Thursday, May 23, 2013

how you do one thing is how you do all things


a woman said to me once, "how you do one thing is how you do all things." her words floated into my awareness again recently, as i watched the preparations of what would later become a fire for a council ceremony held at the ojai foundation

the sun was high over the kiva, with temperatures nosing 100 degrees all day. i sat against the earthen walls in a slim slice of shade, seeking relief from the heat. council is a practice in listening, and listening actively is exhausting.

this fire was prepared in the tradition of 'the beauty way': creating beauty by being lovingly present and leaving things better than how you found them; it's a bit like tikkun olam but with more feathers and less guilt.

our fire-maker sifted out the coals from the previous night. he mindfully stacked a collection of sticks into a tipi formation. the sticks fell twice after being set up before he got it right, but he never grew impatient with his task. he drew a spiral into the ashes with his fingers, sprinkled crushed bougainvillea petals over the fire-pit like heart shaped confetti, and set small yellow wildflowers in directions south, west, north, and east. he turned the task of preparing a camp fire into the loveliest benediction and it was a beautiful prayer to watch.

later that night, each council member made an offering on paper, a thing they'd like to release in the fire. one piece of paper would not catch fire; one offering for release would not be released easily. the hot air from the flames pushed the paper nearer the edge of the pit.

the woman next to me got anxious; it was her paper and her prayer. she asked all our relations that the paper be moved back into the fire and another council member tried to oblige, but the hot air pushed the prayer aside again. on the third attempt the paper was consumed by the flames, and the quiet stillness of the council ceremony was interrupted briefly by many soft cheers and one sigh of relief.

i mentioned to this lady that i did not know what she offered, obviously, as i had not seen what she wrote on the paper-- but that whatever she was trying to release would likely take a community of people around her to do so, as was the case just a moment before at our beauty built fire. her eyes filled with tears immediately.

council is a practice in listening and we have to listen with all our senses.

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