The Ordeal into Integrity

 Photo: HBO Game of Thrones 

Photo: HBO Game of Thrones 

The Ordeal into Integrity 
by Michelle Katz

We have now arrived at the part of the Hero’s Journey that is call the Ordeal.  This is the life-or-death crisis, the moment of facing our great fear, the most difficult challenge and experience, that has us fall to our knees and meet ourselves in the face of failure.  It brings us the question of survival: will we survive; do we even want to? If we do, how?  What is life, after such a huge experience of death?  This is a central and essential part of the Journey.  It is the death-rebirth place that mirrors the fundamental experience of a rite-of-passage.  Just as in a rite-of-passage, the ordeal has us approaching our greatest fear, or surrendering everything we know for wild and troublesome ambiguity, or doing the unthinkable (like living alone in the woods without food or shelter for 4 days and nights), it is the experience of dying.  This can be a time of great doubt and questioning, reflection on the past and grief.  It is in this time in our journey that we may wish to give up, as we feel we are unable to take on one more thing.

Though the ordeal may be one big happening, (a divorce, loss of career, the death of a loved one, depression, etc.…) and the struggle may be external or internal, the experience is one that ebbs and flows.  We come to dance with defeat, know failure intimately, move between feeling our strength and our weakness, and somehow find a way to the ultimate victory, the way to ourselves.

The most vital aspect that gets revealed, in the whole arch of the journey and particularly in the time of ordeal, is that the greatest tool that we have is ourselves!  In the abyss we come to know ourselves and will never be the same afterward.  The Abyss is the place of initiation. The place of death in order to be reborn with a greater sense of purpose, insight and power.

As I write this, I recall the Great Ordeal of my most recent passage through this journey.  I had just come out of hiding, a long 7 months in the inner most cave, reflecting on the past, anticipating my greatest fear come true.  I had emerged, trying my best to be in the world and find some new normal, while waiting for the moment the ordeal would begin.  And then it came, a letter from a lawyer that had me questioning everything I am.  And though I thought I had lost everything already, I discovered how much more I had to lose.  My career, the man I loved, my good name, so much money, my truth, friends, the ideas I had about the good in people and the world, and most of all, my own integrity.  Letters kept coming, and more and more I felt the call to die.  The harder I fought or resisted, the stronger the call to let go became.  Being in this existence was too difficult and hardly felt worth it.  Huge powerful monsters seemed to circle around me everywhere I turned, and all I wanted to do is surrender to them, lie down and have them do their work of taking me away. 

Remarkably, much to my surprise, again and again, I would hear the whisper of those who came before me, the mentors and allys that encouraged me on. In those words, bit by bit, I began to uncover and discover what they were seeing in me.  A spark that became a flame, a flame that became a fire, and a fire that lite up the world for me.

When facing those monsters that felt far more powerful than me (at least in societal terms, of money, recognition, and prestige), I meet failure and defeat over and over again.  I let die so many parts of me, one after another, and though I wished life would be over many times, I lived on into the uncovering of the greatest gifts within me, and they were hungry for life!

In the aftermath of the ordeal, I did, without a doubt, give birth to a new me.  I found that I had just experienced the greatest initiation of life.  I discovered a mature purpose, what I am meant to do in this life, how to meet conflict, ways to define what I need in relationship, how to speak and know my truth.  I came to navigate a more realistic world that demands all of me to show up.  It asks me to release shame, and accurately define my values. 

When I was young, I always hated when adults would ask me what my values were.  I could easily rattle off words, but I struggled with connecting to what those words as values meant to me.  It felt like a meaningless activity.  But after the ordeal, I know my values as they live in the marrow of my bones, in the blood vessels of my veins, and deep in the gut of my soul. 

The most significant of all value for me is Integrity. The quality of having strength in who I am and what I know, and feeling whole in this as it guides my actions in the world, not be swayed by others or situations. I am who I am, intentionally, purposefully, resolutely.  And the Ordeal, alongside rites-of-passage practices have brought me here.

Come join Oaks Counsel, to know the Ordeal in your story, or to meet it fully.  Check out our various programs and offerings, and particularly the Day Quest on March 25th, with a focus on the Hero’s Journey.

