AK Reader: If “there’s no such thing as proof,” then how to decide the value of an idea?

This 2002 article, composed as a response to a SageWoman theme, “Body and Soul,” could also have been archived under Alt-Epistemology.  Now, 16 years later, I have moved even further from mainstream epistemology, viewing all closely held “be-LIE-fs” as strictures that keep us from continuing to open to the universe. 

If “there’s no such thing as proof,” then how to decide the value of an idea?

by Ann Kreilkamp

When I was a young girl, I was lucky. I knew what the Truth was. The Truth was Roman Catholicism. Actually, I needed my religion to be “true.” Without my religion I would have nothing to stand on, no place to call home. I needed my religion to be true so badly that I even tried to ignore the fact that my friends “couldn’t go to heaven” (i.e., they would go to hell!) “because they weren’t Catholic.”

Later, when my own two children were small, my desperate need not to have yet another child clashed directly with my strict interpretation of religion, and, thank the Goddess! my own personal need finally took priority.

I still marvel at people who are able to let go of their religion the way they might discard last year’s clothing. I was not so lucky. In giving up Catholicism the foundation of my world caved in. I no longer knew what the Truth was. And I was terrified.

Quickly, I scurried to graduate school, in philosophy, the philosophy of science. My goal, as ever (I am a double Sagittarian), was Truth, and since schools and magazines and books and my doctor daddy had told me over and over again that if something isn’t scientific, it isn’t provable, not worth talking about, much less believing, I assumed science would replace the foundation destroyed by the loss of  religion. (In this progression, from religion to science, I personally recapitulated the history of western civilization.)

One semester in, I met a professor who terrified me, fascinated me. I needed to know who he was, what made him tick. I needed to know if he knew what Truth was, and if so, what was the proof.

Well, right away, on first meeting, he told me that there is no such thing as proof! That behind any proof there is a set of assumptions, which themselves need to be proved. In other words any attempt to prove something leads to an infinite regress of assumptions.

Now that, for me then, was a scary thought. For without proof I was left with nothing, no foundation, no bottom line. No way of making decisions as to what is good or bad, right or wrong.

I was a head, trailing a body. I was a (left) brain who happened to be attached to a disgusting thing that grunted, squealed, farted, made love, hated, loved, birthed, mothered, yearned, feared . . . You would think that my body would have dominated my brain, since, as a young woman in this culture, I was expected to have no brain, and especially back then, when I was swamped by hormonal tides.

But no. As a girl I had wanted to be a boy, and as a woman I wanted to be a man. And so I was. Whatever we intend, we get. I rarely menstruated and I hardly noticed my body. It was just that thing I had to drag around with me, while “I” (my brain, that is), was preoccupied with avoiding the infinite abyss of the infinite regress.

Had I not desperately held (in my mind) the unprovable assumption that it was better to be a man, I could have relaxed, let go, touched down into my body. I didn’t realize that the infinite regress was terrifying precisely because it was mind-created, and if I could have let go of my mind, I could have landed, kerplunk!, in my body. And had I done so, I could have luxuriated in its comfort, its sensual security, its appreciation of touch, taste, smell . . .

But I did not. I held on to my mind as if my life depended on it. And it did, at least the life I knew did. The life I had concocted for myself. The unique “identity” I had laboriously constructed as both better than and separate from, others.

Then my body, having received no attention from me, no care at all, and certainly no appreciation, rebelled. My body rebelled and almost killed me. That woke me up to its primacy.

And now I had a new thing to fear: not only the free fall of the mind into the abyss, but the capricious power of the body to sicken and die.

It took many years before I realized that the body’s symptoms were symbols. That my body was talking to me.

It took many more years before I sensed “the body” as a concentric series of dimensions, each one less dense, more diaphanous, than the others. And that, to study the body, was to study the universe.

From that time on, I have been fascinated with the body, its power to not just betray me but to enlighten me. Indeed, I now realize that Truth comes into me through the body. That my body is the ground of being, the bottom line, the foundation I was seeking all along.

