Dan Keusal's e-newsletter
Winter 2016-2017 edition: "First Bud"
(Send me an email if you'd like me to email you the original email version of the newsletter.)
When the world around us seems difficult and frightening, sometimes the smallest thing can be a powerful symbol of hope. My essay in this newsletter tells the story of just such a symbol. It's also my attempt to move back toward brevity in my newsletters: still heart-y, nourishing food for your journey, but in a smaller, "snack-on-the-go" portion size.
I'm also offering several lectures and workshops in the coming weeks, including "The Art of Outgrowing Your Problems," "Deepening Connection, Discovering Meaning, and Kindling Hope In Tumultuous Times," and "Donald Trump's Astrological Birth Chart: A Case Study In Potential And Shadow." Links to each of them is below.
And the "Resources" in this edition include an MP3 of a talk I gave at Seattle Unity Church just after Thanksgiving, a song/video by David Wilcox, a poem by Marge Piercy, and a book that was a big hit at a gathering I attended on New Year's Day.
I hope all of this offers you inspiration and hope during these difficult times.
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Reflections: “First Bud”
Almost four years ago, shortly after I moved into my then-new office, a friend gave me an office-warming gift: a Christmas cactus. I was told that in time it would flower, and when I saw the brilliant blooms on similar plants owned by several friends, my anticipation grew.
And so I watered, I fertilized, and I waited.
But nothing happened.
Year after year, nothing happened.
The cactus sat perched atop the bookcase that stands directly behind the chair where I sit while doing sessions with clients, keeping vigil, quietly watching over my work and theirs.
It always looked reasonable healthy, but it didn’t grow, and it certainly didn’t flower or bloom. Eventually, I resigned myself to the possibility…that it might never bloom.
Then, in the week between this past Christmas and New Year’s, not long after the shortest, darkest day of the year, I came back from lunch one day and noticed it: a single bud had burst forth from the tip of a leaf.
* * * * *
I immediately saw the metaphor, the symbol: sometimes, for “years,” it seems that nothing is happening—no growth, no flowering, nothing. Resignation: “this…is how it’s going to be.”
And then, in the midst of the darkest of times, it arrives: the first bud that is a herald of hope, a sign that the long-awaited full flowering is not only possible, it is immanent.
For many in this country and around the world, these feel like the darkest of times. I’m hearing it from clients, friends, family members, and others: they are feeling fear as they watch the forces of discrimination and hatred, of wealth and privilege, of selfishness and hypocrisy assume power at the highest levels. The patriarchy, with its destructive and unsustainable values and structures, is dying, but it seems intent on going out in a fit of toxic rage that threatens to take everyone else, and the very planet we live on, with it.
Such times call for immediate and decisive resistance and response, for conscious deepening, and for proactive creation. We each must do our own individual work. We must become conscious of our own shadow. We must guard against our own contempt—against becoming the very thing we say that we oppose. We must cultivate (in the words of an esteemed colleague) “our most mature, compassionate, and engaged selves,” and then join those selves together to create the world that we want—a world of peace, justice, and equality.
We need to keep watering, keep fertilizing, keep vigil, keep hoping. Then, one dark day, we may come back from “lunch” and see that the first bud, the first sign of full flowering, has arrived.
Resources For A Life Of Depth And Meaning:
(song/video): "Show The Way" (David Wilcox). A reminder of the power of love in times of darkness and hatred: "In this scene set in shadows / like the night is here to stay / there is evil cast around us / but it's love that wrote the play / for in this darkness love will show the way." From Wilcox's 1994 CD "Big Horizon." Click here for David Wilcox's web site. (poem): "Councils" (by Marge Piercy). Wise words about recovering a heartfelt and open way of speaking and listening: "The women must learn to say, I think this is so / The men must learn to stop dancing solos on the ceiling..." (talk) "To Travel In The Dark" (by Dan Keusal) On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I was invited to speak at the 10 AM service at Seattle Unity Church. My talk, "To Travel In The Dark," looked at the connections between the literal, sacred darkness of the impending Winter Solstice and the growing social and political darkness in our culture. To listen to my talk (which is posted on my web site), click here.
(quote): "The least of things with meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it." ~C.G. Jung.
(book): What Do You Do With An Idea? (written by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom). I was invited to a New Year's Day gathering where each person was invited to go around the circle and share "What inspires you?" One woman read this children's book aloud and when she finished all 15 or so people in attendance burst out into applause.
(photo): "Hoarfrost, leaves, grass" (by Dan Keusal). Click on the photo to read more about it, and to download your own copy from my web site.