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Hollow Bones

Photo by Artem Mishukov

I woke up this morning with the words “Hollow Bones” ringing in my ears. I had been dreaming about old, jagged bones, placed in a circle, waiting to be filled. Filled in the only way they could be: by connection. They were our ancestors' bones. They were our bones.

When we forget to honor the very things that give us life, we remove ourselves from the reciprocal cycle of generosity and giving that is inherent on the earth. When we believe we must “do it alone,” we continuously deplete our sustenance. After decades of chronic depletion, we begin to move like hungry ghosts. Ravenous in our taking to self-medicate our hollow feelings. Yet the taking that ensues does little to impact the deep crevasse inside us that groans wider by the day.

A few weeks ago I was in the Oregon desert for a week as a facilitator with the School of Forest Medicine. As the days progressed we began to slowly untangle ourselves from the fast-paced demands of capitalism, and we began to move at the pace of the wind, the earth, the trees. We started to unravel our knotted bodies and unhinge our hearts.

It is such medicine to simply move in alignment with our bodies and spirits, to be in “wild time” and away from looming tick-tocking pressure. On this trip, occasionally, my mind would wander back to my life in Portland, all the ins and outs of running (interesting word huh?) a business, the “to-do” list. I felt immediate constriction and tension enter my body, the fight-or-flight response taking hold, my body preparing to run away from a perceived threat. And I love the work I do.

The disconnect for me lies in the program instilled by our current capitalistic configuration that I have to incessantly move forward, progress, compete, work constantly, and prove I’m worthy in order to be successful. And this disconnect roots even deeper: to generations of orphans not experiencing a sense of place, and not knowing in their bones their belonging.

When we chronically honor a plastic world and competition over community and interconnection, we see the fallout. We feel the toll it takes on our psyches and bodies. True humility is knowing our role in the web of life. The problem is, we have lost the compass with which to gauge our place. We’ve severed from the relationships which keep that humility in balance: our relationship with the earth, the sun, the elements, the plants, the animals, the living land. We’ve grown pompous, believing that we can outsmart and use for our disposal all that resides in and on the earth. We’ve over-stepped our place.

So we now move with a fury, at such speed and blindness that we are pillaging the land, our culture, and ourselves. We cannot be fed when we have no where to grow our nourishment.

In a podcast interview Stephen Jenkinson compares our culture to those that honor their sense of place, their ancestors, and the lineage of wisdom behind them. He reports that they do not have the same chronic fear of death that we do here in the West. They have a greater respect for future generations as well. They know that when they die, they will be honored and remembered, becoming a staple of the living community in an vital way.

Yet here, we disappear. This is a terrifying proposition. It feels hollow. Why would we care if life on earth continues if we will no longer matter?

On this trip to the desert, I had a vision while connecting with the Juniper trees that shook me to my core. It was of our bones, lying in caskets, hovering just out of reach from being reclaimed by the Earth once again. I felt the fervent grief of the Earth not receiving the offering of our bones, to have us take and take and take, and even in death not give back. I felt the profound pain of our bones suspended in isolation, not able to be held by earth and dissolve back into her. I felt the sickness of how we walk the earth: with our barriers of shoes, cars, caskets, between us and the electromagnetic field that literally charges our own energy fields.

And I felt the truth: that the medicine of our remembrance, connection, and offerings can truly make a profound difference in shifting our world into health and alignment. So what I am interested in now is cracking open this capitalistic pillaging mode of operating to reveal what is truly life-sustaining and life-giving.

Our ancestors are moaning, begging us to make a shift. For the sake of our health, for the sake of our broken culture, for the sake of the earth itself. They are here, with broken and hollowed bones, circled and waiting. Waiting to be honored. Waiting for our remembrance to ignite.

So I ask myself...

In what ways can we shift our active participation in a culture that is literally making us sick?

How can we instill this remembrance of moving in sync with our own rhythms into our current framework of living?

How can we infiltrate and change the belief system that we must compete, struggle, and work overtime in order to simply survive?

If we do not do this, our bones will continue to be hollow as they ache into the night. They will remain empty long after we’ve passed and become the ancestors to our kin.

The only antidote that I’ve found for this emptiness is connection. True connection.

It is spending time listening to my own body, what it needs, how it wants to move.

It is sitting with a friend and truly seeing them and being seen by them.

It is joining in a community of song or shared meal.

It is walking barefoot on the earth.

It is listening with all my senses to the whispers of the trees, the rocks, and the land itself.

It is honoring my ancestors and the wisdom that resides there, building them an altar, and leaving them regular offerings.

It is re-entering into the reciprocity of giving and receiving with the earth: feeling gratitude for all the earth provides, leaving offerings of herbs, crystals, a song, or blood.

When we make this subtle shift of remembrance, recognition and honor, we unlock the ability to receive. We feel the nourishment of being in relationship with place, plants, animals, other humans and spirit. We begin to fill the vast void that has been growing inside us since our birth.

We have a choice: remain hovering, disconnected, depleted, and ravenous, OR to remember that we are an integral link in the cycle of life. We can choose to weave ourselves back into the fabric in a way that sustains and nourishes all life. We have the ability to bless and respect the earth. And we can remember our humility. We can feed our ancestors, sing to them, and tell their stories so that we knit together the broken pieces of our orphan lineages. Through this process of connection and intention, we will in turn be fed. Our bones will be filled with love and sustenance, and when it is our time to go, they will feed the earth as our bodies merge back in the most beautiful, ultimate offering.

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