Category: Spirituality

Damien Echols: We Are Unconscious Angels

Damien Echols is an author and artist who teaches classes on magick around the country. The story of his wrongful murder conviction was documented in the films Paradise Lost and West of Memphis. With Sounds True, Damien has published the book High Magick and the complementary audio program A Course in High Magick. In this podcast, Sounds True founder Tami Simon speaks with Damien about his forthcoming book, Angels and Archangels,which offers us a practical set of tools for working with these timeless forces for divine wisdom and healing power. 

Standing Together, and Stepping Up

Dear Sounds True friends and community,

While holding a mirror to our own organizational accountability, Sounds True unequivocally stands in solidarity with the Black community, the family of George Floyd, and the many others who have been victims of police brutality and ongoing racial injustice.

We stand with and for our Black employees, our Black authors and colleagues, our Black customers, and all of the protestors and social change activists—past, present, and future— who are working to put an end to racism in every corner of our society.

And we are committed to not just stand in solidarity but to step up.

Since George Floyd’s murder, we have been having many in-depth discussions among the 125-person staff at Sounds True about the most meaningful actions we can take as a transformational learning company to help educate ourselves and our community and contribute to the dismantling of racism.

We have been asking ourselves questions such as:

  • How can we best use our platform to better amplify the voices of wisdom teachers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)?
  • What’s in our Shadow, as individuals and as an organization? What unconscious areas must now be brought into awareness?
  • And how do we actively address these areas so that we can evolve as an organization and be a force of genuine service in the world?

The answers to these questions are not simple, quick, or easy. It has taken me a while to write this email to you, our beloved customers and Sounds True community, because we have felt as a team the need to listen carefully and look deeply within in order to lay out an action plan moving forward that will contribute to meaningful and substantive change.

Anything less falls short of what I believe this moment is asking of us.

We also want to learn and evolve in partnership with you. We are learning and growing together as a community, and it has been important for us to create a moving-forward action plan that invites engagement from our entire audience.

With arms wide open, I invite you to witness, support, and step up with us in the following ways:

  • Over the next two years, Sounds True will be undergoing an in-depth Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training in the workplace. This training initiative has been in development for over a year, and will be provided by TMI Consulting, led by Dr. Tiffany Jana. Dr. Jana is coauthor of the books Overcoming BiasErasing Institutional Bias, and Subtle Acts of Exclusion. As part of the training, we will be uncovering how unconscious bias, microaggressions, and micro-acts of exclusion show up in the workplace, in our personal lives, and even in our products. The training also includes a thorough audit of Sounds True’s hiring practices, HR policies, marketing materials, and more.

  • Sounds True also wants to include our customers, authors, and partner businesses in the introductory phase of this training process that we will be embarking upon. With that in mind, we are hosting a three-part webinar series on “Healing Racism” with Dr. Jana, beginning on Wednesday, June 24, at 8:00 pm ET | 5:00 pm PT. The series is free, and we are inviting our customers, authors, and business associates to join the Sounds True staff for this online training and to walk this part of our journey together. As someone on our email list, you will be receiving all of the details in future emails.

  • It is clear to us at Sounds True that we need to publish and otherwise amplify the voices of more authors and presenters who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. If you have ideas about new BIPOC authors you would like to see published at Sounds True or included in our summits and online offerings, please write to us at acquisitions@soundstrue.com.

  • The Sounds True Foundation, formed in 2018, is increasing its efforts to raise scholarship funds for BIPOC students to attend our Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program and become trained as mindfulness teachers who will bring this practice to diverse communities all over the world. We will be hosting a virtual fundraiser on June 30 for this initiative and will be emailing you with more details.

As I mentioned, working to dismantle and heal racism—in ourselves, in our organization, and in our world—is not a flash-in-the-pan effort at Sounds True. This is a long-haul commitment to the creation of a different world that is just, kind, and equitable. And we have a heckuva road to travel with you to get there.

And we are committed. We don’t want to simply talk about spiritual awakening. We want to embody it … as individuals, as a company, and as a force in the world. Humbly and boldly, we are going to give everything we have and invite you to do the same. This is the time for us to step up, together.

With love on the journey,

Tami Simon

Founder and Publisher, Sounds True

P.S. You can learn more about our commitment to creating a more compassionate world here.

 

James Hollis: The Goal of Life Is Meaning, Not Happine...

Dr. James Hollis is a Jungian analyst, a former executive director of the Jung Society of Washington, DC, and a professor of Jungian studies for Saybrook University of San Francisco/Houston. He is the author of 16 books including Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, Living an Examined Life, and, most recently, Living Between Worlds. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Hollis about his latest work and the increasing sense of importance for many people around living more meaningful lives. They also discuss how to find resilience during difficult times, how our souls let us know when we’re not on the right path, the difference between “meaning” and “purpose,” and more.

