“Cultivating an Inner Life”

I recently joined a book study group with some visionaries, spiritual advisers, organic farmers, permaculture activists, and other “big picture” thinkers from Goshen and nearby Three Rivers, Michigan. I missed the introductory meeting due to an errant email, but tonight we have our first actual book discussion of Carolyn Baker’s “Navigating the Coming Chaos.”

As preparation, we read the Introduction and Chapter 1. I’ve already read much further, but we’ve been asked to answer the following questions related to the Intro and first chapter. Given this book’s powerful message, which aligns so closely with what I try to offer through this blog, through my own life’s expression(s), and during individual sessions, I thought I’d answer the questions here. Although many Transition Towns have leaders actively studying this book, you do not need to be involved in the Transition Movement in order to benefit from it. As the famous Medical Intuitive Caroline Myss says: “What a pleasure it is to endorse a book of this quality and genius. But more to the point, a book of great urgency. I not only recommend this book, I urge you to it.”

So do I.

What was most encouraging about what you read in “Navigating the Coming Chaos”?

In a bizarre way, I feel like I’ve been co-writing a companion volume through my blog. Since my philosophy and experiences dovetail so easily with the book’s premise and message, I began using it as an external checklist of my own internal preparations. So few people have developed strong enough inner lives to be able to look chaos in the face without flinching, running away, numbing themselves or going crazy. I found it encouraging that others recognize the importance of beauty, poetry, mythology, and art as essential to surviving any sort of “long emergency.”

Having gone through my own extensive traumas, including a brain injury microcosm of the societal macrocosm of having all structures forcefully and suddenly stripped away, I’ve long known the importance of cultivating and soothing the soul. Surrounding myself with (and creating my own) art, poetry, culinary delights and sacred spaces immediately transmuted the usual hellish experience of TBI into something mindful, beautiful and deep.

As a teenager, my mom went through multiple severe health crises that forced me to step up as parent to my siblings, house organizer for my dad, and emotional support system for everyone involved. That “long emergency” changed me in irrevocable ways and taught me early on that life as we know it can change in a heartbeat. Support structures we take for granted can disappear and not return unless we ourselves build suitable replacements. If we don’t step into our strength, we can easily drown in the torrents of change. My mom’s health crisis occurred on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual planes. I saw my first demon during that time period and learned to walk protected among some incredibly dark agendas and intentions parading themselves as “helpers.”

As a scared fourteen-year-old pretending to be an atheist so no one would inquire about my inner life, I faced many Dark Nights of the Soul. I devoured ancient philosophy and classical literature, and my “atheist” teenage journals read like devotionals, with my own “hymns” of praise and cries for help as I tried to make sense of my little world gone mad. Those journals examine what it means to be human, how can we find meaning in the midst of chaos, and how do we burn in the fire to become the phoenix rising from its own ashes? I continued this obsession with appearances vs. Reality, alchemy and transmutation, and inner transitions through my college honors thesis on angels in “Paradise Lost,” into my graduate studies, and into the present day.

I’ve sometimes considered my need for beauty as a weakness; however, reading Carolyn Baker’s book, I realize that I just happen to be much more in touch with my soul than most. She explains why humans need to cultivate a strong inner life, and recognizes how the shift away from the inner life actually caused the biggest challenges we face today — whether from government, natural disasters, environmental destruction, economic crises or the seeming inability of the masses to recognize wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Carolyn underscored what part of me already knows: “My perceived weakness is, in truth, my greatest strength.” Recognizing that I need beauty as well as food from my garden; prioritizing ways to offer moments of joy and delight to the traumatized; following and cultivating advice from dreams and daydreams; understanding that my walks in Nature, sacred chants, creation of sacred spaces are truly, deeply necessary — that recognition is a gift, not a character weakness, because these are real, human, healthy needs whose value our dangerously ill society rejects or minimizes to its peril.

What was most troubling?

I initially felt so overwhelmed by the confirmations in this book that I needed to set it down for a few days. For decades, I’ve received premonitions of coming emergencies and the precariousness of our current way of life. I had premonitions before 9/11 and an immediate sense of a darker agenda than the commonly presented story — this at a time when I watched no news and followed no politics. I just knew it was a “false flag” even before I knew that concept or term. I also recognized the massive opening for transformation and growth. The most troubling part of “Navigating the Coming Chaos” is the recognition, in black and white print, that these “random intuitive instructions” I’ve received over the years “to prepare myself for the coming chaos” aren’t so random after all. I’m intrigued, comforted and completely freaked out that someone like Caroline Myss endorses this book, because on the one hand, that’s quite a validation. On the other hand, holy sh!t, that’s quite a validation.

My initial reading of the book also happened to occur when one of the “signs” I had been told would mark a clear indicator of the coming chaos occurred, namely, the shutting off of the EBT cards. That sign has presented itself to me so clearly for so long that I actually had made long-standing promises to myself that I would implement certain things if and when that sign ever occurred. We received a temporary reprieve with the “agreement,” although millions will still face food stamp cuts this coming November 1 because a non-renewed supplementary program expires on Halloween. I experienced the synchronous timing of the EBT failure “test” at the same time I began reading “Navigating the Coming Chaos” as further validation of my intuition and a major nudge to implement my own specific promises to myself in a timely manner.

