An excerpt from “Ephemeris: Pre-Existing Conditions” by Elissa Sloan Perry
On that night, the night that I thought would be the last night of too many scotches, the old lady came to me again. She looked like my great-grandmother from the one photo we had had of her. She wore a heavy scent like the incense in the church back home.
You will take a strange journey, she said to me. You will not be alone and you will be the loneliest. Until you reweave your interior. There will be cold whiteness over everything and warm golds will curl themselves around you to protect you on the path. Draw the others into it. You will know them. Know two of them already. It will keep out the demons.
Only you can protect you from yourself. Not all white is bad. Not all gold is good.
On this journey taste everything. Some of it will make you sick. Swallow a bit anyway. Inoculate yourself from grand plummets. Explore all of the rooms in each house. Build your own home. Piece by piece, book by book, country by country, soul by soul. Don’t be selective, but don’t welcome everyone. You will know the difference. Make your front porch sturdy. Able to withstand card parties, dancing, debates, men with shotguns, and neighbors with treats and suspicious intentions. Your home once built will go with you wherever you go. Fold it up and put it in your breast pocket. Tuck it behind your ear like a gardenia and slip it into your deepest crevice when you must. Once you have built it, it cannot be un-built. You will always have a choice.
By many important measures my life is good. I have a loving life partner, family—biological and logical—a place to live with clean running water and electricity, employment that is meaningful, and health insurance to support the care of my physical well-being.
The excerpt above came to me in a dream and since that dream a few years ago, I tend to the re-weaving regularly and with intentionality. And yet, it is hard to describe myself as “well” today. My chest aches, I am constantly sad, angry, disappointed, reigning myself from the pit of vices.
It was Jiddhu Krishnamurti who said, “It’s no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” With that context I am in fact profoundly well and I am certain I am not alone. And what does this painful state of wellness we find ourselves in have to do with creativity, spirituality and liberation? How do we tend to wellness enough to heal and transform society? What is re-weaving now?
It’s hard to get the news from poems, but men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.William Carlos Williams
Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.Audre Lorde
If what we need to dream, to move our spirits most deeply and directly toward and through promise, is a luxury, then we have given up the core—the fountain—of our power, our womanness; we have given up the future of our worlds.
For a couple of years prior to 2016 I had been holding my own creative practice as a treat, an add-on, a periodic delectable for when I had time, even though I knew in all of the ways that one knows, that art and creative practices are so much more—fundamental even—to liberation, whether giving shareable meaning to experience, giving life, forming vision, or informing action.
Then in the spring of 2016, I began a writing experiment as a part of the E3 community of practice. My excuse for not writing was not a lack of time but a lack of emotional energy. “I gave it all away in my day (and night and weekend) job,” I told myself and others who asked about my stories, my poetry, my novel manuscript collecting dust.
However, once I committed myself to putting pen to paper (that’s how I roll) on a regular basis and to sharing those pieces with this small group, something unexpected happened. I had more energy, more clarity, more strength—in essence, greater connection to source!
Source, huh? You may be asking. Is this where she starts talking about god(s)? For some source is god or gods, for others it’s qi or chi, for still others source may have some other name or form or no name at all. I do not subscribe to or practice any form of organized religion and yet I am a spiritual person of deep faith. Not discounting the experiences of “liberated zones” that some of us have been able to participate in, none of us has ever lived in the sacred world we envision—a world of love, dignity and justice. The sacred is what’s possible when we all have what we need to show up as our best selves in our relationships to self, each other and the planet and to return to that best self when we are not there for whatever reason. I am intent on this vision and all of this intention is rooted in faith. This is all faith-based work. I have faith in the sacred.
Spiritual practice for me is all of the ways that we tend to the sacred purpose, the best self in all of us.
What does all of this have to do with liberation? Back to source….
I learned about the frame of the four pillars of oppression (and their converse, the four pillars of liberation) from Monica Dennis and Rachael Ibrahim who in turn learned of them from other teachers. One of the four is disconnection from source. I hold source as the life force that supports us to be in sacred purpose, as what Audre Lorde called “the fountain of our power”. Inner work (continuous weaving and re-weaving of the interior) is what cultivates this connection to source.
A second pillar is disconnection from or distortion of story. Reconnecting to story through writing and sharing those stories with others is re-weaving interior places into healthy tissue that were previously atrophied by scars—liberating more of my better self. Reconnecting, re-weaving, re-storying are practices of liberation. How are you reweaving?
Systems of oppression impact all of us. Do you want to begin or deepen your reweaving practice? There are many people thinking, being and supporting others to be in this practice of liberation in our movements for justice.
Check out these articles:
- Toward Love, Healing, Resilience & Alignment: The Inner Work of Social Transformation & Justice
- Out of the Spiritual Closet: Organizers Transforming the Practice of Social Justice
And these folks:
Banner photo credit: Elissa Sloan Perry