Joan Chittister: Presence and Perpetual Goodness

Sister Joan Chittister is an American theologian, Benedictine nun, and the author of more than 50 books. For over 40 years, she has passionately advocated on behalf of peace, human rights, women’s issues, and church renewal. This week’s podcast shares with you an excerpt from Sister Joan’s audio program, Catching Fire: Being Transformed, Becoming Transforming, a seven-hour conversation with Tami Simon intended to spark the fire of the divine within each one of us.

Guided Meditation: Accepting Your Experience Just as I...

If you have traveled on the spiritual path even a little way, you have probably come across some version of “love what is”—a reminder that you should accept your experience as it is. However, this teaching easily becomes another injunction. Notice the should in the earlier sentence—it is always a red flag that the judging mind is at work.  

The conditioned mind cannot accept unconditionally. It always has an agenda, even if it is well hidden. It secretly bargains and sends the message, “I will accept you [sotto voce] if you change or leave.” This approach is akin to welcoming guests at your front door while secretly hoping they will exit out the back—the sooner, the better! Guests—our unwanted thoughts, feelings, and sensations—will certainly feel this conditional invitation, even if it is unspoken. As a result, they will be much less willing to enter, relax, and reveal themselves. The result? What we resist, persists. So when your new arrivals show up at your door, put away your timer and share some aromatic green tea and a raspberry scone with them. Settle in and let them tell their stories and share their feelings. They just want to be heard and understood. Once they feel genuinely received, they will be open to a new perspective.

Are you willing to be with your experience just as it is, even if it never changes? This is a critically important checking question. Take a few minutes to inquire with the following practice.

MEDITATIVE INQUIRY

Are You Willing to Accept Your Experience Just as It Is?

Sit quietly where you won’t be disturbed, close or lower your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Feel the weight of your body held by whatever you are sitting on and relax. Feel your attention settling down and in.

Think of a troubling aspect of your conditioning—an unwelcome pattern of behavior, reactive feeling, bodily tension, or invasive thought. Then ask yourself: “Am I willing to accept this just as it is?”

If your response comes from the strategic mind, there will be an honest no. This is good to see. If this is the case, try asking the question a little differently: “Is there something in me that already accepts this just as it is?”

If your attention has settled into the Deep Heart, you will find a yes.

Journey into the depths of your own heart with Dr. John J. Prendergast’s guide, The Deep Heart: Our Portal to Presence.

Giving Thanks to the Earth

Many indigenous cultures refer to the more-than-human worlds as people. Clouds, trees, stones, plants—all belong to their own community, speak their own language, and have their own relationship to the spirit that moves through all things. The first time I recognized these more-than-human communities and felt their presence strongly as an adult was when I had spent a lot of time in the woods and became fascinated with trees. I noticed that in some places, many American beech trees grew together, while in other places, eastern hemlock congregated. In the beech groves, the simple-toothed leaves quaked in the breeze; their smooth, grey trunks reminded me of the mallorn trees from The Lord of the Rings. I couldn’t help but feel the presence of elves in those beech groves!

In the hemlock groves, the shadows were deep and the earth moist. The deep green boughs stretched and gently bobbed on the breeze, light, buoyant, and mysterious. The hemlock groves were hushed. Silence and watchfulness permeated the hemlocks’ shadows. Families of white pine created sun-toasted auburn carpets of needles, soft and aromatic in the afternoon light. Their trunks climbed high into the sky, and their bluish-green pine needles shone bright and happy in the sun. A feeling of optimism and joy seems to ring out when white pine needles shimmer in the sunlight. Under these mighty trees were perfect places to lie down or to sit and lean against trunks, perfect places to take in the tranquility of the land.

Looking into the distance, I could see patches of forest green on mountain slopes where communities of evergreens lived, and then the grey patches in the fall from oaks and maples that had lost their leaves. Suddenly it hit me: these are communities, tribes, families. Before this, I had not really seen or felt the profound reality of community that exists among trees of the same species, trees that congregate. Now, when I look out at hills or mountains in the distance, I see the tribes of tree beings whose presence creates a tapestry of color and texture all across our forested lands.

Trees communicate and support one another. Forest ecology expert Peter Wohlleben refers to the nutrient and information exchange that exists among trees in the microbial network underground as the “wood wide web.” There is evidence that trees work together to keep elder trees alive and that they warn one another of danger. We are symbionts with trees, relying on the oxygen they provide while they rely on the carbon dioxide we exhale. There is a give and take, a reciprocity, that binds us to the trees, plants, and other members of our earth community, all of whom share the atmosphere, nutrients, and waters of this living earth. To think of trees as objects denies what they are. To think that way minimizes and flattens the complex and mysterious reality of their “treeness.” This objectification of the living earth, whether it be trees, minerals, or animals, also flattens our consciousness and experience, causing us to miss out on so much of the beauty, love, and wonder to be found in relationship with the earth. When we think of the earth as composed of so many life-less objects, we give ourselves permission to treat them as such. If we take the time to slow down, to be mindful and observe the land, trees, and other crewmates of spaceship Earth, we strengthen our ability to see the reality of life’s living connections.

Reciprocity

Keep close to Nature’s heart … and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. 