Whatever Truth is, it must filter through the all-knowing cells of my own body before I can believe it.  And since, at different times, my body needs different things, different truths, then what I “believe” changes with its tides. Indeed, the word “belief” for me, is looking more and more suspect. For if to believe something is to attach to it, no matter what the cost, I would rather not attach, rather not believe, rather not get stuck! I want to be flexible, so that I can continue to evolve. By flexible I do not mean that I am a relativist, at least not in the sense of one who assumes all ideas are equal and then uses “relativism” to justify selfishness.

All ideas are not equal. Some are repugnant, and some are attractive. I rely on instinct, intuition, the knowing awareness of the cells of my body to tell me which is which. That way, no matter how glamorous an idea, or how much it has infected the culture in general, I have my own criterion for deciding whether it is true or false, good or bad. My body decides what is good or bad. Good or bad for me. Good or bad for me, now.

The deeper my surrender to my own body, the more I recognize it as a sensitive antenna of the larger Earth body. She too, then opens as a cell in the larger solar body, and the solar body as a cell in the galactic body. And so on, ad infinitum. The infinite regress is infinite expansion, nothing to be afraid of.

As I allow my natural corporal sensitivities to activate, I recognize the body’s essential mystery; in surrendering to the interior reality of the present moment, my responses become ever more natural and spontaneous.

As I center within my own body, all of nature, including the sky, that immense infinite regress into the vastness, is available to my awareness. The veil separating inside from outside thins, dissolves. Rhythms of the breath and heart synchronize with oceanic and stellar tides.

Thus, what might seem at first to be a solipsistic retreat into the most private place, the body, becomes the center of the universe, one’s personal portal to the interdimensional swirl of the great beyond.

Fear resides where security is lacking. My security comes from having solidly landed within my own body. Fear recedes, gives way to wonder.


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AK Reader: Dementia, or Getting lost with Mom (2008)

On this Father’s Day, I share another notation from the universal journey of working with one’s own parents as they move towards the dying process. Written for SageWoman in 2008, when Dad was 92 and Mom 89, they each lived on until the age of 96. Much more about both their processes and our family’s involvement documented in The Grieving Time.

Ben and Renee on their honeymoon, early 1942.

Dementia, or: Getting Lost with Mom (2008)

by Ann Kreilkamp

This is the story of a journey that, looking forward, I dreaded, and in hindsight, feels miraculous.

The plan was to go to Seattle and live for one week with my parents in their “continuing care” retirement community on Mercer Island. I would attend ot their daily needs, squire Mom about, and try not to fidget in the airless little apartment. While parading slowly to dinner we would exchange cheerful anonymous hellos with other revolving white-hairs and pass by the bulletin board, its latest funeral notices. Who would take that one’s place? Whose final reckoning would also lead to this handsome, well-run, lakeside facility and its programs, tours, concerts, bridge, holiday parties, and one meal a day — while waiting to die?

My perspective was, as you might guess, jaundiced. I was only going because my sister Paula in Baton Rouge had casually suggested that I might think about spending a week with them. She had just returned from a month-long visit, where she made their meals and did their dishes and slowly walked our 89-year-old mother around the beautiful grounds admiring flowers and birds.

Her suggestion came as a shock. Huh? Me, alone with the folks for a whole week? As the still skittish former black sheep, I stay with one of my sisters during Seattle family gatherings.

Even so, I found my strong reaction to Paula’s suggestion puzzling — until I realized that it felt like both an invitation and a benediction. She trusted me with the parents’ welfare. She was inviting me to take my place, once again, within the family circle.

But what place? What could I, the eldest child, possibly have to offer, given my role as rebel in our strict German Catholic household with the biblical patriarch Father and the mother who, until very recently, I had dismissed as a “cipher,” not there?

I hoped my trip would be an exercise in patience and compassion. I prayed to angels of my higher nature that years of “practicing the presence” would help me wake up, time after time, in the midst of boredom — and breathe. Return to the Now. Feel the life force coursing through my body and let go the busy mind that secretly judges and counts days and hours until release from the parental prison.

