Fear, Shame and the Two Wolves

Fear, Shame and the Two Wolves
by Michelle Katz

This week I have been sitting with questions about acting from fear.  On the microcosm, this has been part of a personal experience this week, but as within so without, I find fear is clearly a theme in the macrocosm of the world in this time. 

I am sitting in the asking of what makes us act from fear, rather than love? And what are the repercussion of acting from this place? What is a way to experience something differently? Is our experience of fear a truthful and honest reflection of ourselves?  And if not, what is?

As with all questions, I took this out on a walk. And wanting so much for my daily route to be just slightly different, I took the higher ground rather than finding myself in the arroyo on my usually trail.  Something new, different and a little more exposing, all which can stimulate fear.  Then, I saw two birds, a Blue Jay and a Woodpecker.  I watched for many minutes as they did this dance of taking turns on the tree, in awe of their synchronicity with each other and their movement for getting the food they wished to obtain.  And then in a wildly primal natural moment the Blue Jay came into the Woodpecker’s space and they had in a quick moment, full of fear and aggression. The tension and reaction was felt in all us living beings. Both birds then flew away and did not return.    

Fear is a very natural experience.  And it comes hand in hand with aggression.  When fear is felt, aggression follows and vis-versa.  I think about a very human experience of being in a car and almost getting in an accident; the passenger, in fear, may scream out, and the driver in turn may get angry (mostly, at the sense of shame/inadequacy, that that individual is not providing safety for the passenger).  Dr. Steven Stosny speaks to the fear-shame dynamic particularly in heterosexual couples (if that doesn’t apply to you, read this article holding the concept of the masculine and feminine relationship in each of us.) He speaks of how fear is connected to shame and inadequacy, continuing the cycle of fear, aggression, shame, blame.  I also think of this in relation to mothers and children of all social-emotional species, when their child is in fear, a mother can respond in aggression, sometimes at the child, and certainly at the object of the fear.  This is all a primal dynamic in social animals, this is part of the human nature experience.

The greatest possible response in these moments, is to be with the fear, authentically. Come to understand that it is bringing up our fallibility and vulnerability, bringing up our utter humanity. And our utter humanity brings up shame, because we are not falling into the cultural, religious or perfectionist ideas of self.  I wonder what it would be like if we accessed our capacity to have mature impulses of projective behavior?  This would be an indication of an initiated individual.  By not stepping into aggression but by surrendering to our vulnerable humanity.

This week, I experienced lots of fear, and I feel it’s ties to shame and feelings of inadequacy.  Both tangled up like roots inside me.  And I see others around me responding aggressively and unforgivingly.  (Even though, at my core, I knew I had and was acting in complete integrity.) This experience, led me to recall a moment in my past, where fear and shame took me, and in the practice of a wilderness quest, I was called to my next initiation. I was in need of a breakthrough experience, a contained encounter with death, something needed to change, and I needed to severe from my old identity, rediscover a new senses of Self, and be held in it all.  After sharing my story with utter honesty, my guide, lovingly said to me, “I know you feel shame, but what is your truth in this story, if you take away all the people and their ideas, all the aggressive legalities and systems and institutions, what is your truth in this?”  My reply came out of me without hesitation but to my own shock, “Love and connection.”  This is when I realized something essential about who I am, especially when experiencing fear.  I tend to go toward it, tend to want to explore what scares me most, tend to want to face it, rather than move away or create distance from it.  My value is connection.

In the macrocosm, we see so much fear happening in our political, environmental and social systems. Most notably, the fear of “other” and the fear of death.  The response is aggression and shaming.  Violence can be seen in every corner in the fight of changing fear-based religious discrimination, racism, sexism, and all the other –isms.  Additionally, environmental impacts and actions from both humans and earth are also proving aggressive, from more drilling to massive mudslides.  And the call is for a truthful and honest consciousness, an authentic understanding that: I am that, and that is me, be it another person, animal or tree.  With this, maybe we can find our way to knowing our true human nature?

The Cherokee Story of The Two Wolves, comes to mind. In this story, the grandfather explains to his grandson who came to him in anger at a friend.  And the grandfather explains that there are 2 wolves inside us, one that lives in harmony with all things, and one that is full of anger. He explains these wolfs in detail and how they both try to dominate. The boy asks his grandfather, “who wins?”  And the grandfather replies: “The one I feed.”

The greatest healing in moments of fear and shame is to find a way to relate to it, and to find love and compassion, to find our deep humanity and vulnerability, and connection to community and the world that hold us.  These truly are moments of initiation into a more mature Self, toward living more fully into who we are.

What do you in moments of fear and shame?  Which wolf do you feed?  Discover yourself and heal Shame in the practice of Council and Nature Based Healing with Oaks Counsel.

Shame and The Juniper

Shame and The Juniper
by Michelle Katz

Shame is a wide-spread epidemic. Across our culture and the world.  If we are human we have felt shame, some of us more intimately than others, some of us more engagingly than others. This week alone, I felt shame about my anger, my decision making, the inconveniences of my health issues, and my sexuality, and that’s only the big stuff of the week!  Additionally, I have felt shame sneak in from something as small as how my dog responds to someone, how I parked my car, how tidy my house seems to guest, or a typo in an email.  As I grow up and older the smaller stuff losing it hold but the bigger shames take me for a wild ride.

There are many big shames I have known in my life.  You know, the ones that seems to take up years of my life in one day, that absorb my spirit, keep me up at night, add a couple grey hairs to my head, stimulates all sorts of anxiety that trickles into my physical well-being; the ones I hide so deep in the crevices of my being.

Brene Brown speaks to shame in many of her inspiring books and in her encouraging TED Talks. The greatest take away about her study and knowledge on this topic is: that healing shame can be found in vulnerability.  Exposure and uncertainty can be terrifying, no doubt about it, and that is all tied up in deep fear of rejection.  Brene tells us how our vulnerability is incredibly courageous and it is a way that we step into our lives more honestly.  And if we step into talking about our shame, we stop being and keeping ourselves small, and we generate change.  All important parts of a Rite-of-Passage.

Shame is our way to access the soul.  Francis Weller also speak to this, reminding us that shame shows us how deeply imperfect we are, and thus shame is linked to our feelings of inferiority. It breaks us apart and open.  In shame we know, so gut-wrenchingly, that we are not who we think we are.  That our image of self and our actually authentic self is incongruent.  And we feel this contrast so profoundly and with such discomfort we come to harbor it in the quiet recesses of our being.  Which just happens to be where our soul resides.  Thus, our inferiority shows us the way to soul and invites us into a deeper relationship to the parts of self we would rather hide from the world.  The soul, is all about the caves, failures, mistakes, defeats, it is all about confessing our fallibility and inferiority and showing up bigger and more fully than ever!  Soul begs that we show up in our bigness!

This week, in my moment of shame about my sexuality and my health, in a society that shames sexuality constantly and believes that people should be healthy and happy all the time, I took myself on a walk.  I walked with my shame.

And, as the path turned, I saw The Juniper.  This one different than the others surrounding it.  In looking closely, it has 3 small patches, in different locations, that were bright yellow, thick and swollen and resembling coral reef.  And these parts, revealed themselves openly, honestly and authentically, without shame.  Though I could only truly imagine this is some form of dis-ease for this tree, I felt its strength, as it did not question its ability to live life or who it is, though this may be something is struggles with daily.  It did not hide these parts, but showed them fully, as opposed to the other limping bland-brown pine needles hiding in the thicker parts of the other junipers. 

I began to recall another moment of deep shame in my life, and how intently I kept my secret and subsequently I kept myself small, hiding, and truly believing that sharing this shame would kill me. (Realizing now that keeping it was killing me more certainly.) I recalled coming out of this with vulnerability, tearfully disclosing this secret, showing my imperfect pine needles, which I once thought would make me utterly unlovable and rejected.  And nearly everyone, showed up to love me even more than before.  I felt my humanity. And you know what?  My life wasn’t over; however, it was forever changed.  This initiation experience was especially profound.  As I let go of who I believed I was, each time in my sharing, severing from the past, I found the room to discover and be who I am, rather than fighting to be the image I had of myself.  Sitting in the unknown of who this new me was, I was finding my people, those who I knew were witnessing me truly live into myself.  A Rites of Passage of the soul.   

More than anything, I found myself inextricably drawn to this Juniper, and the beauty of these different parts.  These patches were undeniably bright, with ocean-like aliveness in foreground of the contrasting desert and so strong in its’ broad and distinct stance.  It seemed to know its own nature, and revealed to me, the bright-strong-aliveness of my own human nature.  What makes me fallible, deepens my existence, nurtures my true nature.

Come explore your human nature, shame, vulnerability, Soul into a deeper knowing of Self with Oaks Counsel’s nature-based healing practices.  Be sure to check out our upcoming Day Quest: Sexuality Circle on January 28th, to dive into this rich conversation.

Treating Everyday as a Ceremony

Treating Everyday as a Ceremony
by Michelle Katz

I often find that I am asking myself, “how do I live this practice?”

Life are busy.  And since I am not at the point where Oaks Counsel and nature-based healing provides for my living, I have to find a way to invite this practice in-between working a full-time job, starting a new business, caring for loved ones and staying connecting to community, all while managing all of life’s daily demands and responsibilities.  And when depression, anxiety, shame, grief or illness come, (and we fall short on the happiness standard of our culture), when it’s hard to get out of Bed-Island, let alone manage to do all those other things, then, I truly ask, how I can embody this practice?

The answer falls to 2 small things:

1.)   Recall and refer to the medicine wheel of human nature, and
2.)   Go outside

 The medicine wheel of Human Nature, voices the story of my nature, that within me is every direction of being and it’s not always a positive experience.  I remember that there are phases and times of life that are dark and worrisome and that these are times worth living and feeling the experience of, for they inform our purpose and our sense of who we are. Through this consult, I remember that I, and all humans, are constantly changing and moving around the wheel and that one element offers healing to another, and round and round we go.  These feelings are not to be escaped. They are to be embraced.  And in this I can feel validated in my authentic experiences.