The Adolescents and Goliath

The Adolescents and Goliath by Michelle Katz

I am reminded of the story of David and Goliath this week as I watch young teens do what adults have not been able to do for the many years we have been fighting this battle.

The legend is inspiring and heartwarming. 

The scene is set during a time of war and turmoil between two opposing sides.  They are at a standstill on the frontlines, a valley between them, and the Giant named Goliath, stimulating fear of movement.  The giant calls for a one-on-one battle, though the conditions are clearly in his favor, being the giant he is, and armed well with rich armor and weapons.  Young David, on the other hand, was simply a youth who came to the frontlines to bring his father and brothers food and assurances.  Otherwise, he mostly did as he was told back on his father’s land, tending to sheep.  But in a certain moment, this young man, felt something bigger than himself rise up, something that moved him toward actions that are beyond what the world saw of him.  And though scolded and ridiculed by his family and neighbors for his beliefs and thoughts, David fought for his need to speak out and stand up to this giant. Once he was heard by the King, though he continued to be questioned for his youthfulness, the King decided to arm him with fine armor to prepare him for the battle of purpose that was clearly in his heart.  David, however, refused the armor, knowing what he was capable of in himself, holding his story of his own small but significant battles of the past, all to prepare him for this greater ordeal in order to serve his people.

And so the young boy, went to meet the great giant on the battlefield.   And with stone and slingshot, shot the giant right between the eyes, causing him to fall face down on the ground.  The giant had been defeated, by the most unlikely of characters, in the most unlikely of ways.  And a hero was made, in himself, for his people and in the eternally lasting legend. 

This is the story of our time.  I continue to be in awe of the adolescents in the story of the recent Florida school shooting.  I see these young, knowing, and strong individuals, in their own right (not with money or political status or arms), take on the giant that left so many of us just standing on the frontline and not moving forward. 

The NRA and those in favor of gun-control have been facing each other in battle for a long time now.  The NRA, has been a giant in this standstill, with it’s big funding capabilities, particularly of politicians, plus it’s organizational skills and support from various huge stakeholders.  This is truly a giant to take on! Meanwhile, the adolescents have emerged from the crowd calling out for gun-control, no longer willing to stay in the place the adults have them tending.  Rising up to meet the call, knowing what they know, makes them larger than their exterior or their expected role in our society.  Being ridiculed and criticized, won’t stop them, they face that on a daily basis.  They know that the disapproval of others means they are offering something substantial and essential toward the changing of the way of things.  And they will refuse to be anything other than themselves in the face of the giant. Their being is all they need to be armed with, no guns or fine armor needed, just slinging their messenger bags, carrying the words that land as rocks on Giant’s sweet spot of vulnerability.   

This is the wisdom of the age of teens, this is the calling for change, this is the rite of passage of youth into adulthood, but also the passage of our nation into civilization led by these youth. These young individuals have been stripped of so much, friends once cherished are now gone from this earth, a life and place of safety is now unsafe. These adolescents know that life can and will never be the same.  A severance has occurred, and they are being ask to step into their lives more fully than ever before. We have seen many students, teachers and parents fall into grief after the vast number of shootings in our country, the grief has looked many ways, but never like this! This story of grief has led to a story of purpose, in service of the greater whole.  These young individuals have found what their gifts are and they know they have to bring it forward to the world in order for our world to grow and change.  They are the Davids fighting the Goliath of our time, while we watch in awe.  It is an inspiring story indeed.

What is your inspiring story?  Step into your rite of passage, and learn the gifts you bring to this world with Oaks Counsel.  Join us for our next Day Quest on March 25th or check out various other programs.

Hero’s Journey and Learning to Trust: Tests, Allies, Enemies and to the Inner Most Cave

Hero’s Journey and Learning to Trust:
Tests, Allies, Enemies and to the Inner Most Cave
by Michelle Katz

When I was a teenager and young adult, my parents often told me, “You trust too easily and too much.”  This has always been something I was proud of, I believed it to be a strength of mine to see the best in people.  My parents’ fear, of course, is that, though this is a beautiful quality, it could also contribute to some difficulties.  This trusting shifted significantly when I crossed the first threshold on my Hero’s Journey.