Over the past several years Mom has been gradually losing her short-term memory. Dad still mentally sharp, takes care of her. Sometimes they will walk together around the grounds, but his sciatica bothers him.

Four of my sisters live nearby. Kris, the youngest, considers herself privileged to help them, and visits several times a week. The other three take responsibility at varying levels. Our two brothers, one of them near Spokane and the other in Anchrorage, stop in periodically. Paula had just given them a month.

I would do my part.

Here, with very few changes, is the report I sent my siblings.


To all my wonderful brothers and sisters,

I suspect that those of you with whom I did not have some kind of conversation while in Seattle wonder how it went. Dad kept saying, “Fine, fine,” to those who asked in my presence. But what did that mean?

I’m here to tell you that it really did go fine, and that I hold memories from that precious time close to my heart.

Paula, I thank you for your suggestion that I spend a week with them. On some unconscious level, you gave me permission to both stay with them and be trusted to “not make things worse.”

I’ve long realized that my 30-year polarization with Dad was painful for everyone. And even though I had assumed that he and I “worked it through” years ago, in the past year or so I’ve noticed some animosity from him, and attributed it to his back pain. Now that I’ve lived with them for a week, I recognize his crankiness and short temper as symptoms of his grieving process as he valiantly shoulders more and more daily responsibility for his life partner during the slow dissolution of her personality.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, and had been feeling quite nervous. I think he did too, for when he crossed the street to greet me as I got out of the rental car at around 9 PM on March 5 he started talking fast and couldn’t seem to meet my eyes. I found myself opening my arms wide to him with no words, and I think he felt grateful for that.

When I look back on that week now, indeed, even within a day of my arrival, it felt as if the situation was uncannily choreographed. I kept finding myself saying things that I did not know would pop out of my mouth, much to our surprise, and realized later that each conversation seemed to be a set-up for the one that followed. It was as if I entered with a backstory that had to be filled in before we could move forward.

Mom was, of course, glad to see one of her children, and shuffled slowly to greet me at the door. She looked frail and wan, and seemed to have “gone downhill” quite a bit since last August, when my son’s family and I lunched with them during their trip to the west coast.

The first thing that popped out of me came that very evening, when I mentioned a remark that John Bailey had made in Iris, a book that recounted the final years with his wife, the British novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch, as she moved through dementia. I don’t have the exact words, but it’s something like, “Iris’s mind may be gone, but she’s not gone. Iris is still here, still the same woman that I feel in love with so long ago.” The remark had struck me forcefully when I read it; Bayley so clearly identified and valued, felt connected to, an iris beneath (in her case, famously brilliant) mind. Indeed, I got the impression that the Iris he loved was not her mind.

The next morning, just prior to breakfast — which I fixed, but failed to get their usual cereal, o.j., coffee, and half and half on the table at the same time, so one or the other would diplomatically get up to retrieve what I had forgotten — I asked Mom what she wanted to eat and she just looked at me, sort of weary and perplexed. What popped out that time was, “Oh I can just see you, standing above all this, wondering why people still eat? What’s the point of eating? Why eat one thing rather than another?” Of course I laughed when I said it, and they sort of laughed, but the remark unsettled everybody — in a glancing way, since my own energy level kept the situation moving more quickly than they are used to.

Later that first morning, when Mom looked bewildered about something that she was supposed to find, I made a similar observation about objects: “I can just see you, above it all, looking down on we who are still dealing with objects, moving objects around, taking this one, getting that one, looking at them, valuing them, discarding them. All this business about objects. So silly, eh?” Something like that. Again they both looked nonplussed.

After breakfast, Dad got up and started to clear the table, which I humorously objected to, saying that’s why I was there, to help them. That I had asked Paula to send me what she remembered of their daily schedule so I could pick up where she left off.

He responded, also with humor, that he’d work with me the first day to make sure I knew what to do, where things go, and that after that I could take over.

As luck would have it, the sofa bed for their guest room was due to arrive that morning, so Dad and I could look forward to a mutual project — a third thing to mediate between us and ease the awkwardness.

