By Carolyn Zahner, LISW
Women’s voices spring up immediately upon Donald J. Trump being elected U.S. president. The energy erupts from the core of the earth and from the bottom of the ocean requiring the full surface of our planet to find its complete expression: more than five million strong worldwide..
Would I go to our nation’s capital to march? What was my right place? I watched and listened as the leaders and organizers allowed the movement to find its right place. I sat as one sits, witnessing the unfolding of a Systemic Constellation session.
The Response: from an activist’s heart
I was born with an activist’s heart. My ancestors, the perpetrators and the victims, stand behind me, leading me and guiding me on this path.
Yes, activism can be filled with the same perpetrator energy that one is resisting – the activist’s heart consumed with rage, blame and vindictiveness – and keeping us stuck in old loyalties that no longer serve.
It is a wise mind and open heart which asks, “How does this serve?” Nevertheless, throughout my 60 years, I was never able to silence my activist’s heart. I was certainly encouraged to. I certainly tried. But today, I respect the necessity of embracing my activist’s heart as the core of my being-ness.
I have studied the path of peaceful activism through such teachers as Thich Nhat Hanh, Joanna Macy and others. Through Constellation Work, I study and practice the way to be a change creator while bowing to all that is. It is my goal to remain true to my activist’s heart from a place of acceptance.
For me, accepting what is does not require a response of non-action. With my ancestors’ blessings and support, I turn to fulfill my own destiny. It is with this energy that I decided to take my place among the millions of people, led by women, to light a way forward. Ultimately, I agreed with the march’s mission statement and unity principles. Every part of me was called to be, along with my daughter, in that powerful, unfolding field.
After contemplating the message I wanted to contribute, I decided on placing earth in the middle of it all. For without our planet, there is no point to any of this. I pull in the feminine energy of Earth/HER – for all. I lift up the U.S. creed, “Liberty and justice – for all.” As I march, I march For All.
The Teaching: the gifts of the ancestors
When my daughter and I leave for the eight-hour drive to D.C., I am deliberate about calling in my ancestors. I decide to have no agenda, open to being in my small right place. I am deliberate about entering a peaceful place and being open to whatever teachings want to arise.
I am grateful to stay with my sister-in-law, whose home is a short walk to the march site. I follow her as we become engulfed in the swell of humanity. I have no physical orientation about where I am or what buildings are around me. We find ourselves stopped – nowhere to move – for hours. We learn that the crowds are so large we are not able to actually march.
As we stand, my experience with others is good will and peace. We enjoy each other’s signs: the serious, sexual, funny, snarky, angry, loving signs, all included. We share where we’re from and what called us to join this march. We wait. It is enough to be there, still with each other.
I begin feeling pulled deeper into what feels like Constellations space. Something, someone is holding the space. Something is calling for my attention. Feelings of soulful peace, determination and strength flood my being.
I close my eyes, become very still, breathing deeply. When I open my eyes I find myself gazing at an art installation I had not previously noticed. Two carved poles stand majestically at the entrance of the building near me. They appear large, luminous and closer than they actually are.
My mind’s heart whispers to the poles, “I see you. I bow to you.”
They whisper back, “We have always been here.”
“Where am I? What is that building?” I ask those around me. I am told it is the National Museum of the American Indian. I deeply acknowledge our nation’s original wound of genocide. I acknowledge the ongoing expression of colonization as sacred lands are desecrated and the very right to exist is denied. The injustice continues as the original wound remains unseen and gaping open. I snap a photo of the poles, knowing they have more to tell me.
And then, subtly touched but profoundly changed, we are being redirected. Space to move into the march has opened. We move forward from our long wait, from our place of stillness. I march with the mantra, “We are here.”
The Return: finding meaning
Upon returning home, I send my photo to the museum, requesting information about the pole sculptures. I learn the title is::
We Were Always Here
The artist is the late Rick Bartow, a member of the Mad River Band Wiyot tribe of northwestern California. He served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and was awarded a Bronze Star for his musical service to injured soldiers. Themes of recuperation and survival can be seen in his drawings and carvings.
The artist’s description (some of which I have bolded here for emphasis) says:
“The Welcoming Bear and Raven, Healer and Rascal, sit atop the sculpture poles; one, slow and methodical, fiercely protective of her children, the other a playful, foible-filled teacher of great power. Both Bear and Raven are focused on water and salmon for serious reasons. The salmon reflect the health of the environment, in particular water, the source of all life. On each pole are repeated lower horizontal patterns that symbolize successive waves, generations following generations, an accumulation of wisdom and knowledge. The tree used for the sculptures is approximately 500 years old. The elders say that the power of the sun is stored within the tree. Essentially the tree embodies the fundamental elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, our sacred and precious natural resources.”
His video offers further wisdom: The sculptures are a present to America, and it is time to send these energies – the protective parent and the rascal powerful teacher – to Washington, D.C. He states, “From inside of me, unbeknownst to me, I’m creating something that is and was and still remains.”
I cannot write about making meaning from phenomenological experience without mentioning the posters captured in my photo of the sculptures. Looking closely at the bottom of the photo I find three posters. Two posters are of vaginas; one black, one white with opposite contrast. The third poster says, “Our Bodies. Our Minds. Our Power.”
Yes, we are and were always here. It is indeed a Women’s March; the fierce protector of her children and the playful, powerful teacher. The poster color contrasts remind me of the inclusion and simultaneous exclusion that are realities in this field. “From inside me, unbeknownst to me, I’m creating something that is and was and still remains.”
Marching On: in the midst of it all
Since the march, we’ve seen the onslaught of executive orders and protests in response. The trauma my clients are experiencing is a raw and powerful force. The difficulties with intersectionality at the march have been revealed and must find full expression. The chaos feels like it will consume before we settle into the order that is trying to find its place. What that will be, we cannot yet say.
My activist’s heart is blessed, strengthened and renewed. My activist’s heart marches on.
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