As someone who struggles constantly with depression, I wish to mention that so often, we believe it to be an experience of utter sadness.  However, this does not feel accurate to me.  Sadness somehow suggests a release of emotion, whereas, in my experience, depression feels more so about an inability to emote; emotion is quite literally depressed, pushed down. The very essence of this experience, begs us to look at and answer the deep question of: Who am I?  Jim Carrey speaks about this time as needing Deep-rest and a questioning of one's identity. This is a West Shield experience, in the human nature of the medicine wheel.  It is where the dark places and a big Rite-Of-Passage calls us.  It is a time of deep-rest, a time of going within to find who we are.  Consulting the wheel of human nature, helps me find our way to understanding, accepting and into living it.

The second thing: Go outside, can be pretty simple and self-explanatory.  There is no question about the research that nature improves our health, both physically and mentally in various respects.  I know I can feel a difference in me within just minutes of being in nature, touching a tree, looking at the sky.  And even more so, the way that I best embody this nature-based healing practice in my daily life, is to a daily walk with the practice of threshold.  That is to say that I create a line in the sand, between two trees or across the rocky boarder of my driveway and I stop in front of it on my daily walks.  I pause for a moment, and quietly whisper to myself, naming an intention for my day.  When I cross that line, I enter liminal, numinous space, where the named intention carries me forward into the unknown and the birds, leaves, wind, trees, and rock tell me how to live this intention. On my return home, I cross that threshold again, I naming my intention again, and I begin to incorporate that however-many-minute-walk into my life. Throughout the day feeling nature inside of me.

Yes, life is overwhelming, life is busy, states of being or emotion seem to take hold of us at times and finding light or space can feel impossible.  But I would love to invite you to practice just these 2 things: Acknowledge you are experiencing your human nature and take the time to be in ceremony with intentional time outside. When you are ready, join Oaks Counsel for one of our programs or nature-based experiences to expand on this experience.


Time for Intent

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Time for Intent
by Michelle Katz

Intention is one of the important and valuable elements of rites-of-passage and nature-based healing.  Intent is the ability to deliberately give our conscious attention to a specific life purpose.  This is a powerful practice.  It could be this one thing that distinguishes if we are simply going for a walk or having a nature-based healing experience.  Intention setting helps us walk in a purposeful manner.  Bringing our big questions or our greatest hope to the forefront in order to best reveal our true Self, and then allowing nature to guide the rest.

In the experience of many challenges, I have been challenged to walk my practice.  However hard it may be in the moment that depression or anxiety take hold, I recall all the elements of a rite-of-passage and recognize what is needed.  And when I am ready, I sit in the knowing of myself and I name my intention.  Then, I take it to the threshold.

This week, after yet, another great battle within myself, I found myself in the landscape of Abiquiu, NM.  In a small cabin surrounded by red earth and white rock, a pinon and juniper forest with roots going deep and wide, canyons carved into the earth to reveal beauty in the passage of time, and mesa tops offering views and perspective of all directions.  The night sky moves from blues to pinks and yellows to indigos and violets, and the moon makes the landscape clear and walkable, though the stars still show themselves as guiding the way of the soul in the darkness.

We all have times in our lives when we fall into a deep slumber.  A time of being unconscious, of not doing the work our psyche craves in times of initiation.   A time of avoiding the initiation.  A time of just getting through or a time of being naïve.  When we wake up, there is grief, for we have failed to acknowledge what was true and possible within us.  And then the invitation for initiation shows itself.

Ready to begin my work, I walk out of the land.  My intent at the moment is to find myself healthy, strong and lovable.  I sit on rock at mesa top, overlooking canyon and riverbed.  I ask myself, what is it that needs to be released?  I sit.  I go inward.  I feel.  The naïve unconsciousness, the self-judgement and victimhood have always been a formidable force.  I weep for the ways I have known them.  And I walk the land, collecting things.  A beautiful rock for my victimhood for it has served me well, even for generation before my birth.  A gray and white sandstone, crumbling if not touched delicately, for the self-judgement that leaves me so fragile.  And a magnificent piece of petrified wood, for that part of me that is naïvely unconscious in not knowing what I truly am, wood or rock or both? Back to the cliffs edge, I hold these pieces of self, thankful for the purpose they have served in my life.

Then, I sit.  Go inward.  Feel.  Into the question of what is needed, what can I invite in or remember of my true Self?  My health.  My dedication to this practice with nature.  Forgiveness and loving myself.  And, again, I raise to walk the land, collecting things.  It was more effort to find these things, wandering from Juniper to Juniper, looking beneath rocks and branches, eyes scanning from sand to tree tops.  First to reveal itself to me was a golden ball of sap with small twigs clung and embedded within it to speak to me of my dedication to this practice with nature and how deeply connected we are.  Then a small stick with intricate detail in its fibers, told me of the movement of the body and my health.  And then, another sap dropping, this one, more red and heart shaped with the whisper of forgiveness and the throbbing of being lovable.  Back at the cliffs edge, I arrange all these pieces of me around myself.

I sit.  Go inward.  Feel. I rise from my seat, ready, and one by one, I pick up those part of myself I am ready to let go.  Naming them in the release and throwing them into the depth of the canyon with all the force inside me, May this practice wake me up!  And tenderly, I pick up those parts of myself, held with the depth of my intent for: my health, my strength in my practice, and my lovability.  And I walked them over to a beloved knurled tree beside the cabin, and with the three objects delicate in one palm, and in the other a gripped white rock digging into the earth.  Naming each object, one by one, as I place them in the earth, planting them like seeds, covering them over to grow with earth and elements, in time, May I feel them grow in me.

This is a powerful practice of intent. I will carry it in me as the land does as it does to these part of Self and may it inform my purpose and passage at this time.

Hone in your intention during this auspicious time of the year, with Oaks Counsel.  Check out our upcoming Day Quests, Rites-of-Passage programs and Personal Passages to see what meets you best.



Ritualizing the Dark

Photography credit to Christopher Chammartin

Photography credit to Christopher Chammartin

It’s quiet a noteworthy week.  Within this seven-day period we acknowledge the last day of Hanukah, the celebration of the Winter Solstice, the merriment of Christmas and honoring of Kwanzaa, and even Festivus for those that fall elsewhere (perhaps on a pop-culture end) on the holiday spectrum. 

Much can be said about all of these celebrations, individually.  This week, however, invites the opportunity to acknowledge the common theme within them. We know this time of year is largely about the story of light and darkness, with a particular focus on the light.  Hanukah offers its story of the incredible miracle of light, for the light that miraculously lasted eight days when there was only enough oil for one, thus for eight days we light a Menorah adding a candle each night; Winter Solstice celebrates the return of the sun beginning its journey north to offer us longer day light hours; Christmas not only has us bringing out all the candles and twinkling lights, but at the root has us celebrating Jesus’ birth, the light, the savior of the people; Kwanzaa carries the light of seven beautiful core values/principles of a culture, symbolized by the lighting of the seven candle Kinara.  As for Festivus, the idea itself offers light, in a time when everyone around you may be celebrating something, it is the light of giving those outside these other traditions something to celebrate too.

It is clear that the light is being celebrated during this time of year, across the world and in many cultures. 

However, from my seat, I cannot help but wonder why the focus in not on the darkness as well.   It is around this time that we need the light, indeed.  But can we truly honor the light without acknowledging and honoring the dark? 

The Solstice marks the shortest day of the year, but also the longest night.  And we still have some time till the light and dark find their way to balance each other out at the equinox.  Thus, it feels pertinent to not only focus on the light at this time but also to mark the importance of the dark. The dark lives deeply in these holidays, and long after the holidays pass. It lives deeply in us.  We will long live in and with this darkness. (Festivus may be the only holiday the overtly explores this darkness with its traditions of Feats and Grievances—we all have them, and hardly name them during this time of year.)

Who wants to celebrate the dark though?  I get it.  It's uncomfortable, it challenges the way we see the world, and it forces us to rely on parts of ourselves we don't usually rely on.  The Dark is not easy.

I have found myself in a particular state of darkness this season, and I am practicing all I know about how to create ceremony in dark times.  It seems to me that the darkness is truly what makes the ceremony.  It is the space where ritual calls me forward to really show up as I am.  It invites a daily, maybe even hourly, severance, threshold crossing and incorporation.  And certainly a daily intention setting and time for deep reflection.  And what I find most opening and compassionate in this time is when my community does not try to save me or show me the light that is available to me.  But, rather invites me to dive deeper, giving me full permission of be in the dark, to explore this darkness till I find my own way to the light, my way, to my light.  In these dark spaces with myself, if I keep wishing for the equinox, I fail to except the darkness and the important role it plays in human nature.  I find that the great realization is to surrender to all things having right pacing and that the darkness throughly informing the soul and the light whenever it may come.

I invite you to sit with the darkness during this time of year, as it arrises. “As within, so without.”  And be sure to find your way to step into ceremony with the darkness, call it out, name it, sit the long night hours alongside it.  Check out Oaks Counsel, with programs that guide you through this process.  And, be sure to truly explore the darkness in our upcoming Step into the Darkness: Night Walk.


Most of all, Happy Holidays! (In all you celebrate!)

Finding Grounding in Times of Grief

Photography by Carl Dickens 

Photography by Carl Dickens 

Finding Grounding in Times of Grief by Michelle Katz

Grief can arise in the face of loss of someone precious to us, in times of illness, at the end of a significant period of time, or through the experience of various other life transitions.  For me, the most overwhelming of grief happens in times when I realize I failed to be who I thought I was. 