Together we unboxed the sofa bed; together we figured out where the legs screwed in, each of us taking direction from the other when one of us got stuck. (It was trickier than it looked.)

Afterwards, Mom came to me and said, in a low voice, “Shall we go out to lunch?” I thought that a great idea, and went to find Dad who was in the kitchen, smearing mayo on white bread for the usual lunchtime sausage and cheese sandwiches. With Mom standing timidly by, I said to his big broad back, “Dad, Mom and I are going out to lunch.” (I hadn’t seen what he was doing in the kitchen.) Without turning around, he said, “Oh no you’re not. I’m fixing three sandwiches, see? We can eat right here.”

With Mom still witnessing from behind me, I again said to his broad back, in the same tone as before (surprising myself at how easy I felt with this, how casual, not worked up as I would have been in the past), “No Dad, Mom and I are going out to lunch, and you get to stay here, in your hermitage.”

Again, he replied, in the same way, with his back to me, busily fixing sandwiches. “No, we’re eating here, I’ve already fixed the sandwiches.”

Again I replied in the same tone, the same thing. And this time, he caught himself, right inside his cranky, grumpy, commanding tone; he caught himself and turned his large frame around to face his smallest daughter, looming over me in that tiny kitchen, and said in what seemed a half humorous, half menacing tone, “No you’re not — because I’m bigger and stronger than you are!”

The tension broken, we all laughed.

Kris tells me that Dad has sometimes done this with her, too, catching himself in his meanie act and using humor to change the mood. Pretty amazing for a 92-year-old alpha male.

As Mom and I walked out the door, he said to me in a low voice, “I do appreciate the other,” which I took to mean our lunch out giving him time to himself.

That was the first of a number of lunches out for Mom and me, and each day we’d also run one errand. That first day we were to buy a mattress pad for the new bed. For this Mom thought we should go to Bellevue Square. Dad gave me directions on how to get to Bellevue, and I assumed Mom could lead me from there. I think she assumed she could too, but soon got disoriented. “Oh Ann, this is awful!” she wailed as I drove miles past our intended destination. I put my hand on her knee, saying, “Hey, it’s okay Mom, we’ll find it, and besides, it’s fun to get lost. You shoud see how many times I get lost! And remember there are always options. You’re never really stuck.”

I was attempting to calm her fear and panic, with little success. Finally we saw two women out for a walk and stopped for directions.

This first occasion of “getting lost” (three in all over the week) helped start a discussion about what was going on inside her. At some point soon after this, I asked, out of the blue, “What does it feel like inside your mind?” And after a slight hesitation she pronounced, with unusual animation, “Empty.”

I was flying by the seat of my pants here, and once again, something popped out. “Empty? Wow! Do you realize that this is what many of us are trying to achieve? I’ve been working on letting go of all the silly stuff that’s in my mind for years! This is what meditation is all about.” I went on for some time in that vein, her sitting beside me in the car as we drove, energy level up, way up. First the panic brought it up, and now this surprising take on her situation seemed to be re-calibrating her entire system.

As we sat at a little sidewalk cafe eating good thick soup (I ate most of hers), she suddenly looked up and said, with unusual focus and intent, completely present and open: “I really appreciate being with you. I feel comfortable being with you. Because you understand me, you accept me, and you don’t judge me . . . I can feel a lot of people talking about me behind my back.”

I was so moved by this direct, sustained connection! So rare, in my experience of her at any age. So very moved that I said to her, full of feeling, “I am honored to be with you during this time. During this time when your personality, held together by memories, is thinning, dissolving, so that your real self, your real essence or nature, is shining through. So very honored. You are becoming what I always wanted to be. You are letting go of that which society teaches us, to value oruselves only for our minds, and the roles we play, our ‘identities.’ It feels wonderful to be with you as you move into your original nature.” Something like that.

That conversation set the tone. For the next six days, now that I understood the nature and purpose of my visit, I utilized every opportunity to reinforce that perspective, and help her not only come to terms with what is happening, but to value the direction in which she is moving, both for herself and for her gift to the rest of us.

