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yesterday i listened to an interview with Robert MacFarlane, author of Underland. he spoke of the long history (6 million years!) of humans’ descent to landscapes “underneath” and hidden away–a universal, original longing to descend to the dark places for revelation: caves, tunnels, underground passages, underground railroads.

it’s interesting to consider how our interplay with outer landscapes reflects our inner landscapes…the body as bridge.

last weekend, a feminine wisdom retreat focusing on the chakras was timely after several days of illness. the retreat offered conditions in which not only to learn about the chakras but to activate and experience them–an embodied knowing. i was especially struck by the energy of the root chakra. there was something about the experience of the root chakra that revealed an inherent sense of belonging to the earth, to one another, to life. i realized how easy it is to forget, to feel a lack of belonging. i imagined myself seated upon the earth, root chakra connected and sourced by the earth’s energy as it flowed in me and through me and into the rest of the universe.

there was an embodied descent in this experience–a journey to soul that is distinct from the transcendant spiritual journey. it was divinely feminine, accessed in and through the body and opening to all of life.

i carried this energy with me throughout the week, my body awakening in new ways, listening for the lessons and wisdom it has for me as i interact in relationship with the world.

as a white-bodied woman, my descent offers medicine in the access of the wounds of what bell hooks names “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”. in other words: intergenerational trauma; racialized trauma; sin/separation from God.

bodies hold these wounds differently and all bodies do. in many bodies, the trauma is trapped, stuck. cutting life off and generating patterns of fear, scarcity, othering. i am capable of being present to this pain when i remain in my body. it is a challenge as their pain triggers mine, pulling me out of my body and straight into my head into the behaviors of fixing and solving. it’s a vicious cycle. when i stay present, there is more capacity to transform the pain rather than simply transferring it.

it strikes me that this lesson is arising (again) for me at this particular time. today is Juneteenth–the first recognized as a federal holiday–marking the emancipation of all enslaved persons in the U.S. i’m getting the message: there is a relationship between descent and freedom. and, this relationship has a lot to do with the body. to add another thread here to the yarning of this story: tomorrow is summer solstice, when the sun’s light shines upon the northern hemisphere creating the longest day of the year just before the descent into darkness once again.

in honor of summer solstice, i held Sanctuary today (a nature-based gathering + ceremony). on this day we were honoring the light, the weather was stormy and dark and provocative. as i prepared for Sanctuary this week, there was an energetic conversation between Juneteenth and Summer Solstice; the conversation was in my bones and marrow, bringing together African and European and Native lineages, weaving Lift Every Voice and Sing with John O-Donohue prayers and Starhawk readings. it felt like reconciliation. in my body. and this morning, sitting in circle for Sanctuary with the deer and the rain and candles and the ancestors…it was.

in the midst of the ritual, a family showed up to celebrate their uncle’s recent passing. raymond, now an ancestor. “they” became “we” as we shared the moment together. honoring our ancestors. honoring the moment. honoring the future ones.

when i remember to stay in and listen to my body, there are channels of energy that open up, and flow like rivers into oceans…suddenly and magically. what is the interior landscape blurs into the exterior and back again. the reconciliation i was experiencing internally was showing up externally and then cycled back.

there is an inward descent into ourselves that compels this sort of mutual connection, communion. i know that my focused intention and attention this week on my root chakra, on the underlands, on my body prepared me.

i’m reminded of a transformative experience of descent this time last year. just before Juneteenth, i was invited to journey to Maysville, Kentucky with my friend Quanita. Maysville holds a lot of history in the story of slavery and freedom in the U.S., home of both a slave auction site and waystations along the underground railroad. Quanita had been asked to come there to do some healing and reconciliation work for Juneteenth and wanted to go beforehand to get a feel of the place. as i prepared to make the trip with her–and in particular to visit the place of the auction site–i got clear that my responsibility was to stay with the embodied experiences of the white-bodied people who participated in that economic system. instead of turning my attention to the enslaved peoples who were bought and sold there (interestingly, easier to do), my job was to be present to the imagined (and real) bodies of the white slaveholders, the white women, the white children. on that earth, vibrating with the history of that place, i chose to open myself to what those white bodies came to know there, the stories they held.

descent into my body allowed my soul to access the past and the future, through the crack of that very present moment. reconciliation, embodied.

and now, a year later, i’m grateful for the reminder. to come back around to this knowing. full circle. widening circle.

today, on Juneteenth and summer solstice…

as we celebrate freedom and reckon with continued forms of enslavement

on the day the sun, at its zenith, radiates the longest day of light and turns to descend once again into the darkness,

i give thanks for:

the natural, evolutionary cycles of

descent that leads to transcendance and back again

darkness that leads to light and back again;

slavery that leads to freedom and back again;

the purpose in all of it,

and to be part of it.

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