JOHN MUIR

Rewilding is a way of seeing and being in relationship to life, and it can include learning ancestral skills for survival. Tom Brown Jr., a great tracking teacher, emphasizes the profound role gratitude and thanksgiving played in what he learned from his teacher Stalking Wolf, a Lipan Apache tracker and spiritual teacher. To truly feel and connect with the miracle of any living thing, any gift of the Creator, whether a piece of wood being carved into a sacred pipe or a plant or animal being harvested for food, one must honor the other being’s sacrifice and give thanks for what is received from that being. All of life is an exchange of energy. To live, all living things must consume, and in turn, be consumed. There is no escaping this.

Of all the world’s wonders, which is the most wonderful?

That no man, though he sees others dying all around

him, believes that he himself will die. 

YUDHISHTARA, The Mahabharata

To be awake to the wonder of life is to be in a state of constant thanksgiving, for this breath, this bite of food, this caress of wind, this sunset, this chance to grow and serve others. A society whose people are involved in harvesting their food from their environment will likely be a culture that appreciates and that values thanksgiving. I believe that our collective loss of reverence for nature is in part due to our disconnect from the origin of our food. Pulling a potato or carrot out of the soil provides a sensual, embodied experience of taking life. When we take life, we have a natural inclination to want to give back, to restore balance.

We all need to embrace the ethic of thanksgiving again so that we don’t take the biodiversity of earth for granted. We can’t pretend that the water and air we pollute aren’t the water and air we rely on for our survival, for our health and well-being. A great start for a thanksgiving practice is with the breath, the thing we rely on most and most immediately. The birds who fly in the sky fly on our very breath. The air sweeps all around us, moving clouds, bringing snow and rain, making waves, and flowing in and out of our bodies with the oxygen that allows us to exist. The air we breathe moves the leaves in the trees, creating beautiful sounds that soothe our souls. We can go weeks without food and days without water but only a couple of minutes without the gift of breath. Throughout the world, there are cultures that hold the air and the wind as holy, as life-giving forces. The entire yoga tradition revolves around the fundamentals of breath, which can unlock expanded states of awareness and foster deep insights.

Giving Thanks

When I exhale, I know that the carbon dioxide flowing out of me will be absorbed by plant life and that the oxygen they exhale will flow into me. In my lifetime, I will ingest many living things, fruits, vegetables, animals, and water, and one day, my body will return to the earth, and other living things will eat me.

We are only stewards of our bodies for a time. Every seven or so years, every molecule in this body will have been replaced, so that the me I think of as me is stable only in my mind. Who I really am is living in a dynamic state of reciprocity with the cosmos. Our planet, which includes us, is made up of elements generated in ancient star explosions. So, when we walk barefoot in the grass, stand at the entrance to a forest, or look up at the cool moon on an autumn evening, we can acknowledge that we are not simply receiving beauty from a heavenly body, that there is more going on. Through mindfulness we can hold an awareness of our situation, one in which we are suspended between using and being used, between eating and being eaten, between enjoying and being enjoyed.

When did people stop talking to the earth? How does one thank the moon for being all that the moon is? I’ve made a habit of speaking to trees, stones, salamanders, the wind, and any other relative I see outside. I speak to everything in nature. Why? When I speak to the forest, it feels as if my words are resonating not only in the cavities of my human body but also through the air, back into my eardrums, and bouncing on trees, leaves, and stones. When spoken from the heart to the living earth, my words express love for what I experience as my greater self. I know that hemlocks and stones do not understand the English language; I am not anthropomorphizing them. Yet I feel fuller and more connected when I give myself permission to speak to the land. When I converse with the earth, sometimes the wind blows suddenly, as if in response, or a squirrel will throw a pine cone out of a tree, which also feels like some kind of answer. I don’t think we need to feel so isolated on this earth, so cut off and separate. We can honor our reciprocity with all of life by opening up the channels of communication with the more-than-human world.

Practice of Giving Thanks to the Earth

The next time you experience a perfect sunset, a refreshing walk through new fallen snow, or the gift of seeing a wild animal, consider offering a gesture of gratitude to the living earth. Drawing your hands to prayer in front of the heart and bowing to the light in that manifestation of the universe, you can simply say “thank you.” You might offer a small token, such as an acorn, pine cone, crystal, or small pebble, to show your thanks. You could also make an earth mandala, creating a circular symbol with natural objects you gather, and offer it with gratitude. As the days and months go by, the mandala will be received into the earth. You could also take a handful of water from a pond, lake, stream, bay, or ocean and speak your words of love and gratitude into the water, allowing your prayer to slip through your fingers and become one with the water of the earth. Maybe you would like to burn sage, palo santo, dried cedar, or another ceremonial incense of your choice, placing your intentions in the burning ember so that the rising smoke carries your prayer of gratitude and love to the heavens. These are small gestures, but they are powerful. These actions build a habit of focusing on the many ways we are in a deep state of interbeing with all of creation.

This is an excerpt from Rewilding: Meditations, Practices, and Skills for Awakening in Nature by Micah Mortali.

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