On our return we again got lost. I didn’t have a Mercer Island map in the car, and realized later that we had been driving for 30 minutes on the west side of the island rather than the east side as she descended deeper into panic, directing me one way then another, with me following all her directions and laughing when they didn’t pan out while trying to ease her fear, saying, hey, I love to get lost, I’m always getting lost, and would certainly rather be lost on the island than somewhere in downtown Seattle! Her body tense and contracted, she kept sighing and saying how awful it ws to not know where she was. The confusion deepened. “Where do I live now?” she asked plaintively, several times, minutes apart. Sobered by her plight, I responded, softly, “Covenant Shores.”

I used this occasion to speak about her fear, and panic, and how they were making it worse for her. I soothed her by saying that she would never be alone, and that all she had to do was to relax and trust her companion. I asked her to slow down her breathing, and to breathe deeply.

The next day, we got lost trying to find the Mercer Island library. Again, 30 minutes. This time we were both laughing. And she exclaimed, several times, out of the blue: “I trust you. I trust you completely. Because no matter what happens, you always land on your feet!”

I found these three experiences of getting lost with Mom a terrific metaphor for the disorientation and confusion that she undergoes as her various types of memories dissolves. I also found it interesting in view of what happened that first morning, before the bed arrived.

She and I had been sitting at the dining room table with my computer. I was questioning her about her life and transcribing her responses. Besides historical questions, I was asking her things like, “What was easy for you when you were small, what was hard?” Almost immediately she mentioned being left-handed in a right-handed world, and made to write with her right hand. Later, I spoke to her of that original disorientation as closely related to her current disorientation.

I mentioned her left-handedness to Dad the next day at breakfast, and asked her to repeat for him how it made her feel to be singled out early on as “different” (thus, in her mind, “wrong,” “bad”). I hoped that he would pick up on how it affected her emotionally back then (and not just how it led to her “trick” of mirror writing). He did seem to listen to her more closely than usual. (I sense that he treats most of what she says as if coming from a child, treating her like a child. And now she was saying to him, in the voice of her original nature, what it was like to be that child.)

At one point, after hearing a lot of childhood stories, I said to her, “You know? It seems like much of what you say can be grouped into two themes: fear, and the need to learn how to be alone.” She agreed, said that her older sisters got to have a big room together in front of the house and she had to live in the small back bedroom by herself.

By naming these two overall themes, I realized later that I was attempting to help her to begin to look at her life as a whole, to get some perspective on what she has been doing here, and what she still needed to do. Fear and in particular, fear of being alone, are now front and center as she works with the loss of her memories. And yet, of course, this is precisely the time in her life when we must not leave her alone.

By the way, I really enjoy the fact that Mom is now much more physically oriented, holding on as we walk to the car or to meals, or around the grounds. I think that holding on to someone is really good for her, helps her orient and stay present in her body. It makes me wonder about the focus on getting her a walker. I realize that she will need it at some point to move from room to room, but feel that when she is out, due to periods of sudden disorientation, she should always have someone with her, and why not hold on to that person as they walk? I even worry about her getting lost in the building they live in when she takes out the trash. Which brings me to the next part of the story of my week.

On the third day, I was doing yoga/chi kung/tai chi in the early morning in one room with the door closed. I overheard her ask him something, and then his answer, instructing her to “go down the hallway, turn left, go through a door, turn right” — something like that. I instinctively stuck my head out the door and said, “How about if I accompany you?” Dad turned and said, harshly, “I need to have her do as much as she can for herself, independently, for as long as possible, to keep her self-worth.”

I quietly closed the door again, taken aback by his attitude, his tone and his talk of her “self-worth” in front of her, and also feeling doubt about my role there. I berated myself for coming in from the outside to a situation where he’d been dealing with it on a daily basis for years, and thinking I could tell him what was best! I wondered if I should shut up completely.

Just then Dad came into the room, Mom having gone outside after his instructions.

Speaking in a less harsh tone (he evidently felt bad for barking at me), he repeated what he had said in her presence. I said that I could certainly appreciate what he was going through with her, how hard it must be, and then asked, “And may I say something here?” I was surprised at how quickly, even eagerly, he said, “Yes, go ahead!”