In the initial entering of this special world, I learned about the new rules soon after crossing the Threshold.  On my journey, I found Enemies and Allies and faced the Tests to discover who falls in which category, including the enemy and ally parts of myself. This is certainly a different place.  I knew that I could not be and act as I did before that threshold crossing. I had to let go of all the ways I knew to be in the world and find the Allies that I trusted to help me reach my goal.  And more than ever, the rivals showed up, seemingly larger than life, and fighting me against my dreams and helping me define how much the dream wished to become a reality.

In this place, I learned that I cannot automatically trust everyone I meet.  Life requires us to find people we can truly trust, not shallow easy trust, but deep substantial trust, which is necessary for survival through such a journey.  Most shockingly, is losing trust with those I had once trusted wholeheartedly, be it with the long-term partner who does something heartbreakingly unexpected or the best friend that shared your deepest secret with another, or a family member that changes his mind on something you were depending on, it is a change that is hard to jump back from.  This was a very difficult learning for me, situations left me feeling betrayed frequently.  My easy trusting nature died in this process of passage.  A big learning and growing experience.  Trust is earned, relationships are tested, and true friends are formed as much as foes are exposed.

As I entered the Special World, everything was new!  It was as equally exciting as it was challenging and all together eye opening.  My heart was open and while I felt mostly alone.  I was hungry for connection. It was easy to find it with nature and my dog, though everyone else around me felt like strangers.  Strangers I felt I had to connect with in order to survive. After all we are social beings, but I also heard stories of those who came before, one who took his life when not being accepted.  It was the first time in my life I tried to “fit in”.  This was not my way, and I found myself hurt again and again.  I was too new in this world and the tests were painful to my being. Once thought of Allies, quickly became scary dragons that questioned my ability and life goals.

It was the first time I ever got sick enough to be hospitalized and needed help from others.  It was the first time, I left a job on bad terms, going into quit but feeling like I was getting fired.  The first time I felt I failed, the first I found myself feeling pessimistic and doubtful about myself and the world around me.  The first time I felt I abandoned myself in order to survive.  I got smaller and smaller when I was actually being tested to get bigger and bigger.  It was the first time I felt racism and historical trauma to the core of my being.  The first time in my life my dreams become more informative than my waking life.  The first time that my best friends were the hills rather than the people I saw on a regular basis. The first time my strength was questioned by a continual meeting of limitations, to reveal my genuine strength is in my vulnerability.  Mostly, this was a rich time in asking “Who am I?” and “what is my gift to this world?”

I am, to this day, amazed at the ability I had to find hope in these desperate and heartbreaking moments.  I turned to friends from far away, I recalled the words of mentors, and I traveled far for the wisdom I needed from Allies.  Things continued to spiral, and more and more I was tested.  Sometimes, I really failed those tests.  And the only way I found comfort was in acceptance of the land and the mountains.  Every time I faced a test, I sought more training from my mentors, more support from my allies, more clarity around my enemies. In every test, I kicked and screamed, I tried to make sense of it all, sometimes I felt utterly defeated, other times, I discovered the hero qualities inside of me.  And then, I arrived at the Inner Most Cave. 

In the retreat of my cave, my quiet alone time, I created plans, reviewed the tests, thought of who I am and what I am capable of by simply being me.  I felt the anticipation of my greatest fear.  And I sat alone in the dark cave for as long as it took.  I felt humbled in this staying still.  There is great learning in this being, rather than doing, state.  I survived the initial hardship, and I needed time to reflect, to feel into my human nature and feel myself in this new world as a new being. My commitment to life was strengthened in this time.  I was rallying, gathering, and readying myself for the Ordeal to come.

What tests have you faced or are you facing today? What was your journey toward understanding and knowing your Allies and Enemies? What did you learn or how did you feel during the time in cave?  Did you resist it or find joy in it?  How did you come to discover answers and strengths?  Join Oaks Counsel for our next Day Quest on March 25th focused on the Hero's Journey, to explore these questions.

A Hero’s Journey: Meeting the Mentor and Crossing the Threshold

A Hero’s Journey: Meeting the Mentor and Crossing the Threshold by Michelle Katz

It’s dawn, and I am awoken by the soft quiet stirring of living beings and the crack of light on my face.  This is a morning of no dawdling, I wiggle out of my sleeping back, and collect my limited belongings of the night to stuff them into my pack.  I hoist my pack on, with the few belonging I need, knowing everything else I really need, I will meet out there. And with haste, I walk toward the line.