This past week, something happened that left me questioning everything I believe I am.  I spiraled deep into grief.  I fluctuated through all the emotional stages, denial came first and strongly, telling myself all sort of naive stories about myself; then, angry and blaming, energy flowing out of me in wild ways, forcing my issue onto others as their fault and their doing which caused my life to forever be changed.  I began to then think of all the things I could have done differently, “if only I had…”  and this is when it really hit me hard. In the bargaining and depression, where I realized it’s all about me and my choices that have led me here.  Somewhere along the way I seemed to have abandoned myself, falling unconscious, and thus put my integrity and well-being all on the line.  Sometimes, as humans, we make bad decisions.  And so I sat in this knowing which plummeted me into the depths, the deep depression of knowing I am not who I thought I was. 

At times like these, though leaving the house may very well be the hardest thing to do, time on the land beckons me toward knowing something greater, toward healing.

I came to the landscape of mesa tops and petroglyphs for perspective: both of ancient timelines and outstretched mountain, village, and distant views.  The petroglyphs reminded me of the ancestors, all those who came before and the struggles they faced and survived; the landscape vistas showed me how many ways one could look at something, even when standing in one spot.  And then, with a nothing other than sudden BANG! I recalled that this landscape is surrounded by shooting grounds.  With each trigger pulled and shot released, I felt my ideas of myself get wounded.  One bullet, a partner leaving me for another woman, I must not be enough; second bullet, I’ve been lied to, I must not be worthy of truth; third bullet, people keep taking care of me, I must not be able to take care of myself; forth bullet, a diagnosis, and now my body is not able to function as it used to, I must be unhealthy; and on and on…I felt the shots viscerally in the moment on that mesa top, hitting my limps but leaving me alive. I recalled all the wounds that shattered a believe about myself, and then I remember each period of recovery, never easy and always important.

At times like this, forgiveness is being called to be known.  And still, forgiving ourselves, in all truth, is not something that comes naturally.

On the mesa top, I watched my dog eye a rabbit it so deeply wished to chase.  Knowing herself well enough to know the rabbit is one of her only worthy opponents in a race, she eyed the rabbit’s movements, readying herself for the chase, and then darted toward it. But, she was still on leash. Her dart forward only abruptly bounced her backward. She tried again and again and continued to find herself unable to meet her deeply instinctual self.  In time, she gave in, knowing her boundary, she sat on my lap and watched the rabbit.  I thought of how my experiences have continually taught me my boundary, and the one this week, would be no different. I am being asked to sit with the truth of a new boundary.  In time, my dog chased that rabbit happily around the mesa top.   I am being darted backward before I can go forward to live my truth.

As my dog ran about, I held ceremony for myself, with the intention and question of how I can find self-forgiveness.  I cried in the naming and recognition of my loss of self.  And I lay on the earth fully with the grief.  Then in the knowing of this being another invitation, another Rite-of-Passage, I came to understand the work was to let go, yet again, of what I thought I was and find some way to step into who I am meant to be now, with this new turn of events. 


It was then that the gentle movement of desert shrub and juniper created by the wind. became louder than the bullets. I stood up, and felt that I needed to fall to my knees, however symbolic, it was fully a body urge.  Here I saw the long shadows of dusk from every juniper, rock, shrub and my very own body.  The shape of the shadows stretched long across the landscape to the mesa edge, as my knees grounded and sank more deeply into the sand-earth-dirt.  I grew fatigued.  My head dropped in this tireless tired. Only a moment later, my head jerked back up and there was a need to readjust my knees causing me to notice the other side: strong, permeating, bright and blinding; the sun.  Nothing else could be seen when facing that direction.  I stayed on my knees in this way for some time.

Big moments of realizing the death of some part of our ego, offer an occasion for passage, a time for marking the end and beginning of something.  There, in the challenging times that have us questioning, “who am I?”, we can step into the becoming more who we are meant to be, revealing our resilience, strength and courage.

For me, in this, may I find a way to better hold and know my own boundaries and may I honor them well with loyalty to myself; may I find a gentleness toward myself, continuing to learn and grow into myself through self-forgiveness; and rather than focusing solely on the shadows, may I find a way to always turn into the light.  And when I live these times, may I always have a dear friend and confidant to watch me move through this difficult landscape, someone I can come home and share my story with, in order to be seen and known into my new way of being.

Come find ways to truly step into your life, with nature as your ally, no matter what grief or transitional experience you may be facing, with Oaks Counsel.  In particular, you can check out our Healing Ground Grief Ceremony Day Quest in May!

A Birthday Medicine Walk

A Birthday Medicine Walk
by Michelle Katz

This year, for my birthday, I intended to be in deep relationship with myself and to be in the ritual of acknowledging a new year in my life while marking all I learned in the ending of the past year. 

When I woke up I saw the earth dusted in white and snowflakes quietly falling upon the surface of all things.  It was the first real snow, a going-to-stick-around-for-a-while-snow, of the year! The blanket of white and the gentle snow whimsically floating from sky to earth, filled me with awe and inspiration.  Each flake felt like a blessing.

Following the usual morning rituals of dog cuddles, yoga and meditation.  My best pup and I bundled up and headed out!  The Santa Fe road during a winter snowfall are not an invitation to hurry to your destination, but rather a summoning to slow down, especially when driving right into the storm.  As with all ceremonies, I watch myself feel fear and uncertainty about my choice to move in: I need new tires on my car and who goes for a medicine walk into the heart of a snow storm?  But then I remember one of the main elements of initiation, The Ordeal.  Of course we face fear in moments of transition, when we are about to embark on something that is not easy, something that challenges us to the very core of our life, something that teaches us about living and dying.  I moved through the many slips and slide of the road with on-coming traffic and depending on tires and breaks all the way into the quiet woods.  The woods presented its own challenges: solitude, silence, arduous steps with much consciousness, and a cold you can feel from your bones outward.                                                                                                                      

I stepped into the woods, with intent.  This year I claim pacing, remembering the pace of nature and the pace of my inner nature.  I have been unusually busy the last few months, demands of work and people have been dominant and so often I have adjusted myself to meet the needs and demands of my surroundings, forgetting my own pacing.  I have felt myself suffering in health, diet, consciousness, and relationship.  And for My Birthday Medicine Walk, I wished for nothing more than to remember myself.   

The whole day revealed itself in the theme of knowing my pace.  From the speed of driving to the movement of snowfall.  I walked slowly, stopping often.  The sounds of my surroundings were telling me the tale of my intent.  Snow falling, the plants and rocks receiving it, footsteps on freshly snow covered earth, the silence behind it all.    

Valleys called me to sit and watch from deep within and mountain views beckoned me to take perspective and overview of the past and the future to come.  I sat in the snow and the remembering began.  I felt myself slow.  I felt my heart beat meet that of the snow landing on pine needles and branches.  Then came the woodpecker, creating music, working for her food, connecting with the rooted wood, circling the tree trunk, and moving with her intent.  Her beat was not anyone’s but her own, she performed for no one but herself, she created her own rhythm and danced to it.  Memories of the woodpecker came to me, all the ways I have met this being in the last 8 years of my life and all the lessons I have been taught through our encounters.  It was no surprise that we met each other again on this most auspicious of days. 

I then watched my pace and my dance move throughout the day, the speed of going uphill versus downhill in the snow, the pauses at the top of the mountain versus in the valley, or among rocks versus around trees.  I watched myself powering uphill at times, going slow and steady at other time, and stopping frequently to take in the sights or hear the birds or feel the snow land on my face.  I watched myself running down hill in the snow with joy and or tip toes as to not slip shaking hands with the pinions on my way.  I knew my pace, I felt it, and lived it in every moment.

This is what I carry into my next year.  I finalized my day with the acknowledgement of another element of initiation: friends, my community, to share in the celebration of my birthday.  In in this practice, I am ready to embrace the year to come. 

Join Oaks Counsel for one of our many Day Quest offerings to celebration changes in your life.

Be Who You Are in the World We Share Together

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Be Who You Are in the World We Share Together 
by Michelle Katz

This week, I did my usual morning walk.  The air was brisk, the sky unusually cloudy, and the smell of winter permeated.  The tree I look to as an indicator on how deep we are into a season, was bare but for three small burnt-orange leaves shivering at the end of a low extending branch.  I had been so busy at work these past few months that it was the first time in a long time I felt a settling in and grounding, a remembering of myself.

I sat on the gnarled roots of a down tree, where I sit and pray, feeling grateful not only for the soil, plants, animals, elements, celestial bodies, but also, on this particular day, I found myself closing my eyes and feeling so deeply into gratitude for the remembering of myself.  Suddenly and for only a moment, came the soft falling of snow.  The crystalized ice, each of unique form, landed on me like a sweet kiss, then transforming into a bead of water on my skin, hair, clothes.  I even watched my dog take in these kisses from the sky with snout up to meet it.

This moment left me with that rare and simple feeling of knowing: knowing that all is right, that I am in the place I am meant to be in and I am doing what I am meant to be doing. 

It occurred to me, again, not for the first time, but in the constant remembering, that nature best offers me the gift of knowing my connection with living.

"We can say that there is a deeply bonded and reciprocal relationship between humans and nature.  The separation of humans and nature leads to suffering for both the environment and for humans. Realizing this connection results in a healing for both; a reconnection." (Wakeman 2014)

The other side of the story, is the way in which, day to day demands and stressors take me away from this remembering.  In the busy-ness of life, I forget about connecting and relating, leaving me, not only with the loss of my relationship to the earth but also with a loss of my relationship with everything and everyone: friends, family, my dog, myself!  It is vitally important that I, and all humans, remember our bond with nature to nurture our relationships and connections to all living beings.

