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For the past month I have been volunteering weekly at the local homeless shelter in Ashland. It wouldn't have been anything that my conscious personality would have chosen. In fact, I didn't even know that there was a homeless shelter in my town. It arose from the small voice of my depths which I hear from time to time and have grown to trust. When it arose, it was followed by immediate synchronistic events to which lead me to volunteer within a few days.
On my first visit, I felt a bit overwhelmed as the broken lives of thirty homeless people came in one after the other in aged old tattered clothing that not only you could see but smell. I felt an immediate resistance to push it away while something else inside of me, perhaps that small voice that called me here, wanted to break down the barriers of separation that this is 'you' and not 'me'.
Ironically, as that voice wanted to break down the barriers of separation, what was also was being called forth was to have strong boundaries. As one homeless man, who seemed to know the routine of this homeless shelter very well told me a story of another woman who came to volunteer. Whom on her first visit looked like a deer in the headlights. While she was sweet, it was a relief to him and everyone else when she began to exert her strength, to say 'no' and to have boundaries. "Because that is also what we need and respect", he said talking about her but really speaking about me. My boundaries were to also speak to my capacity of what I can and cannot do and to honor and know the limits to my own limitations. Boundaries and a clear, awake, grounded, soft and strong presence is needed in entering into these places our personal and collective shadow (repressed and dark cast away places) and all that it evokes physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
One evening, I came and saw a man whom I had never seen here before huddled up with his stuff in a corner. I was drawn to speak with him. I got down on the ground with him and said "Hi" to him. He looked at me and said, "There is a lot of white people here." Obviously, he wasn't 'local' to Ashland.
"I know" I replied. He was an African American man. We got to talking and he said, "I am scared of most people. They tell me I am paranoid schizophrenic and I am on meds for this. I think I am this way because of the abuse I experienced as a child." Tears began to well up and I said, "I am so sorry." If my tears hadn't found their emergence to my eyes, then they would when he gasped as if astonished that someone cared. He replied,"Really?"
"So very sorry," I replied as a tear streamed down my face. He shared a little more of the hardships of his life with me. I told him that he was strong. It was far beyond anything that I have had to face in my life. Yet, somehow I know that sitting with him is a healing for me as well. As if places within me that have been banished, outcasted, rejected and also feel alone, hear my apologies as well.
Soon bedtime came as 10pm is the lights out. The shelter always needs two volunteers to make it happen. This offers a buddy system of support. I crawled on my mat which laid on the floor and a deep but silent grief cry arose within me as I listened to Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, The Prayer. "I pray you will be our eyes and watch us where we go. And help us to be wise in times when we don't know. Let this be your prayer when shadows fill our day: Lead us to a place. Guide us with your grace. To a place where we will be safe."
My tears weren't only ones of sorrow. They were infused with a strength. They came with gratitude as well, as if touching this low was offering a deeper perspective for my life. I have a roof over my head and warm running water. I have amazing friends and family. I have kind and caring parents who raised me the best they could in this broken world. Somehow opening to this brokenness, I do believe that our hearts are meant to break open again and again and again. Or as Mother Teresa once said "May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in."
So, tonight, I will return with a few friends to prepare a meal for this homeless group. It is a white wintery Christmas here. I am grateful that there is a warm space for homeless to stay for the night. A friend and I had an inspiration for the homeless for Christmas. We purchased miniature stockings for the homeless for them to write on a small piece of paper a practical small gift that would be really useful for them. We would like to make their wish come true: to shine a light and let them know people care.
To make a donation to help support their wish and also purchase very useful items such as socks, gloves, hand and feet warmers and other small essentials for the cold winter season where homeless spend their entire day outside, please visit the you caring page at https://www.youcaring.com/homeless-people-of-ashland-oregon-492403.
Yesterday, in the seeing the sun for the first time as the hazy smoke
cleared, I realized I missed it. For a while, I used to greet the sun in
the morning time before I started my day. It is a daily ritual practiced
by some indigenous cultures. Slowly, this practice began to fade away and
become less frequent. I would devalue this simple gesture to nature with a
thought along the lines of, “Well, I will greet the sun tomorrow.”
The fires and the loss that seem to be present in every direction, shatters
this unconscious certainty. It shatters the sense that I have all the time
in the world. That there will be other mornings where I can greet the
sun. There will be other times when I can share what is in my heart.
Opening my heart to this shattering and to this broken world, I feel a
certain intimacy that comes from recognizing the fragility of my life.
For most of my life, I never really got past the initial shock when
trauma, hardships and losses came into my life. I was never taught how to
grieve. Slowly the ‘gravis’ of my unexperienced grief veiled the deep
magic, intimacy and sensuality of life. I searched and searched to reclaim
this magic in other realms and through experiences which transcendent my
humanity. Until I was pulled down into my depths, to finally meet the
wounds of my humanity. To finally meet places within me where my grief
wasn’t fully grieved and I had closed to life. Where I was afraid to open,
afraid of being abandoned and betrayed. Through the alchemy of grief, a
profound magic for life began to spark from the darkness and restore my
experience of divinity as my very own human life.