“On our lunch together and our errand yesterday,” I told him, “I’ve been working with Mom to help her locate her self-worth below her mind.”

“What? What do you mean?” My statement obviously shocked him. But it also seemed to open him. As if he was looking for another way to see the situation.

I told him that it seemed to me that as her personality, normally held together by memory, was dissolving, it opened the door for her nature, her essence, her soul, or whatever you want to call it, to come forward. That the veils hiding her real, original self were disappearing, and that I felt honored, even privileged, to be with her during this time.

He was stunned. And obviously grateful. “That’s a great idea, a good way to look at it!” We all know that Dad has always seen people in term sof soul and personality, and values the soul over the personality; he just hadn’t applied his theology to this real life situation with his own wife.

It often takes someone coming in from the outside to point out the obvious. I’m so glad I could offer this perspective as part of what I can do during this time when so many of you bear the long-term daily burden.

Later that same morning, when I was getting ready to go on my walk and Mom was at the hairdresser’s, I gain felt moved to speak with Dad, though with no idea what I was going to say. I went to where he was sitting sprawled in his recliner, and for some reason felt moved to hold his big toes as I again referred to the dissolution of the personality as not only a loss, but as an opening to something much larger. That Mom is way bigger than her mind; that her real nature is beginning to shine through and I feel so honored. And I acknowledged the great and continuing sorrow he is feeling as he loses contact with her old familiar persona, and what a great job he’s doing with her, how patient and steadfast he is. His eyes welled up with tears as he strove without succeeding to contain the extreme emotion on his face.

So that’s what I was up to in Seattle, helping to stimulate a paradigm shift in our perspective on Mom’s continuing changes, from focus on loss of the small self to a focus on opening to the larger self. I feel that this shift has the capacity not only to benefit her, and him, but all of us.

By the final evening, when the three of us went out to a pub for dinner, he and I had a theological discussion in which I baited him humorously, saying I hoped he wouldn’t think I was going to hell for believing in a God that was in the world rather than above it. And it was good, he didn’t take the bait; said that I was welcome to my perspective, but that he “prefers” to think of God as separate . . . We agreed that neither of us could prove anything. That it’s all very mysterious.

I end this with a request that those of you with whom I have not talked personally ponder what I’m saying in this letter, and that hopefully we can all be on the same page as we work to help both Mom and Dad in this immense, very precious passage that they have now embarked upon.



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AK Reader: Family Reunion (2001)

Sagewoman‘s theme “Family Reunion” prompted this piece, the memories from which event still linger. In fact, it may have been the last time the entire extended family of Ben and Renee Kreilkamp were invited to celebrate together. Since then, I note that we have experienced the deaths of both our parents, of sister Mary and my husband Jeff, of my ex-husband and father of my children Patrick (only one month after this reunion, and one day past 9/11); plus, since then many of us have gathered to celebrate a number of new marriages; we have comes to terms with at least two divorces; many more grandchildren and great grandchildren have been born, some of whom I’ve never met and likely never will. It’s become just too difficult to gather us, all of us at once, when, for example, several of my siblings gather their own extended lines yearly, and even those include up to 20 people. Instead, we eight (and now seven) siblings gather, occasionally, with our without spouses.

I feel grateful and amazed to recognize that our family is unusual in that, at least as far as I know, there are no really difficult and long-running undercurrents to undermine our solidarity. And I am reminded, in telling of all these changes since this was written in 2001, of the impermanence of all phenomena, including that of the rise and fall of families and individuals within them.

Alice Lake, which we didn’t hike to after all, thanks to my stumble. Up until this year, I had also warned my family that I wanted my ashes scattered there. But something has changed within me. I now want my ashes scattered right here in our Green Acres Permaculture Village gardens.


by Ann Kreilkamp

I have always enjoyed high school class reunions, considering them wonderful opportunities to conduct longitudinal studies of people’s lives. We meet every five years; I look for subtle and not so subtle changes in our faces and bodies, seeing in them clues to the unfoldment of our interior lives as we age over time.