When I step into nature, intentionally and with all of me, I realize that the tree is exactly where and how it is meant to be, that the rock is in the right spot, the sand and the wind know exactly how to dance with each other, and we see that all these beings are deeply relating with each other in every moment. Thus, how can I even think that this same truth is not in me?

How strange it is to forget that we are part of nature and nature is in us. The blue bird does not wish to be a white tailed deer, and the white-tailed deer does not wish to be a juniper, and the juniper does not wish to be the bee, and the bee does not wish to be human.  We are all exactly as we are meant to be and we all need each other and inform each other’s living as we are participating in the world.  Nature teaches us best about the practice of true acceptance of ourselves and our deeper connection to the world.  It is not about what we do; it’s about being who we are.

I love these moments, surrounded by all things alive, when I feel myself fully in my being. I want to invite you into this practice.  Join Oaks Counsel for our various Nature-Based healing practice offerings.  We can’t wait to celebrate who you are in the world we share with each other.

Gratitude as an Antidote for Guilt

Gratitude as an Antidote for Guilt by Michelle Katz

Rites of Passage are about the ending of one phase into another, death and survival; Thanksgiving speaks to this practice as well.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that can evoke many thoughts, stories, and different phases.  As I sit here, on thanksgiving day, I cannot help but think about the world’s various places attributing one day of the year to gratitude. This idea of the collective coming together to focus on gratefulness can be incredibly powerful, and this is what, by far, makes this day so meaningful to me. 

There is much to learn about this day, it’s histories and its variations around the globe and among cultures.  Mostly, it is believed that its origins came from people’s acknowledgment and celebration of the harvest and abundance in the time of the change of seasons. 

As for me, I find that I cannot help but think of this landscape, the history of the land, which is rife with its own understanding of Thanksgiving’s history; stories of the Indigenous and those of settlers, as well as the many stories of those who came to this land in so many different ways in the decades that followed. It all this seems particularly pertinent during this inauspicious time in our nation. 

Sherman Alexie, Spokane-Coeur d’Alene artist and writer, when asked about Thanksgiving said:

You take the holiday and make it yours. That doesn’t strip it of its original meaning or its context. There’s still the really sad holiday as well. It is a holiday that commemorates the beginning of the end for us, the death of a culture. I guess you could say Thanksgiving is also about survival, look how strong we are… You just tell them [your kids] the truth, the long historical nature of it… “Look, you tried to kill us all, and you couldn’t.” We’re still here, waving the turkey leg in the face of evil.

I have come to see Thanksgiving is a rite of passage in its origins of harvest and season change, it has been a Rite of Passage for the history of this nation, and in the present is offers us a new passage.  We could sit in the guilt of our history or we could ignore it entirely, but it may be time for the phase of choosing one of these two options to come to an end, a time for this story to die, and for a new one to be emerge, one that truly will speak to our survival as human beings. 

Thanksgiving invites us to being gratitude, if only for a day, so that it may carry us through the rest of the year, and our lives.  Gratitude can also provide beautiful healing to the old story, possibly healing guilt, and invite us into the new story of survival.  This is what I desire to sit in. 

My parents came to this country in 1979, they escaped a land and nation of persecution, coming to a country that offered them a promise or at least a potential of something new and good.  Today, I know this land has a history that is troubling.  (It I difficult to find a land that doesn’t hold some trauma at this time.)  But every day, I wish to be in the gratitude of the sacrifice of so many, so that I can live a better life then my ancestors.  There I feel acknowledgement, humility and gratefulness. 

Thanksgiving is truly about death and survival.  Even with its connection to harvest, we see things are dying and there is an outcome that speaks to living; but it is telling of a time of living differently than the season before, or the era before.  This Thanksgiving offers us an invitation for sit in gratitude for all that has passed and all that is.  And as nature teachers us about the death and dying of each season, let us be in Thanksgiving differently, and surely with intent, so that it may be part of the story of our nation’s Rite of Passage into a more mature state of living together, celebrating our abundance, saying we are all still here, turkey leg waving and all!

Step into Gratitude with Oaks Counsel to celebrate our learning from nature and histories into a new story, personally and globally.

Division Can Connect: Personal Relationships Toward Social Change


Division Can Connect: Personal Relationships Toward Social Change 
by Michelle Katz

Suzanne Simard, a Professor of Forest Ecology in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at University of BC, and Peter Wohlleben, author of The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communication---Discoveries from a Secret World, speak and write about a scientific revolution that nature is soulful, not to be dissected and studied, with no sense of its sacredness.  They say that the current era demands us to transition our way of thinking and learning about nature, and I believe we should do the same about our thinking and learning of other humans!  How do we treat all living beings in a sustainable and life-honoring way?  Nature is not a mindless machine, it is a complex living systems with intelligence, and most notably, with intricate relationships!  Simard’s and Wohlleben’s research has shown that, without a doubt, forests are in fact communities with adaptive networks, they help feed each other, and help each other grow.  In fact, these networks, look a lot like human neural and social networks!  This offers us a lot to learn about community and about survival.  If we, as a species intent to survive, it may be in our best interest to learn how to live in balanced way, to learn from the way plants and fungi live, then perhaps we can find our resilience for the long haul.

As of late, I have found myself in deep and continual dialogue about diversity.  These are not easy conversations. I am finding lots of fear in these places/spaces.  Fear of being hurt, fear of being misunderstood, fear of being accused, fear of being stereotyped, free of saying the wrong thing, fear of hurting another. I wonder if there is a way to grow more willing to be with this fear, because it does not seem like it will be going away anytime soon.  And if we can do this, then, maybe, the fear will slowly dissipate and leave greater understanding.

This past week, I sat with a diverse group of individuals.  Many ages, races, genders, religion, and ethnicities, represented within this small group. When I looked around at the faces, some familiar and some new, my heart felt so full.  (something whispered about a microcosm of America and what it dreams to be.) As each one of us took turns to speak of our lineage into the circle in any way we can, I felt expansion.  And as our time continued on, I watched as individuals began to represent a group in our greater population.  I found myself following suit, stepping in as a Jewish Woman, when I don’t feel I truly represent this whole. I began to then think of the psychology of those that hold the not so obvious minority culture, versus those that are more obviously of a minority culture.  I thought about the discrimination many face, and how now it feels as if no group is immune to this.  The defensiveness is in everyone.  I thought, then, about the happening in Charlottesville this year (being particularly hurtful for me) and the many similar events that occur before and after.  These demonstrations revealing how far back in the past we are in this fight.  Inside I was screaming, “I don’t want to talk about what makes me different, I just want to sit in the knowing that all our difference make it possible to create something great! Complexity can be simplified!”

At this time, I, frustrated, decided to take a walk.  I went toward the mountains and into woods, I walked a snowy path with foot prints along the way, rabbit, deer, children, adult; I heard birds, blue, wren, chickadee, raven; I touched trees and plants; large, small, pinon and ponderosa, shrub; I stepped on wet soil, pine covered soil and rocky path.  I felt myself truly relating to the world here.  I sat on a rock and watched at the creek moved through the landscape and how the sun hit and shade crawled onto the area.  And I recalled Suzanne Simard and Peter Wohlleben. I was on the land, learning about diversity and societies working together! I remembered that it’s not about claiming our differences or what divides us and standing strongly in the need for apology of any wrong doing toward these differences.  It’s about acknowledging and seeing how the differences inform the whole, Relationship is what creates reparation.  And it’s not the relationship between every Pinon and every Ponderosa and every Aspen and every shrub in the whole world (that’s too much to ask for right now), it’s about the relationship between the Pinon that rests in the arms of the Ponderosa, or the shrub that faces the Aspen across the river. The invitation was clear to me: personal relationship is what moves us toward social change.

Later in the week, the invitation and opportunity revealed itself again.  I watched people got uncomfortable in the conversation of appropriation and how we can come to respect of each other, offensiveness and fear revealed itself in everyone.  I watched uncertain of engagement and how it can lead to positive outcomes, and I saw others want to jump in with both feet with the desire to become more and more conscious in our ever changing society.  I know both paths have its difficulties.

I again returned to my time in the woods, knowing from nature, that engaging in the conversations of potential discomfort but continual curiosity, we grow, and it won’t be a world change until we do the soulful personal exchanges.  Let’s stop dissecting ourselves and each other and come to a place of acknowledging we are all sacred, and all worthy of honoring, and in this, humanity as a whole can be more sustainable.  Humanity is complex, our relationships are complex, but we can choose to take a cue from nature, and be complex in a way that supports each others' growing together rather than breaking us apart.  Let us find a way to work together as the woods do.  It is time for us to adapt, to feel what nutrients are needed across the river to ensure our survival, and send it that way so that we can continue to look at each other for the long haul.

Learn from nature toward the resilience of humanity with Oaks Counsel.  Check out our programs and offerings!

Us Too, We Have

Sculpture: EQUALITY EMERGING - THE PEOPLE by John Behan.  In Galway City, Ireland.  "Equality Is But Difference – Respected and Celebrated."

Sculpture: EQUALITY EMERGING - THE PEOPLE by John Behan.  In Galway City, Ireland.  "Equality Is But Difference – Respected and Celebrated."

Us too, We have by Michelle Katz

I feel sad in this #metoo/#ihave movement.

I understand and can also feel into the great impact of this movement for women and other minority genders finally having a voice in the face of perpetrators in our lives throughout the many years we have faced so much of this on a regular basis.  And I can also hope and believe that the men that are apologizing, admitting and speaking up with #ihave are providing some healing or retribution for these experiences.

What saddens me is not the movement’s intent. What is causing so much hurt in my heart around this is the movement’s process and some of its potential outcomes to create more rupture and more pain.

It is important, and can even be beautiful, to bring such shadows into the light.  To make what is unconscious, conscious for some healing or deep understanding.  However, I feel uncertain about if that is what is happening.