Once I honored my need to set aside the book for a few days and simply garden, chant (bhakti yoga), paint with Runes, obtain certain supplies, sleep more (to cultivate dream guidance), and nurture myself, I began to experience relief. Point by point, I went through Chapter 1 and realized, “Hey, I’m already doing these things. I’ve been doing them for decades. I’m not crazy or eccentric for valuing such things. I receive excellent guidance through my intuition, prayer and synthesized abilities to intuit and to strategize. What Carolyn calls my ‘Internal Bunker’ is extremely well-stocked.”

While reading the book, I still experience waves of: “Crap! Someone else with an intelligent, intuitive and soulful background sees the same emergencies I do; that means we’re really facing emergencies; this isn’t just me being paranoid.” — but then I feel gratitude that someone else has created a toolkit and personal development guide for people with less well stocked “Internal Bunkers.” Ultimately, the more of us with tools and strength “to face the mess we’re in without going crazy” (to quote Joanna Macy), the better. Together, we can tap into our unique gifts and skills to create something extraordinarily good.

Do you have a favorite quote?

The Rumi poem at the beginning, and the quote from Plotkin’s “Soulcraft”:

“Nature has much to teach us in her vast classroom. You can acquire an entire education merely by observing carefully. But you must be patient and offer your attention, like a lizard stalking a fly. This takes skill, and practice. What you find in nature is what works. It wouldn’t be there if it didn’t. Boundless wisdom awaits.”

What do you intend to DO after reading the intro and chapter one — in the process of Inner Transition?

I intend to continue along my multi-pronged preparation path, which at this point, includes reaching out to local people and organizations to create as strong a community safety net as possible. Although not a focus of the intro and chapter one, these actions flow from long-term, very insistent intuitions, feelings and dream guidance I’ve received, in some cases since childhood, but at least for several years. I find that doing and following through on intuitive nudges results in relief and peace. I have also increased my studies of the Faery Realm, Old Ways, permaculture and magickal self defense.

At the very least, I will know that I have done all that I can do. Spirit, Mother Earth, the Unseen Realms and other humans can meet me halfway or not, but at least I know that I’m fulfilling my end of the bargain. That in itself brings me tremendous peace, comfort and a sense of purpose. I love what I’m learning, and I intend to enjoy the journey, whatever the destination.

15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by diana on October 21, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    bless you at 11:22. ❤

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  2. Thanks for sharing…I agree in garnishing and cultivating and
    nourishing our inner rectitude and strength…god bless you !

    Gordon Yumibe
    Seattle

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  3. Thanks for sharing…I too have been cultivating and nourishing my own inner rectitude…

    With love,

    Gordon Yumibe
    Seattle

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  4. Hi Laura, the minute I heard of the 9/11 happenings i knew it was an “internal job.” And how much chaos we experience (both individually and collectively) is not something that’s fixed in stone. It all depends on fast we transform our consciousness over the next few weeks, months and years. Thanks for this post!

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  5. Reblogged this on Spirit In Action and commented:
    Thank you so much for sharing your inner and outer journey so clearly and lyrically. The process of waking uo to what is going on, truly accepting (getting past denial) and taking positive action can be incredibly difficult. Having such a beautiful example for people to connect with the real human aspects that they can relate to directly is such a blessing. I have not yet read this book but I will check it out. I am also heartened to hear of groups like yours forming all over. Humans are resilient creatures but the number one quality that purportedly allowed us to not only survive the ice ages and the harsher climactic regime in place for most of human existence, but to thrive and spread, is altruism and the ability to work together for the common good. The whoke is indeed greater than the sum of the parts:-)

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  6. Thanks, smiles and love to those who left comments.

    @Christine: exactly! By keeping ourselves grounded, aware and positively focused, we can dodge bullets and also use the incredible creative energy of chaos. As Nietzsche said: “One must have chaos in order to birth a dancing star.”

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  7. Posted by tazjima on October 21, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal and commented:
    A brave journey… thanks for sharing.

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  8. ordered the book, along with the DVD Another Earth. (beautiful film if you haven’t seen it yet.) thank you for holding up your corner of the sky, laura.

    🙂

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  9. Wonderful! Hehe, if we each hold up our corner of the sky, then Chicken Little will need to find some other chant, now, won’t she?!

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  10. Thanks for studying my book and inviting others to study it with you! You should know that I grew up in Elkhart and attended Goshen College before leaving the Midwest.

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  11. Wow, I had no idea! Thanks for stopping by and thanks for writing such a wonderful resource.

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  12. Great quotes! I will let our group know of your new book and also of the Goshen College/Elkhart connection. What a small, synchronous world … I’m not a Goshen native myself (just moved here about a year ago to support my boyfriend’s parents), but I am continually stunned by just how many international clients and friends have spent time here. Pretty wild for a little town in Northern Indiana.

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