world which is our home and of which we are a part. Magnificent! And yet to be decided, whether or not we will take the invitation and stand tall in this mana.

Take a moment, right now, to allow yourself to become aware of all the ways that you are complicit in the destruction of the world that is our only home. Just become aware. Please do not judge yourself, just become aware. The architecture of denial is pervasive and insidious: we have been trained to be in denial, to rationalize or ignore the cost of our acts, the consequences of our choices. So now, with compassion, just take a moment to notice.

What do you see, and how does it feel to see it? How would you like to answer what you see?

At this point our crisis is far beyond “environmental.” And make no mistake, we are deep in a crisis from which we may or may not emerge. To name our crisis “environmental” allows it to be minimized, compartmentalized, and contested. That conceptual framework rests on the unexamined assumption that the industrial growth society is fine as it is and does not need to be addressed as the foundation for our relationship with life, and that if we hash and haggle over the details, a little pollution here for a little conservation there, all will work out well (for the oligarchs).

Wouldn’t that just be easier? But no, no….. The crisis we are facing is leagues deeper and more profound than that: we are immersed in a crisis of the most profound and important sort. This crisis is expressed as the possibility of the end of our journey as a species, and the possibility of taking a vast swath of the planet out with us, and it is a crisis of Soul. As individuals and as a collective we have become estranged and alienated from our Soul(s), and we are on the brink of annihilation because of it.


Is this not absolutely the most important point? Is this not what deserves our full and undivided attention?

It is no longer the 11th hour: it is nearly midnight, yet we are behaving as if it were still noon.

And… and.

And I feel the breathing of that place where the old and important is waiting for the young and impatient to awaken, and I feel them moving towards each other. The steps are agonizingly slow, as slow as the congealing of stardust into a nebula, shimmering with life and possibility. I feel it in the flowering of my own consciousness, as the songs of the wind in the trees softens the organization of my own molecules, bringing me out of the confines of “myself” and into communion with life. I feel it in the deep soul searching work that my community is doing as individuals and a collective, to come more fully into the experience of an embodied life, and into right relation with life and world. I feel it as the hard edges of my personality soften into the vast continuum of life into which I know I am woven, my mind becoming gentle as my instincts become my guide. I feel it in my own re-wilding, as I deeply question what drives me, as I meditate on my moment of death when I will look back and review all that I’ve lived in the short time that I was “Maitreya.” Will I have left a good legacy? Will I have come into deep relationship with Life?

A brilliant 22-year-old European man has created an entire system for dealing with the garbage in the oceans, from the gathering of it to the proper management of what is gathered. The Achuar and other indigenous groups who have never engaged modern society before have emerged from the Amazon to weave networks of support that are attending to the preservation of the rainforests as the crush of industrial society gnaws on it’s edges and insides. Ayahuasca has leapt out of her traditional homeland, reaching towards everyone she can in an effort, from the plant world, to awaken humanity to our interconnectedness. Eco-villages are springing up like mushrooms after a rain, ripe with inspiration and pregnant with possibility for a beautiful life. Musicians, artists, writers, dancers, all manner of artists are spreading the message of awakening as far and wide as their voices will carry. Countries all over Europe and South America have ousted death-dealing chemical companies from their lands, refusing to submit to their genetically modified murder of the land and people. Permaculture is taking the world by storm, a wonderful collection of governments in Europe have become true servants of he people, using their reach and influence to create systems that work for everyone. Mushroom scientists and enthusiasts are developing endless ways that mycelium and mushrooms can remediate places poisoned by industrial pollution. The white blood cells of the collective body are hard at work, inspired and indefatigable in their dedication to the cause of life on earth. The world is waking up! There is indomitable hope backed by deep and hard work, shining like a bright sun after months of heavy storm: will we all step out into the light and lift our spirits to the task? Can we all gather ourselves to do a little bit more, give a little bit more?

Everyone’s greatest efforts are needed, because as the life-affirming elements of the great “We” gather, galvanize, and move towards beauty, the death-dealing elements continue their drunken rush towards pain. There is so much good work happening in the world, so much action and energy being woven to create a thriving, sustainable future for us all to breathe into, and the agents of death and violence are hard at work as well, sucking the blood out of whatever they can get their hands on, killing and separating, engendering hate and fear and violence.