Here is how I am seeing this:  women are finally sharing stories of being victim to incredibly hurtful misogynist acts  with men as the persecutor, and men seem to be feeling obliged now to speak to it with admittance/apology.

As for the depth and feeling about how these men are experiencing the repercussions of these actions, that I leave to each individual man to know in himself.  And I leave it to the women (and other gender identities) who hear the admittance/apologize to accept them in a way that feels good and true to them, in hope that it does indeed, leave them some resolve.

But for me, what it all brings up, is two primary questions: 1) Where is the empathy, the process, the movement toward greater healing? 2) What are the impacts of this in the larger culture?

I wonder if the hurt being expressed is creating more hurt/fear?  Are we forgetting that age old knowing that most perpetraters are victims first? Are we blindly continuing to follow this pattern?  Where is the empathy? “I’m itching to live in a world of empathy, where none of these reactions is wrong—and where we can engage with each other openly about the venomous stuff inside us that has resulted from having been trained, all of us, to behave in our different but interlocking fucked-up ways.” (Joanna Bock)

I cannot help but wonder about the process of this all.  It seems to me something essential is missing or being forgotten.  The empathy.  It seems like the Anima, the essence of the feminine (and when I say feminine, I do not mean female, but rather the symbolic/inner feminine that lives in all of us, a soulful and relational part of Self), that, underneath is all, is really what is being called on to emerge, is also being forgotten or lost, because this does not feel like a truly feminine way, it feels like an imitation of the culture we have so long lived in and felt dominated by.

In this process, are we not harming as we have been harmed?  Are we not using the same tactics of victimization?  Have we forgotten that there is a way to do it differently?  A way that speaks deeply of the feminine.  A way that says, “I see you (people of all genders, race, gifts) and I see your wisdom and your suffering. I see what you offer and what you know, and I deeply understand and accept it, and wish to find a way for us to meet in a good way so that we can honor all parts of ourselves, including our weaknesses and strengths.  For ultimately, your weakness and mine, your strength and mine, create the beauty and connectedness of our world.” 

Yes, I agree that it is time for a change, for the feminine to come and shift our culture in ways that need shifting.  But are we doing it in a way the speaks truly to the shift or are we just doing it in the same old way?  Which opens up a number of additional questions for me: are we seeking revenge? Justice? Understanding? Or true cultural shift?

Is the #metoo movement meant to create guilt and shame?  What if we are creating a society in which men become so afraid to talk to women, out of fear they may say something “wrong”, and women, in a desire to protect themselves, stay away from men?  Does one have to be or feel lesser than another? Are we seeking to lecture or are we seeking to learn through authentic and empathic communication? Where is the deeper connection? Even the "I" and "Me of this movement speaks volumes to where we are at in this process, I beg for the "Us" and "We", because we all do it, we all are persecutors, we all are victims and we all are healers.

Riane Eisler speaks of a partnership-domination continuum, in her book the Chalice and the Blade.  She asks us to look at relational dynamics in a systems way, rather than a dominator way.  The dominator way is by ranking, in which differences lead to superiority or inferiority; it's authoritarian in nature and often involves a high degree of abuse and violence.  The Partnership model suggests that we see how different components of a living system interact to maintain one another and the larger world of which they are part of. This model is what we see in nature, thus, this way calls us to remember our human nature.  As every element of nature plays an important and vital role in contributing to the greater whole of nature, so is true for humanity.  Seemingly dissimilar elements are deeply and intricately related and working together to make it possible for the living system to not only live, but thrive!  What if power could be empowering for everyone rather than disempowering?  Eisler called this partnership model, “gylany”, coining the word for a society in which relationship between the sexes are seen for all they bring, are more peaceful, and are focused on life-giving and nurturing.

So often, I have found myself apologizing for my existence, much of it may be my Jewish lineage and the historical trauma of Jewish persecution I hold in me, and much of it may be the fact that I am a woman (noting the many times I hear women apologize needlessly).  Regardless, I know what it is to constantly apologize for being who I am, and I would not wish this upon anyone, not Nazi’s, not men.  The apologies will only go so far, for me, it is the sitting in circle, learning from each other with all of our hearts involved, and seeing how we all contribute and fit together that will help me most.  We all are worthy of this life.  We all hold human faults.  And, I believe, in order to create true cultural shift, we must come to celebrate each other’s existence. 

My hope/wish/call is that the #metoo movement not use the same format we have learned but come to find another way to bring in the balance that is being called forward for human relational sustainability.  We are in a cultural and societal rite-of-passage now, may we sever from what we know, learning from the past and moving into a new, different, intentional way toward a more worthwhile future.

Let’s step in to this major cultural passage together!  Oaks Counsel offers many offerings for rites-of-passage for individuals and groups for a greater understanding of our human nature, remembering that we are part of something bigger that we are being called to remember.

Belonging to the Earth

Belonging to the Earth by Michelle Katz

Last weekend I found myself in the land of clearing smoke post wildfire, in a place that just days before was home and refuge for those who were evacuated, in a landscape were tall trees meet misty ocean air, the sky had cleared from the past weeks happenings, the sun could be felt, and the people around were full of inspiration and hope.

The Bioneers conference offered so much in a time of uncertainty, most notably but not limited to, incredible hope and inspiration.  The variety of offerings included in-depth sessions and keynote speakers addressing human rights, nature rights, indigenous storytelling and spoken word arts, our youth, our elders, new energy economies, politics, healing. 

Every session I left feeling a sense of promising solution to the issues our world faces today.

The insight and new perspectives into issues invited deeper understanding.  I felt my mind being blown, and I loved it.

The weekend, for me, began with the first speaker, Dean Hoaglin, opening us into the weekend with one simple and true sentence: “What we do to this earth, we do to ourselves, let us be good relatives, good care-takers.”

Humans are part of nature.

The weekend continued with an insightful look at how true this is.  First we looked at trees, and how they teach us by example about many things:  Diversity, living in harmony side-by-side without judgement; Roots and fungi may not be seen but they keep a community strong through connection; Purpose, responsibility and unique role in our world.  Trees offer us a crucial lesson about survival and creating a life in balance.

The conversation moved then to how to create a world that embodies social justice.  The answer inspired me: “eliminate limiting beliefs and encourage imagination.  Inclusion is about a spectrum of possibilities,” said Victor Pineda.  Bringing in a way to sit with question of how do we live with barriers, how do we recognize that humanity is also about weakness as well as strength, that in understanding our vulnerabilities we may create bridges and be able to response to the needs of a whole population. The conversations and speakers continued to inspire as the days continued, from issues of how to create a One Fair Wage, acknowledging the unfair conditions of restaurant workers across our nation and forcing us to ask ourselves what kind of world we want to live in?  If we can survive climate change, what is the world we want to inherit, what kind of society do we wish to be part of?  The earth issues are human issues and the human issues are earth issues.

I then heard a Din’e Storyteller, Sunny Dooley: “When you are born, you are already someone’s grandmother, mother, aunt…”  She spoke about how the ancestors whisper stories in our ears, and we must hear them because those are our stories as well.  She spoke of how everything we do on the surface of the earth is connected and related to everything else.  It is our mission to authentically address every experience of our lives. And her continually repeated line : “We are epigenetically predisposed to survive.”  I felt her words in my heart, though, even more, I felt them in my bones, it was such a deep ancient truth she told.

This was only half of the first day! 

The conference continued and each offering reached parts of me I would have forgotten if not given the opportunity to be reignited by this event.  On Saturday night, I saw the community come together and drum in circle on the land and among the trees.  The beat felt to be one beat.  The experience spoke of a story of belonging to each other not only as people but as the grass and soil at our feet, the trees in circle with us, the sun at dusk and the moon beginning to show, the ocean sound on the other side of the hills and the ducks landing in the pond across the way.  john a. powell spoke about this belonging on the last day of the conference, talking about it as a place of healing through deep listening and empathy, and stating simply that this is what is critical to the survival of the planet.  He asked, “Who belongs to the circle of human concern?” Can we create a we that no one is on the outside of?  Belonging changes the structure of society, as all “their” lives are in ours.

Inspiration and hope.  Join this circle of human nature belonging with Oaks Counsel.                  




Floods and Fires: Burning the Candle at One End and Drowning it at the Other

Images courtesy of The Florida Times-Union (left) and The San Diego Union Tribune (right) and   

Images courtesy of The Florida Times-Union (left) and The San Diego Union Tribune (right) and   

Floods and Fires: Burning the Candle at One End and Drowning it at the Other 
by: Michelle Katz

Our land is in trouble, and so are we. 

I like to look at the ways nature mirrors us.  Thus, as I see what is happening in the U.S., I cannot help but sit in the question of what is being mirrored about us?

The Floods of the South:

The South, according to the medicine wheel model of nature and human nature, is a direction that speaks to us of childhood, play, being in the body. Sexuality, sensuality. Needs, and needing others to survive.  Being taken care of, attachment, attunement. When this is exaggerated, we can find ourselves in addictions, or not able to pay attention fully to anything, constant distractions, and materialism.  The water in these floods is an element that tells us about deep emotions and the unconscious.  

As one end of our country is being flooded and effected by hurricanes, can we hear and respond to the cries for help, what is needing our attention and care? How can we respond?

The Fires of the West:

The West, according to the medicine wheel model of nature and human nature, is a direction that speaks to us of shadow, the place of darkness, introspection, the “who am I?” question.  It is the place of facing challenges toward growth.  It is also the place of a death, the place of harvesting fruits from the dying.  When the west is exaggerated, we find ourselves in depression, self-absorbed and self-deprecating, unable to see what we have to offer the world. Fire is an element of powerful transformation.  As it burns beauty down, it also provides the heat that opens up the pine cones to great new life.  It can create openings to start anew. 