It is in this moment when the speed of the moments before falls away, and everything seems to stop, the world seems to simultaneous standstill and change into the unrecognizable. It is the moment of knowing that nothing will ever be the same.  And yet, there is a desire to stay in the make-believe that it just might if I lingering for just a moment longer.  But something makes me take the step forward across the threshold and I am not able to turn back. 

There are many moment of change when we realize the world we knew no longer exists and we must learn to live in a new way: the moment we recognize our own power or efficacy, the moment we fall in love, the moment of becoming a parent, the moment we get the job we really wanted and the moment we lose it somehow, the moment of betrayal or loss of innocence, the moment we lose trust in someone we once trusted dearly, or the moment we realize our body will not allow us to live as we previously did and we need to manage it for the rest of our lives.  These are big pivotal moments that invite us to grow or step into our experience of living soulfully.

The Threshold Crossing of a Hero’s Journey, is about this pivotal moment. And it is coupled with the Meeting of a Mentor.  This Mentor is a guide, protector or magical helper, a seasoned traveler to the other world on the other side of the crossing. A being that offers knowledge, confidence and advice to aid the journeyer. 

I reflect on my Hero’s Journey, of meeting my mentors and guides, and crossing the threshold myself.  I recall the wisdom of those that revealed themselves to me:  The wilderness guide that taught me what to do out on the land by myself for 4 days and nights to mark the end of the life I once led, and when I came back from the fast, she warned me that my incorporation would not be what I expected.  (She could not have been more right.) The coyote that told me that the world is not as it seems to you in this moment as it lured me to a certain type of death. The woodpecker that kept/and still keeps showing up at the most opportune times to let me know it’s time to move to the beat of my own drum in order to find my sustenance.  The Jungian therapist that helped me see into my own psyche/soul in my dreams and writings.  The clinical supervisor that stood by me through thick and thin when I felt I was not worthy of her kindness.  The lawyer with long tales that teach lessons of perspective.  The dog that asked me to keep going when I wanted to give up.  The family that saw me, when I had fallen to my knees and could not see myself in the darkness, who nourished me back into confidence.  The Rites-of-Passage Facilitator who's words I can hear always, that I am living the work I am truly meant to do in the world. These incredible mentors helped move me toward the Threshold Crossing of my journey, and their words have echoed in me across the duration of the journey. 

If I take one more step, it will be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.
— Samwise Gamgee, Lord of the Rings

When the moment of my departure from the Ordinary World came, though I may have gathered all I may need, the other side is wild and unknown, and it is seemingly impossible to feel ready.  The pause, before the crossing, is one of the most potent moments in life.  The innocence of wanting to stay in the known is sweet and endearing, and the dangers and uncertainty ahead is daunting but impossible to avoid and there is something enticing in it all.  For me, the most incredibly element of this significant crossing, is that we cannot truly cross unless we are ready, unless we have somehow proven ourselves worthy of that passage.  A life has been lived and knowledge has been gained in ways that can lead us through the challenges to come.  I was ready, the time came, and I was never the same after I took that essential step.

Who are your mentors?  What is your threshold crossing story?  What knowledge have you gained and how did you prove it to the guardians of the Unknown World?  Whether you have or have not ventured there yet, share in the journey, or the story of it, with Oaks Counsel.  Join us for our Hero's Journey Day Quest on March 25th to cross the threshold.

A Hero’s Journey: The Call to Adventure

A Hero’s Journey: The Call to Adventure
by Michelle Katz

It has been a little over one year since I returned to Santa Fe after nearly 6 years of being on what I refer to as my epic Hero’s Journey.  As with all good journeys, my journey began far before the journey itself.  And as I currently sit in the place of the Return Home phase of my journey, I find myself often reflecting on that wild, uncertain, and overwhelmingly difficult time.  (Not that the Return Home seat is less challenging.)