In my experience, we need our grief in front of us, in an intimate way,
more than ever. Keeping it below or behind us or under some spiritual
concept that we should always be in joy and be happy, veils the grace and
the gifts awaiting in the heart of our grief. As the fires are raging
outside and we are in a drought, I believe nature is calling for our tears
to be returned to the sea.
I invite you to join me in a sacred community space for a grief ritual on
September 19. It is $60 for the day. If you are called to come but are
not able to pay this amount, please email or contact me. Registration is
required. There are logistics and items that are important to bring as a part
of the grief gathering. For more info. visit my website at
www.courtneydukelow.com. Feel free to call me at 541-535-2186.
If you are drawn to receive some one-on one support and bodywork, I am
available at this time.
Please feel free to share this email with anyone you think would be
I just returned from a heart-illuminating journey to Peru. I always experience it to be nothing short of a miracle every year I am able to go. Over the past five years, I have been blessed to bring 3 groups to travel and work intimately with a Q’ero family in Peru. I am always incredibly blown away and grateful how effortlessly the groups come together through the response to my simple newsletters or the happen-stance meeting with a new friend where Peru happens to come up in the conversation.
While we visit some outrageously unique ancient sacred sites brimming with extraordinary energies (that I believe are incredibly important for us to tune into at this time)---what always brings me back is the extraordinary of the ordinary.
One thing I have been aware of every year that I bring groups, is how deeply included and welcomed everyone feels in the presence of the Q’ero. While I consider them my family, I hope everyone who has had the opportunity to meet them (physically or energetically) may consider this as well. Not to create any ‘specialness’ about us or them…but in fact…as a way and means to set a bonfire to scoarch any sense of specialness, so we can open to receive the ancient wisdom of the indigenous heart---the deep inclusiveness which can allow our heart to infinitely expand in a circle of life.
By specialness, I don’t mean our unique authentic expression of Heart. I mean the plague of our Western culture that keeps us striving and wanting power, feeling elite, reaching to the pinnacle at the top while all the while keeping us on the see saw of inferiority and superiority.
In my journeys over the past several years, especially since opening to the Wisdom of the sacred feminine (which in my experience is our intimate connection of our Soul to our Greater Soul…the Soul of the Earth) it has been a consistent dying. A dying to my cultural self-identity. Deaths are difficult even when we are dying to the false sense of self. To the child in me not being special was death. The pain of my trauma and my sense of inferiority kept me wanting power, recognition, fame. All the things that I was conditioned would bring happiness. This response was primarily on auto-pilot fueled by shame for most of my life. To intimately feel the pain of unloveablility and to die to the dreams of my cultural conditioning that I was conditioned would heal or ‘fix’ that sense of not being good enough was quite the opposite direction to turn to. Here, I discovered that which I believe is the only true power that matters…the power of the heart…
Shining out of the eyes of the heart, the extraordinary of the ordinary truly shines. Journeys to Peru always offer this ongoing invitation to the heart. The amazing joys and the causeless laughter that arise from this.
My friends in Peru would call family that extends beyond bloodlines, ayllu. In traditional ayllu, community gathers around a plot of land. Within that land, every part of the life is held in deep reverence. Regardless of roles and status within the community, everyone and all of life, from leaders to the ants mattered. It is a way of recognizing that a community is as strong as the weakest person or creature. Mountains are living deities, the Earth is our Mother and we are even kin to the smallest of small creatures. From what is above, to what is below, what is within and what is without--every aspect of life is vitally essential to the living whole.
In bringing forth the ancient ways of the heart to our culture, how can we tend to our ayllu? Can we honor the sacred nature of creation? Can we extend our hand to someone or something in need? Can we begin to tend to all of life, all of our feelings, everything that arises as sacred?
After a week of rest and integration, I am now scheduling sessions starting tomorrow. Session series are also available.
There are a few spaces left for an amazing circle gathering of women in the upcoming retreat, Reawakening the Sacred. It is on Memorial weekend, May 23-25 (Sat. through Sunday). This weekends are an amazing opportunity to for women to dive into the mystery of Nature. It is a gathering to restore the mystical divinity to our bodies and to the Earth. It is for women who are intimate with their own pain and are ready for a direct experience and approach to the shadow that is alchemical in Nature. It is opportunity to gather together, in circle and open to the mysteries that can emerge when we grieve for Gaia. The magic that can get released when we turn towards the places within us that we have rejected the most. While I have my own offerings that have arisen out of initations in the past years, it is also a time for us as woman to gather together, in a very sacred space to restore ancient Wisdom and ways of the feminine mysteries of love. To learn to notice the symbols, images and world of the imaginal that connect us to the dreaming Earth and be a midwife for the new dream of the Earth to be restored through us.
This year, I was able to bring back a few sacred items and mesa cloths from Peru. They are all hand-crafted with love from my Q’ero friends. For those who work with a mesa or are familiar with cloths, the prices reflected are significantly lower than what most people are selling them for. If you know anyone who may also be interested, please pass this along.
With loving kindness,