The Sword & The Salve

Power without love is reckless and abusive.  Love without power is sentimental and anemic.”  ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

The echoes of our drums fade away as we breathe deeply into our bellies, sitting in front of the Fall altar crafted spontaneously just for this night’s ceremony.  Leading us in a meditation to connect with the resonant field of our glorious community, the NorCal region of Shakti Rising, tapping into our intertwined roots.  We listen and are seeking to answer these questions:  What is the nature of the living energy of our region?  What are the special medicines we add to the pot of magic Shakti is cooking up across our five regions?  What is needed to expand this medicine, particularly in the Sacramento micro-region where we live and teach?  And why does it matter?  We are exploring, in the Fall tradition of Shakti Rising, to Uncover Our Roots.

Many images, stories, sensations and ideas came to us as we enter the web of our intertwined roots:

  • Water—scarce and abundant and always precious.  

  • The unseen mycelial web that lays the underground map of our region, and the places where a ring of mushrooms breaks the surface, making our work plain to the community around us.  

  • Darkness, and a calling from our region for opportunities for deep shadow work, the work of unlearning the internalized oppression that the outer social systems embed within us.

  • And rising to prominence in our imaginations and journeying that evening: The Sword and the Salve, an alchemical mingling of power and love capable of bringing about transformation.

We are a region baring the swords of fairy lore, interpreted by oracles and seers, poised to cut through the noise and falsehoods around us.  To cut the ties that keep us tethered to toxic ways of being so that the healing salve of love medicine can penetrate the deep and forgotten wounds of our many peoples.

What does this mean for the NorCal region of Shakti Rising?  We reside within the heart of California’s political and activist landscape, a major artery in our nation’s social justice network.  To our south lies the Bay Area, a land of rich historic and contemporary social justice activism, home to one of the highest concentrations of non-profits in the nation, and layer upon layer of deep and complex healing and wounding of those of us who participate in it.  To our north lies the California State Capitol in Sacramento, a political cauldron that is teeming with a powerful brew of nation-leading progressive policies and also deeply entrenched toxic systems of political oppression.

The mycelial web that underlays our region—the energetic and spiritual system of communication and fortification that connects each of us within Shakti to others working in the realm of spiritual activism—draws all of this together, positioning us as a region poised to explicitly and directly express Shakti Rising’s identity as a social change organization.  Because of our location, we have access to women and organizations on the forefront of both political activism and political policy making.  For this reason, we also face specific challenges in the ways these systems are so deeply entrenched within toxic ways of being.  And yet it is here that we can make such deep and profound impacts by bringing the Shakti Rising Way of being into these spaces, whether explicitly or implicitly.  

I have seen first-hand the ways in which the transformational presence we cultivate within Shakti can instantly shift these rooms.  Last week I had the joy and honor of bringing a Self-Care simpler to the staff of MISSSEY, a social justice organization in Oakland whose mission, as their name explains, is Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting & Serving Sexually Exploited Youth. These women operate on the frontlines of one of the most violent expressions of our society’s illness.  The culture that they, like so many non-profits, operate within is one of scarcity:  Not enough resources or time to do the work, not enough support, too many youth to save and not nearly enough of us to do all the saving.  “When I look at my mentors,” one young woman shared in circle, “they are pushing themselves at a million miles-per-hour to get it all done.  And I look up to them, and so I learned to do the same.  There’s no time for self-care.”  Their wells are running dry.

As we worked to expose the ways in which the self-care industry damages and disempowers us, and worked with embodiment practices to reclaim the ability to care for self in any given moment, we discovered deep wells of pain carried by those most directly subject to oppression and internalized oppression.  From the perspectives of the dominant culture, the deeply internalized message is that caring for self is simply not allowed, is not safe.  

I was deeply grateful to be allowed to bring this work into this space, and I learned so much from them about the deep complexity of this one, simple curriculum.  These women were willing and courageous enough to take the sword and cut through the “noise,” as one participant described it, of the scarcity mentality and the unhealthy coping mechanisms we often develop to navigate that noise.  They allowed themselves to apply to their hearts the healing salve of self-authorship, of the alchemy of power and love operating in harmony.

This alchemy of power and love, of sword and salve, is a necessary tool in making the journey into the dark to connect and work with our shadow selves, as the winter calls us to do.  As we sat in circle that night, we felt deeply the call of our NorCal region and Sacramento micro-region for opportunities to engage and heal our shadows, and the shadows that lie with our state government and non-profit systems.  Writing recently about why it is critical for social justice activists to engage in shadow work, and why manifestations of the Dark Goddess can be our guide, Layla Saad recounts the ancient Sumerian myth of Inanna and Ereshkigal.  She concludes that, “In order for us to be reborn, we must be willing to personally and collectively dismantle all parts of ourselves that make us who we are in this patriarchal, white supremacist world and die to it all completely - so we can give life to a new vision.”

This Monday, a small group of women will launch of Persephone’s Journey, a Shakti course that takes a deep dive into the underworld, with Angie Hensley as guide.  I am grateful to this group for making this significant gesture towards this challenging and sacred work of the soul.  May their journey be blessed, and may their rebirth signal a new flourishing of love and power operating in concert to shift the broken places in our souls and in our world.

Take a moment now to center yourself, connect with your breathing, and then send your consciousness down into the intertwined roots and mycelial web of our NorCal region.  What images and sensations come to you?  For you, what is the energy of our region, and what does it need?  Journal your insights, and then send them on to us, so we can include your own special medicine in the cauldron we are cooking here in NorCal.