We are at the crossroads, no turning back and every step forward definitive. What are we choosing with our lives, with our time, with our actions? What are we choosing for all life here in this beautiful, fragile, wild world? Are we all going together, or will this division in the essential elements of our collective self rend the fabric of life as we know it?   Will the separation be complete or will the separation we experience now illuminate these elements for integration so that we become more whole, more potent as a result? Can we come into deep relationship with our personal souls and the truths that we are here to make manifest in the world? Can we come into deep and right relation with our collective soul and make manifest a world of beauty that thrives and flourishes? Can we live as a magical act, creating the world we want to live in with our every thought, breath, and action?

This is truly an extraordinary moment!

We are writing the future with our lives. Pick up the pen and help to craft the story. Sing your souls unique and glorious song into the concert of life. What beauty do you want to see? What legacy do you want to leave?


The Turning Point

12792392_491430591046277_5228222359559280866_oOnce upon a time i worked in a world-renowned, busy shop in a big city.  I had apprenticed there, and was cruising along with my art, having been hired straight out when i didn’t even feel that i was ready, but they said “you’re better than i was when i started, and you only learn by doing, so let’s go!”  Beaming with pride, i started with clients.
This i can say about my education in the art; i received a solid and generous tutelage from incredibly artistically and tremendously skilled people.  I also received endless support and encouragement from them, even though there were plenty of ways the edges of our various personalities and ways of being ground against each other.  I took this to be natural, and didn’t question the rightness or not of my being there, it was the fulfillment of a life’s worth of dreaming, and a privilege besides, to be with such talent, and to be so wholly welcomed into the fold (not the least because my first apprenticeship was a fiasco wherein a great deal of art and money was stolen from me, and i almost threw in the hat at that point).
There was always something that felt ultimately right, yet there was also something that always felt deeply wrong about the whole scenario, though i couldn’t place it.  I was not, at that time, too inclined to explore that beyond the point where i was attached to my identity as an up-and-coming tattoo artist in a famous shop, and besides, this was “a thing with people” – all of those are a bit strange, at least for me.  I just rested in the rightness of it and accepted the at first subtle, then progressively glaring, problems of the context of the shop and the nature of the industry as par for the course, things for me to learn how to deal with so i could get in deep, get successful, and earn a great living doing an art that i truly love and enjoy.
Within a short period of time, that perspective was demolished by two experiences; only one of which i will speak to at length here.
I sat upstairs in the shop, a long, narrow, tiny space in which there were three stations all in a row, separated by shoulder-height walls.  My station was in the middle.  I had a young woman in my chair, giving her a piece on her upper back, onto her neck, for which she was sitting admirably, and which i could also see was very painful for her.  We had begun alone, but in the course of our time B, the owner, and G, the other owner had arrived, and were gearing up for their days on either side of me.  When my cd came to an end (this was before ipods), B, who was a full on gutter punk (minus the gutter) and a world renowned photo realist, popped in some of his favorite tunes, which were obscure German death metal, sounding to me always like the hounds of hell baying in agony for having been thrown into an ancient industrial meat grinder, all recorded with the shitiest equipment imaginable.   And he dug it loud.  Shortly thereafter, he and G got into some boasting-cum-argument, which they were hurling back and forth at each other from either side of me, each hollering over the horrendous music at a progressively greater volume.  I was in the middle of this, quietly doing whatever i could to stay focused and grounded and not lose my shit with the both of them, when i realized that my client had begun to sweat, shake, and cry silently into the face rest, doing her best to toughen up and get through the process without “being a pain” or “wimping out.”
My world stood still.
A great wave rushed through me after a few seconds of utter stillness and internal silence, breathing a knowing into me of the root of the art as an initiatory rite.  I felt the sacred essence of the art surge forth and fill me, and that surging offered a glimpse of something so much more beautiful, so much more profound, so much more real, than how I was practicing based on what the industry ideal was, that tears sprang to my eyes.  I was breathless and shaking, slightly dizzy, and entranced by an awakening that was not subsiding.

