Dowsing for What Brings Us Alive
by Geneen Marie Haugen
Friday, March 26, 2021
Sometimes grief is the presence that eclipses everything else.
Sometimes it is nearly unbearable to attend the news cycle with its unending reports of tragedies. I know people who simply tune out, but for me it seems important to stay aware even when awareness brings hours of weeping. I both want and don’t want to turn my face away. I want to know what has gone awry, even though it may be impossible to really know.
I am stunned each time another hideous event exposes human depravity or psychosis or indifference for the lives of others. Every time, I (perhaps foolishly) anticipate some kind of collective awakening. Every time, I grieve and wonder why so many of our human kin don’t seem to recognize the astonishing miracle of our mutual existence on this precious, exquisite, watery planet that we share not only with fantastically diverse cultures, but also with our companion communities of humpback whales, hummingbirds, giraffes. Is such experiential awareness and awe not available to all of us? Is such recognition occluded by human-caused suffering?
My belly aches with longing to mend what has gone awry, if only I could identify it. I want to be able to say, “Here is a way.” I can see a possible world where human ventures are created in accordance with living systems, where (bio)diversity is cherished, where all voices and presences are honored, where individual human beings are nourished and encouraged by their communities and by elders to bring forth their unique expressions and offerings. This world is so near that I can even smell and taste it. Millions — maybe even billions — of others have seen and felt shimmers of a possible world, too. And yet, here we are, heartbreak after heartbreak, with additional American mass shootings as the most recent, visible, publicized faces of tragedy and atrocity.
When I can’t easily locate a psychospiritual compass in chaotic times, the wise counsel of Howard Thurman — African-American theologian, minister, and civil rights activist — rises in my awareness yet again: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Obviously, none of us — by ourselves — can mend the terrible brokenness in the human family that results in inequities and cruelties to other human beings, cultures, creatures, and the wild Earth. Although we can participate in significant ways through social justice work, climate activism, protection of biodiversity (and more) with the bundle of tools, gifts and skills we each carry, our most meaningful and essential participation in the world might be heralded, as Thurman suggests, by what brings us alive.
If we don’t know what brings us into a state of embodied zest, we may be especially vulnerable to following profit-driven “influencers” or other popular (and perhaps shallow-rooted or even destructive) trends in media or commercial advertising.
Learning to recognize what actually brings us alive — which is rarely the same as following the directives of any particular culture (or subculture) — is itself a quest, involving a kind of psychospiritual dowsing.
In what circumstances do we tremble with mysterious vitality? What most engages our wildest imaginative capacities? When do we feel sculpted for precisely the moment we find ourselves in, perhaps as if the turning gears of the cosmos have suddenly clicked into a potent alignment?
The circumstances or places in which we find ourselves most radiantly alive almost certainly nourish the wild soul who inhabits the depths far below the surface of our ordinary, everyday consciousness. Tending and cultivating the emergence of the wild soul may be a primary way toward revitalizing human existence on this great planet.
And on another note:
After the 2016 election (which seems so incredibly long ago), I was taken by a sense that a weekly “Musing” would be a new way for Animas to participate in regenerating, resouling, and rewilding the commons. The first Musing was launched with the inauguration of the former president. Most of the Musings over the first three years were excerpts that Bill selected from his books — though a few Musings were new compositions from Bill or were serialized from my published essays and also from the writings of Animas guides, Rebecca Wildbear and John Lynch. Sometimes, we simply posted a poem.
The Musings have been held by the intriguing art and images gathered by our colleague and Animas guide, Doug Van Houten.
With the sudden upheaval that we all entered last year with Covid 19, it seemed important to be writing in (and to) the moment as our shared global experience changed lives so dramatically. That’s when I started posting Musings regularly — with a (self-determined) practice of trying to keep the posts short enough for our contemporary attention span. I took a break in the summer, when a beloved family member was nearing death.
So much has erupted into awareness in the last year. We are amidst enormous change, perhaps a collective dismemberment, perhaps an unfolding in human consciousness. I believe that how we each participate deeply matters. Intimacy and sacred reciprocity with the wild Earth matter. Experiential connection with the mysteries is essential always, perhaps even more so in our unsettled time.
Bows of gratitude to all the readers who’ve sent notes of support (or disagreement). Thank you for reading and reflecting. And now I’m going to pause from writing weekly Musings. I am sure that the Muse will call me again for this forum, maybe even soon, maybe even next week. But right now, I am intentionally pausing.
Into the four winds, I send wildest spring blessings on what is emerging from the depths.