Being back in Santa Fe, I am reminded of moments of a past life, the person I once was who feels like such a stranger to me now.  Many corners, streets, and mountain tops have memories lurking in the shadows and crevices of adobe, brick, and rock.  I morn, long for and laugh at the beautiful innocence and naiveté of that youthful woman I once was and how she lives in me now in such a different way.  I often conjure her up for a good conversation, hoping to mentor her as others have mentored me.

Often, I find myself in reflection of that ripe time right before the journey.  I recall the mission I felt I had in the education and work I was doing, getting my Masters in Counseling and running an education program for teens.  I recalled my ambitions, working with at-risk teens and different cultures and really making a difference in this world, only to one day have my own private practice.  I recalled believing I was taking all the right steps toward creating the life I wanted, I had a partner I was sure I was going to marry and have kids with, and we were both working toward our dream career.

Then, I recall moments of great knowing that I often ignored in order to continue on in this Ordinary World.  I remembered driving home from class one night, 9:30pm, and stopping at a stop sign close to my house, when an initiative wave hit me, something telling me, this relationship was not going to work out and it will not end well.  But I came home, greeted my partner and carried on as if it was nothing to trust, as there were no real issues in the relationship.  Then I recall my first wilderness quest, and my intention: freedom.  And I remember returning back from the quest, feeling freedom through the experience and work I did on the quest, but the only concrete action I took to feel this in my ordinary world was leaving my job in order to finish my education.  (Laughing at the word “finish” in terms of education.)  I declined the call to also experience the freedom of trauma, past and present, or the freedom of by personhood, of being, the freedom of the wilderness inside of me, or the freedom of the feminine, or the freedom of all ideas of what life is and could be. Nope, I simply left my job, and pressed forward in all other ways, business as usual. 

However, the most astonishing thing about a Wilderness Quest rites-of-passage is that if you carry on in the business-as-usual sort of way, the incorporation process ensures that you truly live into what you marked out on the land.  There is no way to escape your Hero’s Journey, once you have faced yourself in the wilderness.  After my first rite-of-passage quest, I saw that all the previous ways I would avoid the Call to Adventure, would no longer suffice.  I had to go. I had to meet the call. Once I acknowledged the end and beginning of something with time on the land and in council with my community, I could no longer hide from what was needed to grow me.

The call to adventure is the point in a person’s life when they are first given notice that everything is going to change, whether they know it or not.
— Joseph Campbell

It was in this time, that everything I wanted to avoid, I began to approach.  With so many questions and feelings of confusion, I moved forward and away to find truths.  I came to a big realization that the things that happened along the way, the things that had me falling to my knees day in and day out on this journey, was all about what I was really calling in, it just looked different than I had hoped.  And this is the process of initiation, the meeting of one’s self fully, in play, depth, gifts and spirit.  My Call to Adventure meant leaving Santa Fe and the life and friends I cherished, it meant ending a long-term relationship, it meant finding a way to meet my family as equals rather than the perpetual child they would believe me to be, it meant trying many different careers and being uncertain of what the dream life was.  It meant not being lied to by myself or others and how truths can define us, revealing our courage and our purpose.

So in summer of 2011, I believed that I was Returning Home, by moving back to Ohio, the place I grew up, returning for the first time in my adult life.  But truly, that move was finally accepting my Call to Adventure.  I left home, my true home, Santa Fe, and began my journey to realize the world and my life is not what I thought it would be.  Every step along the way, the journey revealed some big, heavy and important truth of this life and the world.  I crossed the threshold into the unknown and I am forever changed for it.

Over the next few weeks, I will continue to explore and share my Hero’s Journey over the last 7 years, from this initial Threshold Crossing, to the Great Abyss and The Ordeal, all the way to the Return Home this past year, being back in Santa Fe. 

Are you being called?  Do you refuse the call?  What has or will bring you to the threshold? Come explore your Hero’s Journey with Oaks Counsel for our next Day Quest, on March 25th, learn more about this journey and how it lives in you.