The other end of our country is being burned by wildfires.  Villages are being burned down because something needs to be felt and heard, and something needs to fall in order to be transformed.

Nature is telling us something essential about us in these moments.   Though, we are not in control of these big natural disasters, they are mirroring something big about us.  Looking deeply into the macrocosm, the US has been stuck in the South and West for much of our existence as a country.  We are young in this world, and often looked at by others (as youth is), we are incredible pleasure seekers, materialists, constantly distracted by the next new thing.  Additionally, we have no idea who we are, being the focus of the world, the super power country, we have taken in all the attention without being able to fully know ourselves. 

It is time to ask ourselves: what is it we provide the world?  As we fluctuate constantly between the south and west, between wanting to be taken care of and be the center of attention as well as hating ourselves, confused by our place in the world, and sad about our state of affairs; as we fluctuate between republican and democrat, between being a beacon and hiding in shame, between giving and taking from others and from the earth, how can we evolve and show up in the truth of who we are?  Even more, we see that many of our elders are not willing to step into elderhood, claiming it for what it can offer this world, and our youth are being guided but many initiated adults or silenced and unheard for the knowing they bring.  No one is growing up! And nature is literally forcing us to let go of these parts of ourselves, because we need to. We are a culture living in perpetuation childhood and adolescence.  I hope every day, we find a way to truly grow up and into our purpose, individually and collectively.

What is happening?

Trees are falling down, houses are being destroyed, lives are being displaced.  What has lived a certain way for a long time can no longer live the same way now and every again.  Those of us who can, must ask ourselves, how do we survive this?  What can we learn from this?  What will bring us to what’s next?  What is next?

What happens when the fires and waters at each end of us meet, when we are simultaneously filling our lungs with fire and water, when the candle is dissolved, limp and non-existence.  Perhaps it’s time to start a new wick.

I believe these natural disasters are informing us to experience a rite-of-passage as a country.  To grow into who we are.  Perhaps, we may learn that we are the people that rise in the face of chaos to help one another.  That our identity rests firmly in our humanity.  Perhaps our gifts can be revealed and we can take our proper seat in the world.

 And on the microcosm, may be learn that each of us has our individual work to do, in this same manner.  It is time for each one of us to feel the flooding and burning within, to face challenges, turn to our community with perspective and knowing, so that we can be who we are meant to be in order to better ourselves, our community, our country, the world/nature we are part of and is part of us.

Step into this work, individually and as a community, for the world. Sign up for a rite-of-passage or nature-based program with Oaks Counsel.

Weaving Time: A Call for Intergenerational Councils

Photography by Geseko 

Photography by Geseko 

Weaving Time: A Call for Intergenerational Council by Michelle Katz

In preparation for Oaks Counsel’s upcoming Day Quest, I have been finding myself acutely attuned to the generations a call for bringing the dialogue together.

This week began with me sitting in council with teenagers, asking them the question of what it is like to be a teenager today?  I began the council practice to provide a model for sharing from the heart in this way.  I recalled being a teenager in my time, 16 years and 1 month ago, to the day of that circle, was 9/11, and I remembered being my teenage self, hearing the news of attacks on American soil.  I recalled feeling that an experience of safety had somehow left me.  Just a couple years after that, still in my teenage years, I recalled the college my brother attended having a shooter on campus.  Again, my feelings of safety were challenged.  On top of this, I recalled how unseen I felt as a teenager, how I felt my parents continually saw me as something I was not, and how I struggled with asserting my Self and exploring my independence.  I recalled the internal conflicts I faced when it came to my peers; never quiet fitting in and feeling the difficulty of “group think”, I often found myself alone in the hallway at lunch, with my sandwich and a good book.  I recalled the adults that really supported me through this time, the mentors and allies I felt connection with, the teachers and parents of friends, without whom I am not sure where I would be.

I passed the talking piece on.  And the thread between us began to weave.  As we all held the theme of isolation and loneliness in these years.  And we all had our stories of struggle and growing pains.  The teens spoke about gratitudes and hardships.  Of finding the delicate balance in figuring out how to care for others while developing and independent sense of self.  Of finding pockets of acceptance and yet knowing a feeling of discrimination. 

I was left in the question of how do we come to know ourselves in this time and how can we best support our teens through such vital passages in a way that ensures they feel more empowered and important to this world?

Later in the week, I found myself in an unexpected council with an elder.  We spoke about changes in career, success and loses, struggles with family and ways to practice better loving communication with great conscious effort and work, she spoke about seeing the world, and living through life-threatening illnesses, hope and love and adventure, failures and lessons and successes, letting go and taking things on, starting anew again and again.

Again I found myself in the questions and resting in someone knowing as well, how do we come to know ourselves in this time and how can we best support our elders through such vital passages in a way that ensures they feel more empowered and important to this world?

I hold these two stories in my heart this week.  Feeling the calling inside of me, the urge to bring all the generations together to talk and learn and call on each other in a life-giving way.  I hear the story of generations that feel unheard and unseen, that don’t know what they can or have to offer at certain points in their life.  The answer is clear to me; each generation offers so much!  These conversations are rich from teens, elders, and all those in-between.  Let us lean into listening to each other.

Join Oaks Counsel on October 29th for an Intergenerational Council Day Quest.  Let us hear from you, you teens and young adults, you elders and olders who know so much, when we live in an ever changing world of uncertainty.  Let us turn to those that hold an important perspective of history and to those that call us into what is to come!

Mass Shooting and Hearing the Story of the Aspens

Mass Shooting and Hearing the Story of the Aspens by Michelle Katz

I awoke Sunday morning to the headlines, the daily news, hitting my heart in way that echoes through my life.  Another mass shooting in the US.  The numbers keep escalating and frequency increasing.  We are killing each other and ourselves and doing nothing about it.  It is hard for me to not get disheartened by these events.  It now seems that our response to these events is to become more and more detached, in the normalizing of these situations.  It’s such a tragic happening, and even more so when we lose our ability to authentically and heartfully react, thus becoming removed and dissociated from what’s happening in our world.  How can we not look anther and see, that person is the same as I?  Are we feeling so powerlessness, stressed isolated? Where is our sense of connectedness and our knowing ability to create change? For those people who are working in this realm, who tireless aim to create change in policy through conscious activism and who create movement because of the knowing of the preciousness of life, for these individuals, I feel so grateful for your strength and the important role you hold in our society, especially noting your reliance during such heart-rendering times.

All in all, I sit and ask, what’s happening?  A question I ask myself often.  Both, on the mirco- and macro-.  My brain often comes up with theories.

That same morning, after hearing this news, I found myself in the Aspens of the Santa Fe National Forest.  Quiet in this sanctuary, listening for answers.

The rains of the past week had magically cleared with the gift of a sunny and mildly warm day.  The yellow leaves of the aspens danced above, before the blue sky.  The sounds of the leaves always different this time of year.  Their rattle speaking about being: being between life and death, between holding on and letting go, between sky and earth.  Living partly in two different states of being, speaks of confusion as well as wisdom and perspective.  The columns of white trunks usher me deeper into the woods.  I feel their presence with me, I am never alone.  Some trunks are marked, wounds or natural scars, often feeling like the eyes of the tree looking and meeting me just as I meet them.  Some carved into with messages of the love of a couple or the desired marking of existence through etching a name, all for the tree to endure and eventually absorb. The density of the groove encourages more peace, more awe.  And the vistas through the landscape reveals awareness, perspective and the worlds of man and nature together.

It’s always striking to remember the Aspens are one organism, attached by the intricate root system, they are all connected and live with each other, they are from one another, intimately linked. This is how they live, for many, many thousands of years. It is an ancient forest, largely because of its ability to loose leaves every season (in the practice of living and dying), because its able to withstand fires and grow even in harsh conditions (resilience and desire to live), and because every tree is known and connected to the larger system. This is what contributes to the longevity of this nation. This is the story of the Aspens. 

I sit in how nature mirrors humanity.  Collecting leaves from the ground like the answers to my questions.  I see how we must remember we are capable of such a living: of knowing our resilience in time of hardship and noting our desire to be alive and honor life in the face of the heat of our culture’s fires and harsh conditions.  I know with all my heart, we must learn to beautifully and naturally change the colors of leaves, as the aspens do, and to let them fall as the seasons call for them to for they will offer growth for the seasons to come.  And most of all, I pray that we may learn from the Aspens that truly and wholly, we are all connected and deeply related to each other. And may all this enhance our humanity’s life on this planet.

Experience nature as mirror in holding hard questions in your life, learn how to move with the cycles of nature and human nature, know your resilience and feel into your community with Oaks Counsel’s programs and nature-based offerings.


23 Countries, 200 Rites of Passage Guides, Thousands of Woodland Trees in Southern Germany: One Unforgettable Experience

23 Countries, 200 Rites of Passage Guides, Thousands of woodland trees in Southern Germany: One Unforgettable Experience by Michelle Katz

It has been hard for me to truly articulate what happened at the 7th International Gathering of Rites of Passage Guides.  I am still sitting with it, reflecting and integrating it.  And yet, it feels important to somehow articulate what I can about it, in living into the traditional and practice of storytelling.

From the high desert of New Mexico, lands of expansive views, monsoons and wildfires, after 30+hours of travel, and into the humid wet woodlands of Southern Germany.  Upon arrival, pitched a tent and shared a meal with friends from familiar lands and began the 10 days participating in a powerful Pilgrimage to Dachau (see previous blog post), and then, 2 days later, the larger group arrived.  200 Rites of Passage guides from 23 different countries.  Representation from Germany, Denmark, South Africa, Spain, UK, US, Israel, Columbia, Chile, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic, China, France, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland the list goes on.  It was a beautiful collection of people to bared witness to, hugging and laughing and storytelling with no knowledge of the passage of time. 