A great teacher of mine once said that any sacred art that couldn’t be destroyed would be commercialized, which would neutralize it beyond recognition, and sap the pulse of the mystery right out of it.  It would therefore cease to be a way of diving deeper into the mystery of being and deeper into intimacy with the forces of life, and become a mask, a shell, and/or a parody of it’s essential nature, devoid of the life-giving magic it originally offered to the human experience.

Blinking my eyes, i sat there, my machine frozen in the air, hearing this boastful nonsense, assaulted by the horrible music, and overwhelmed by my impotence to secure the space to support my shivering, sweating, crying client, and something in me snapped.  Or snapped to, i could say.

A more right and real way to be in my position and provide for hers had just come alive inside of me.  I realized there was no way for me to properly care for her or myself in this setting, nor could the deep magic of the experience flourish there.  It was all wrong.  All wrong.  And i could only continue practicing if i made it right somehow.  If i made it sacred again.  If i made it safe, for her and for me.
I set down my machine, handed her her shirt, and spoke gently to her that i would like for us to be done for the day, and for her to come back when the shop was closed so that we could complete her piece in peace and quiet.  She wiped her tears and thanked me for that offer, after some feeble protests that it was ok, she could handle it.  I don’t know if i said or only thought that you shouldn’t have to “handle it.”
that was a threshold day.  Even though i was attached to my identity as a cool tattoo artist and my dreams of being wealthy and world famous within ten years, my relationship with the shop and the industry was nigh on killed in that moment of awakening.  When i went to my first (and only) convention shortly thereafter and witnessed some of the most deplorable behavior i had ever seen, mixed in with run-of-the-mill self-aggrandizement and petty narcissism, the final blow was landed.  I didn’t want anything to do with any of it.  In that moment, which was my turning point, the depths of my ancient, sacred agreements with the art had awoken.  As daunting as the prospect of maintaining a practice of this nature was and still is, everything in me breathed a sigh of relief: i had awoken to the pathway to right relation with my art.
Shortly thereafter i left the shop and took my practice home with me.  There was a spare room in my house which i painted blue and decked out to be beautiful, comforting, and peaceful.  this room became my studio, a sanctuary of mine wherein i could be the priestess that the art needed me to be, and the friend that my clients needed me to be.  When people came for work, we would have tea and visit before the session to drop in, bringing us into resonance and deeply humanizing the experience, moving it beyond the realm of “business transaction.”  Then when we began the session we would sit and pray together, invoking the elements, spirits, nature, and our ancestors and guides, before diving into the physical aspect of the work.  We would open the space in a sacred way, and endeavor into the momentous transformation of being tattooed with our prayers spoken, our hearts tuned to the mystery.  We would go through the process silent, or talking and sharing ourselves, or singing and praying, then close the circle with prayers at the end.  At the end of these sacred meetings my heart was warmed and lifted, feeling as though i had truly given something beautiful and unique to the person, and truly supported them to more fully embody themselves in their earth-walk.  This is still how i feel today, and still how i practice today, inevitable ups-and-downs of the experience included.  I feel that to practice in this way is to more fully engage with the inherent sacredness of life, providing a context for a deepening of self and a progressed awakening of the inherent magic of a person through the beauty of blood-rites.  For me, it’s the only way.

The way that i practice is designed to support the deepest unfolding of a person through their personal mythology in this life.  What have you gone through? Where are you now? What is your prayer with this piece? Who are you becoming with this transformation?  These are the questions that we explore when we come together, and what i have seen in people’s loves and journeys has been amazing.  The ways i have been able to support people into embodying their fullness in life has been extraordinary, growing in depth and magic with every encounter.  I am so glad that the art pours itself through me in this way, so honored that i am able to walk with this ancient, sacred spirit in my life.

This is a sacred art, utterly powerful and utterly profound.  When we give it our full attention, it gives us it’s full love.  In this time, every aspect of our lives is a testament to the deepest values of our soul and an offering to the world we want to create; i invite you to dive this deeply into the possibility of your transformation, to live your mythology, and embody the unique and brilliant singularity that you are in the world.

You are the only you there will ever be!  How is your spirit painted?