Letting go of Anxiety, Stepping into Integrity

monks and a woman.jpg
Letting go of Anxiety, Stepping into Integrity
by Michelle Katz

The Zen story of the Heavy Load was incredibly relevant to me this week. This is the story of two traveling monks reaching a town where there was a young woman waiting to cross the deep puddles she couldn’t step across. She was very cross, impatient and scolded her attendants. The younger monk said nothing and walked by. The older monk picked up the woman and transported her across the water and put her down on the other side.  She then shoved the monk away and departed.  The two monks traveled on.  The young monk, brooding and preoccupied, couldn’t contain himself any long and asked about the older monk’s actions to pick up and carry the rude woman.  The older monk replied, “I set the woman down hours ago, why are you still carrying her?”

This week, I found myself in this story, wondering how my counterpart continues to carry a load that I thought was let go of several times. 

The holding on to thoughts and ideas, is deeply related to our human tendency toward anxiety, including perseverating thoughts, excessive doing, compulsive behaviors, general unease and mental distress.  However, anxiety has many healthy elements to it as well, including preparedness, motivation, thinking ahead, responding well in difficult situations, careful decision making, and empathy.  Anxiety is certainly an epidemic in this culture.  But it is also part of our human nature.  The question is, how do we be with anxiety?  Do we carrying it endlessly or use it to inform more of who we are in this world?

When anxious we can lose our sense of connection to ourselves and the greater whole.  Think about times of stress in your life and how difficult relating to others can be during these times.  Kira Newman, write about how stress can leave us feeling isolated and ignored, in her article on the study of stress in couples.  She writes how empathy decreases, and more and more we can find ourselves alone.  

This week, as my counterpart carried a past minor situation with tenacity, I eventually found myself anxious.  For me, it first manifested in protective doing, putting things in order, harvesting and preparing for the winter storm: I called on my allies, I got paperwork together, I collected my information and presented my hard proof.  The verdict was in my favor and I was able to let it go, but my counterpart kept carrying the heavy load.  I, then, called on more allies and pulled out from my anxiety toolkit, things that help me connect: exercise, nature walks, yoga and Metta meditation (wishing the woman happiness, health, peace, love, and freedom from suffering.)  And again the verdict was in my favor, I released the load.  But she kept carrying it.  When I thought it was done, my counterpart took even greater action, and I noticed my lack of sleep and eating making their way on the scene, revealing my anxiety in full force, coupled with the perseverating thoughts and the desire to be alone to cope, then I remembered one of my favorite David Whyte Poems:

Everything is Waiting for You
Your great mistake is to act the drama 
as if you were alone. As if life 
were a progressive and cunning crime 
with no witness to the tiny hidden 
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny 
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely, 
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding 
out your solo voice. You must note 
the way the soap dish enables you, 
or the window latch grants you freedom. 
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity. 
The stairs are your mentor of things 
to come, the doors have always been there 
to frighten you and invite you, 
and the tiny speaker in the phone 
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the 
conversation. The kettle is singing 
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots 
have left their arrogant aloofness and 
seen the good in you at last. All the birds 
and creatures of the world are unutterably 
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

My practice of rites of passage and nature-based healing became my greatest ally in the face of all this.  Rites of passage teaches me the practice of letting go and stepping in fully.  This is not something I only do on the mountain top in times of great transition, this is a daily practice. I will not carry the woman across the river forever, because daily I find ways to let go of what no longer serves me and step into purposeful being and action.  As an initiated woman, I can respond to difficult moments (moments that stimulate anxiety) with integrity, with honest knowing of all parts of my nature. I found myself taking great leadership, making sound decisions and having purposeful foresight.

The nature-based healing practice guided me in my process as well, for in this practice, I have a knowing of being related to all living beings.  In our manic culture, I see humanity easily loose the ability to see how the tree and we are related, the spider and us share a similarity, our life and a dog’s life are the same.  This is empathy in it's greatest form, as it translates to all living beings and helps us see how all living things are related.  We are not distant or separate from the nature in all beings.  It is in this practice that I can drop the idea of seeing humans as different or more superior than any other living being, it is here where I know great connection and that I am never alone.  And in times of anxiety (the exaggerated North Shield) I can find my gifts, continually revealed to me in a life giving way and in a way that nurtures community and connects me to the world.

Do you feel anxious and alone?  Are you caring a heavy load you want to let go of?  Do you know your connection to the nature of all things?  Join Oaks Counsel to connect to your world and your purpose, so you can respond with your integrity in challenging times.  Check out our programs and nature-based healing offerings.

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!