The week together began with one representative from each country stepping into the council and speaking about their country.  I heard the collective story of struggle and difficulty with political situations, social landscapes and injustice; as well as the shared story of collective caring for nature and the future of humanity.  It was powerful to witness what draws us all together.  It was deep recognition of not being individuals from many different countries, but being the world.

The councils continued.  The collective saw those that identified as Elders step into the center. I witnessed those that have experienced various changes over the time of their lives speak about how they identify with the title of Elder, what they have learned and what they continue to learn. The words they spoke offered a refreshing drink, a gentle reassuring smile and a comfort in knowing that as life continues we all continue to grow. 

The week continued and I found myself, in an honoring of being an introvert, moving my tent beneath an oak tree on the far outskirts of the grounds and wandering the lands of deep damp woods full of pines with the intermittent oaks, all meeting the rain in a soft quiet way.  It was a place of whispering life.  The meeting of the wide and fast flowing glacial water, river Isar, offered a welcomed resonance and pace. I visited often, listening to the calling.

The drums from the South African community echoed across the land every night, as did the feet that danced in sync with the heartbeat heard by human hands and breathing earth.

The week concluded with two councils to compliment the first two.  One being the community gathering for decision making regarding the location of the next gathering.  I have been, and continue to be, in awe of the way of this practice.  Mostly, I sit in awe of the communal aim and deep desire to include, share and come to a consensus, a seemingly impossible task of our time.  I cannot help but exclaim, “I love our way!”  Especially as I watch the difficulty in it all and still we stay present and stay connected to each other, and continually meeting all the differences in thought and opinion with spaciousness, time and patience for developing more and more deep understanding.

And finally, it was the council of the younger guides, the guides of the future, who had the opportunity to share and be heard and seen.  We began our circle holding hands in a deeper knowing that regardless of feeling alone so often, we are never alone and we know each other, need each other and hold each other in deep respect and loving.  We honored our predecessors, we honored our stories and needs and we dreamed of what is to come.  In the end, the whole community rose to hold, support, and celebrate the vision we collectively create.

Join Oaks Counsel for one of various programs and nature-based healing practices, to live into the vision named and witnessed at this gathering.

Honoring the Ancestors, Bridging and Dancing in the Grass: A Pilgrimage to Dachau

Honoring the Ancestors, Bridging and Dancing in the Grass: A Pilgrimage to Dachau
by Michelle Katz

This month I found myself on a journey to Germany.  The trip consisted of two parts for me: a pilgrimage to Dachau and a gathering of 200 people across 23 different Countries that offer Rites-of-Passage to the world (More on this next week.)

The first two days were spent with a small group of rites-of-passage guides coming together to talk about our ancestors, to visit one of the most deplorable concentration camps in the time of Nazi Germany.  Dachau was one of the first camps established during the early 1930’s to imprison Jews, Jehovah’s witnesses, homosexuals and emigrant. It is the site where many SS guards were trained in methods of torture, tyranny and maltreatment. A site that was a model for all other concentration camps created in years to follow.

The small group gathered the night before the pilgrimage to Dachau. We shared stories about what we knew of our lineage and how we have all held this somber history of persecution, German descendants, Jewish descendants and everyone else, the whole world holds this tragic history.  As I sat in this circle, it hit me that I sat as the only Jewish person in this group.  I told my story of my grandparents, 2 surviving the camps, 1 surviving a prison, another marking this time with her family (including 7 children) in a small hole dug out of the earth.  I spoke about the deaths I knew of that lead to my grandfather remarrying my grandmother post war and giving birth to my father.  I spoke about how the holocaust in a large part is the reason my father and subsequently, I exist.  Thus, my relationship with this abysmal happening, is challenging to the say the least. I felt quiet, holding guilt and shame, fear and heartache.

The next day, we arrived at Dachau.  I set my intention: honoring and bridging.  Honoring my ancestors and something about the word “bridging” felt important though uncertain of what it was about yet.  To honor and bridge, I crossed the threshold into this silent solo walk on this landscape. 

I felt the loneliness hit me strongly.  I missed my family.  I wondered about my mom and dad and how they might have experienced this.  I walked on the grass, because I knew that my ancestors would have been shot if they did. It was my “Fuck You” statement to it all, though the stories of the men shot on this lawn was much more offensive than my private quiet defiance more than half a century later.  Stories that are etched in my heart, of the SS guard pulling the hat off a prisoner and throwing it on the grass ordering him to get it, knowing he would be shot if he defied the SS, but if he stepped on the grass the SS in the tower would shoot him anyway. Images craved in my minds-eye of my ancestors gray and devoid of life by alive standing being fences, while I looked upon incredible Oak trees just on the other side of the metal chain-link.

I stopped at the crematorium, I walked in each chamber, where people were taken to take off their clothing because they were told they would shower, to the room they were gassed, to the room where bodies lay lifeless before being moved onto a metal stretcher and shoved into stoves.  And then I stepped into the depth of the woods surrounding this site, where ashes of “thousands of unknown” are the foundation of the landscape.  Through the depth of the woods, where I saw the firing wall, the remnants of blood stains and echoes of screams and prayers unanswered.  I touched every oak tree standing tall and strong.  I walked to the memorial built at the far corner of the site, muttering the few Jewish prayers I knew, and sat there in the dark with a far off light coming through the roof.  A light at the end of a tunnel.  I sat at the bunkers and ate a bit of bread at each one, leaving crumbs for the ancestors.  (We were told not to eat onsite but this was another exclamation of “Fuck You, I will eat because my ancestors didn’t.”). I came to the bunkers in the back and read stories of those held and tortured there. Felt the power of reading one prisoner who shared my last name, his story and death.  I thought a lot about my life.  About what I’d be capable of in such circumstances. I wondered how my ancestors had such strength and will to live.  As I walked this walk, I noticed, I did not feel sad.  I actually did not feel anything.  I was depressed, in the truest sense, devoid of all feeling, unable to emote.  I wondered if this is what they felt. I craved so deeply to feel something.


The group came together and in silence we walked off in teams of two to share something about our experience with another.  My partner took me outside the camp walls to a field, and together we collected flowers, various wild flowers grew in an unkempt field just outside these walls.  I felt myself growing joyful. We took our bouquets, and soon came to the “Grave of Thousands of Unknown” where the ashes lay and grew a forest.  I lay my bouquet down and whispered, “I know you.”  The tears finally came, I was able to move toward healing.

The group gathered again for a finally ceremony on the land with honoring and prayers.

When we shared stories the next day.  The experiences not only become more solid and real in the sharing but more so, each story transformed into healing.  In the end, everything in me brought me up, out of my seat, to embrace this one German woman in particular, her story resonating with me deeply though language and lineage may have divided us, this connection and shared experience bridged any gaps in our stories, and provided profound healing, I believe, for everyone in the circle.

I walked away from this experience with lots of still present questions and thoughts; but mostly, from this dark place, I have come to believe the resilience of my ancestors was all toward a desire for life, for them and those that they would come after them.  Thus, I walk away resolute, from now on, to not only walk in the grass, but to dance in it! 

Honor ancestors, bridge in community, and join us in the discovery of how the dark places can inform who we are and what we do.  Oaks Counsel has various offering in Nature-based and Rites-of-Passage practices.


Making Things Real: Intention Setting and Storytelling

Making Things Real: Intention Setting and Storytelling 
by Michelle Katz

This week I returned from my annual Wilderness Quest.  It was the most difficult fast I have had yet, and hope to ever have.  The physical pain of this fast was immense and led me to actually to come down from the mountain a day earlier than anticipated.  It was a humbling and new experience for me.  And of course, despite it’s ordeal, I am awaken to it’s alignment with my intent.

I arrived on the land, a land I did not previously know, to find my spot for this initiation.  A rock that called to me was a 20-minute hike up from the basecamp and situated me close to my co-guide and co-quester’s spot in case anything happened.  The land was truly magical.  The mix of pine forest and desert related showed a juxtaposition that was awe-inspiring.  The mica dusted and quarts embedded granite rocks invited a looking in, through and at myself.  The view of the surrounding mountains offered a perspective of all directions and expansiveness of seeing.  The scent of Ponderosa was faint in the wind and told stories of those that do know this land well, the bears, mountain lion, coyote, elk and deer, finches, eagles, hawks.  And the bones and feathers left behind on the earth were the writings of these stories.

At the threshold crossing, I stepped in, speaking of an intention I was reluctant to declare.  “I need honest and conscious connection to myself and others.”  Admitting to myself that I need people and I need myself to show up fully with them.  And in the moving up the mountain slowly with my gear, my body already felt weak, just stepping into this.  I knew I was about to embark on something big.  And so the ceremony began and guided me to whatever I needed.  The ordeal was real, the message was loud and clear and heard immediately.  I began feeling more and more ill, and on the third morning, I woke and truly needed someone.  I blew my rescue whistle, in the honest and conscious connection to myself and in it’s true lesson of surrendering to my need and the need I have for other, I was assisted down the mountain.

After eating and some good company, I felt much better.  In that time we both held our own intention and stories personally and in deep reflection and integration of the experience.  And as the next morning came, it was time to do what always seems so hard: share the experience. 

No matter what, every time I return from questing, I think, “I have nothing to share” only then to ask, “how do I have much to tell about nothing at all?” 

I recall, after one Quest, speaking to Meredith Little, co-founder of the School of Lost Borders, where I did my training to be a Rite of Passage Guide, and telling her “that the most powerful element of this practice for me, is in the storytelling.   I often feel my life is nothing much, until I share the story with someone, then I come to realize just how Big my life is and can be.”  

After this Quest, I am again shown this profound yet simple and beautiful truth of the practice.  I marked the needing of others, regardless of how hard it can be to relate at times, as well as an authentic and trusting connection to myself.  And with the time on the land, I was shown the realness of my intent in a clear and firm way; from the truthful cries of the hawk circling above to the knowing of the woodpecker in it’s drumbeat and the showing up of the hummingbird and chipmunk as I needed them most, and, of course, to the showing up of the human being when I sent out my call for help.  And none of it felt real until I sat in circle to share that story and be seen for it through the acknowledgement of my community, for the lessons learned and the maturity met.  Now, I get to see how I live it in the world, carrying with me the knowledge that I am supported both by the land and the people.

Come share in this important practicewith Oaks Counsel.  Our initiation intensives for teens and adults starts in October, sign up for an experience that will mark a new you.  

Why do we do this?: Starving Ourselves to Live.

Why do we do this?: Starving Ourselves to Live. 
By Michelle Katz

As this posts, I will be into the first night of my annual Quest.  I write this in my preparation, which often brings up various questions, from what to pack and what is my intent, to why do I do this again?

I’ll be spending time on the land, having intentionally severed from an old way of being and in the liminal space before beginning a new.  I sit with no company, no food, and no shelter, being midwifed by the earth.  Uncomfortable, waiting, hungry, scared, and amazed, peaceful, accepting and open.  Trusting in the process.

As I pack and anticipate what’s coming, I wonder why the hell I do this and why would I ask others to do it too?  Why would I ever want this to be such a significant part of my life?

The short answer is to become better at dying and living.

When I taught The Psychology of Death and Dying, I spoke to my students about all the little “D” deaths in their lives and how they can live those in preparation for the big “D” Death to come.  In doing this, we can deeply know our human nature as we live our lives.  The little “D” deaths are present throughout our lives and reveal to us who we are in an ordeal, in the transition places, in the struggle out of the cocoon or through the vaginal canal, or into and through the tunnel, out to the unknown other side, so that we can fully step into our one precious life.  What if breaking up with someone was easier each time?  What if losing a loved one was met with acceptance?  What if changing careers created excitement rather than anxiety? 

This ceremony is big.  Marking a transition is not a new year’s resolution, which we live and break. This marking of the end of one way into another way of life, requires all of us to show up, required that we experience the ordeal and find a way through, requires that we grow, we listen, we respond, we learn about the unknown and know within each of us.  And it challenges us to live into what we mark, for years to come, this is no stopping the way this ceremony reverberates into our souls.

Another reason why, is the daily headlines.  I look at the rates of suicide and suicidal ideation, the use of drugs and alcohol and other additions, the alarming number of depression and anxiety diagnosis.  We are more anxious because we have lost the ability to connect to our playfulness and spirit.  We are more depressed because we cannot see we have gifts to offer this world or we do not know how to offer these gifts.  We use drugs and alcohol because we are deeply seeking spiritual and higher spirit experiences but don’t know how to know this place inside of us (it is no coincidence that these things are often referred to as “spirits” and getting “high”).  We use other addictions because we fear going deeper into dark uncomfortable places, so we turn to distractions.  And we want to kill ourselves and actually do so because something in us needs to die, there is wisdom in this process of letting go, the trouble is that we do this literally because yet we have forgotten that what is truly needed is a metaphoric death, not an actual one. I shudder at the knowing of how many lives we lose because this practice of dying into life, because rites-of-passage, is lost.

I also do this because I want to know what moves me. I can best know this, by dropping into where I currently am and by looking out into the natural world in order to see what is inside of me.  Then I can notice how I move around the wheel: Is it the rock digging into my back that has me shift my perspective? Is it the rain that has me seek shelter? Is it the sun that burns my skin begging me to find a tree for shade? Is it the wind that blows my tarp in ways that make me wrestle with it and myself?  Is it all those things?  And can I live into the metaphor of nature mirroring my experience of life?  Can I sit with myself as I am ushered into the world anew, in all the discomfort and with a greater knowing of my human nature, humbly, respectfully and with strength and understanding?  The answer when I return to base camp, withmy first deep breath and warm greetings of joy and hugs from my community, is always, “Yes, now I am ready to live again.”  And that is why I do this, starving myself to grow hungry to live!

Join Oaks Counsel in the experience of dying into life.  Check out our upcoming Day Quests, and some of out Intensive programs (which includes Quest experiences).

The Eclipse as a Mirror of Conflict: Internal, Interpersonal and Global

Photography by Jeremy Knotts

Photography by Jeremy Knotts

The Eclipse as a Mirror of Conflict: 
Internal, Interpersonal and Global 
by Michelle Katz

There is nothing like an eclipse season to bring up a reflection of contrast and conflict.  The energetic, experiential and visual dramatic meeting of two seemingly opposites sides in drastic juxtaposition with each other. 

It is in this that I cannot help but think about the ways conflict can be approached.  Can it be a battle or create more intimacy?  Be it inner conflict, interpersonal conflict or global conflict, what is the process one chooses to approach this particularly natural happening in our lives?

As I watched the eclipse this week, I could not help but be in awe of its way of meeting.  Dark and light, day and night coming together.  I almost felt as if I was seeing something far too intimate and otherworldly for me to witness as a human being. 

So, I began to feel the eclipse inside of me and bring it back to the human experience, as I sit in the reflection of how nature mirrors us and how we mirror nature.

Let us look at inner conflict first.  It can take so many forms: shame, doubt, judgment, the battle of the ego not wishing to be humbled.  We live in a culture that is focused on “be happy” which leaves us in utter conflict when these inner experiences arise and we are simply and irrevocably not happy.  There are many ways to face this inner turmoil.  Some may want to step away from this painful experience, focus more of the pleasure and positive elements of life.  Asking, what can I do for relief from this inner experience.  We may find ourselves focusing on outward tasks: cooking, work, relying on relationships to regulate us.  Another option may be to sit with it, stay, feel it fully though, emotional expression, writing or art, or long internal dialogues on nature walks.  Perhaps asking ourselves, what is so uncomfortable about this, what are the triggers that led me here, how can I experience this in a way that provides some nurturing growth for my future.  This way truly requires a willingness to be uncomfortable, terribly, terribly, uncomfortable without knowing when it may end or how it could possibly be resolved within ourselves.

Then let us look at how we do conflict on an interpersonal level.  It is easy to see dichotomy in interpersonal conflict dynamics.  Each person will like vehemently defend their way of seeing things.  It is in interpersonal relationship that we truly come to see our patterns with conflict.  We can have the experience of wishing that our interpersonal relationship is all light and loving, but the fact is that we are drawn to people who, at one point or another, trigger us.  Leaving us to question our ability to be loved and show us how we each hold a different way of being in the world, and the one we love holds it in a way we are not able to own and honor in ourselves.  When in conflict interpersonally, a stubbornness can easily arise.  And how we want to move into this is key to our way with conflict.  We can ignore and push though, again focusing on distractions or pleasure seeking.  Or we can choose to move in.  If we choose to move in, we choose to get really messy with each other.  We are then choosing to ask big questions: is this worth it, am I willing to experience myself differently, am I willing to be really terribly uncomfortable in order to find my/our way through and out of this toward some greater growth and understanding?  Am I willing to do what’s easy or what’s challenging?  Am I willing to get ugly and wild and awful and still find a way or a willingness to be loved in it, through it, for it.  Am I willing to choose connection and learning toward a compassionate end?  Or do I want to walk away because it is no longer fulfilling?  Is it about who win or losses or is it about discovering an alternative that’s not easily seen or revealed?  Mostly, am I willing to be transformed by this conflict?  Find the intimacy, when shadow overlaps the bright sunlight?

Now, let us look at the global conflict.  Todays news, the headlines: Conflict between countries, or world leaders, conflict within countries, conflict between peoples of different beliefs or cultures or race, conflict of climate, the conflict does not seem to cease on this global level.  And so, it reveals how each of us meets contracting energies.  Do we look the other way?  Do offer a blanket statement “we see the world differently” or “it’s both sides that are wrong”?  Do we fight with words of constant protest or loaded threats without true outcome?  Do we take drastic actions, running people over with violent intent?  Or we sit with each other, and look at values and needs, as Marshal Rosenberg so graciously advises in his study and practice of non-violent communication.  Do we rage and stay in opposition or find a way through?  Do we choose to rely on ego and stubbornness or understanding and growth?  Do we stumble through incredible discomfort, owing the ugly way we can be and the blindness we can practice? Only to eventually begin to turn toward each other in conscious ways of communication and seeing, toward creating a once unforeseen resolution?  What need is being met? Or not met?  What values do we have in common?  How can everyone be seen and heard and felt and compassionately open up? How is the sun and the moon more similar than different?

This reveals to me the ways we practice our human nature.  We naturally go around and around the medicine wheel.  We feel the depths of emotion, we tantrum and argue or we aim to distract and see what we want to see in pleasure seeing proclivity.  We then move into an introspective place with the conflict, asking: who am I in this?  Reviewing the conflict and taking it into the depths of our soul, requiring us to sit in the darkness with it for the duration until something bright reveals itself.  Then we can move forward and bring perspective and truly come to see ourselves and the other with what we mutually have to give in the way of growing and relating.  And then, only then, can we find the transformation place in all this conflict, that bright light that comes to contact with that dark place we sat in for so long.  Only then, do we know a new way of being.

In our western culture, we often stuck in the first two stages of the wheel, vacillating between pleasure seeking or drastic emotional reactions and the deep introspective meeting the dark places and then back to pleasure seeking and drastic emotions.  We rarely choose to navigate our way though the dark toward a greater seeing of one another and a transformation that can alter us, our relationships and the world we live in.  The navigating through is where initiation happens.  It is the invitation to not remain in a sole state but rather move into a soul state.

How do you do conflict?  Step into a world of courageous movement around the wheel, get unstuck, with Oaks Counsel.  Learn more about this simple and profoundly intimate way of navigation in our world.