Family reunions offer an even more extraordinary learning opportunity. Especially perhaps, in a large family like mine, with parents in their mid-80s, eight siblings, eight spouses, 22 grandchildren, 8 great grandchildren . . .

Not only do we siblings and parents participate in watching each other age, not only do we discover and enjoy the diverse natures and growth processes of fresh new beings as they are born to us and to our own children — the more astute among us also witness the subtle and not so subtle evolution in the dynamics set in motion during our childhood.

We siblings are all conscious or not-so-conscious players in a karmic game in which both the fixed chronological order of our births and the great heaving sea of collective and individual memory intersect continuously with present-day events, lending them an invisible coloration. How clear or cloudy that coloration is, and therefore how much capacity we have to respond in the moment or react to some long-nurtured or imagined or forgotten hurt, depends on how much inner work each of us has done. Those who have gone through the long process of sorting through memory, with the aim of dissolving the sticky residue of resentment and nostalgia, have more freedom of thought and action.

Yet, the job of stripping the self of conditioning is never entirely finished. Family is the original karmic cauldron, the alchemical vessel that shaped us originally and which continues its hold on even those among us who pride themselves in thinking they are finally free.

Take me, for example. We held a family reunion in Sun Valley this month, 35 of us in six condos, on a five-day journey. Daytimes saw us spreading out into various outdoor activities. Nighttimes we gathered, for cocktails and dinner.

Two things happened to me this time which I find particularly noteworthy. One is a shift in my way of being in the family; the other is a shift in my way of seeing the evolving family dynamics.

The first began with a big plan I made prior to our arrival. I emailed everybody, saying I would lead whoever wanted to go on an all-day hike in the nearby Sawtooth mountains, up to a particularly beautiful place, Alice Lake. Many siblings and their children responded, some of whom I knew wouldn’t have the strength or the stamina to make the trip. These I counseled that they do something less strenuous — which hurt their feelings.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time, and was very much in keeping with my eldest child role as “intrepid leader“ to plan such a trip.

Once we got together, at the end of the first evening I announced that we would be doing this trip two days hence. About ten of us were excited to go.

The next day I went walking in the hills around Sun Valley with my own little nuclear family and a few others, and just as we were nearing the top of a hill I stumbled, and felt a sharp pain in my lower right leg. (It turned out that I had  “sprung” the tendon attached to my knee.) Though I caught myself before I fell, the sharpness of the pain told me that this was something I had to take seriously. I was amazed that I had stumbled, as my sure-footedness is legendary, and in decades of mountain trail hiking, I have only once before hurt myself, and that was going downhill with a heavy pack on my back.

That afternoon I sat on the couch with an iced and elevated leg, immensely interested in the fact that I had stumbled and hurt myself. Wondering why. Hoping I wouldn’t have to cancel the next day’s outing to Alice Lake.

That evening, at the party, I noticed that I didn’t have the energy to interact with my family the way I usually did, that not only was my leg crippling my walk, but my entire physical and emotional system felt weakened. Since I was not radiating energy, I was more vulnerable to energy coming in, and my perceptions of my family altered as well.

(Needless to say, by the end of the evening, I announced that the trip to Alice Lake was off, to no one’s surprise; they had been waiting for me to accept what they already knew.)

My love of walking is inherited from my parents who still walk a mile a day. For me, unless I walk, preferably uphill, or do something else aerobic, every day, I become frustrated and angry. I am blessed with such abundant energy, that I must always work off some of it to be able to sit at the computer. In fact, my whole family has inherited high energy.

Which brings me to the second discovery I made this year.

For when we get together this immense vitality is both wondrous and at the root of a great difficulty. For how do you cram 35 squirming people into even a large condo’s living room? And where else, except a restaurant, can you  eat together in a strange place? (I would like us to meet in a campground, where there is more room, but not many like to rough it.)

For three of our four evening events I was in an altered (weakened) state, reduced to the role of observer. And I began to pay close attention to the two primary ways in which we deal with all the energy at these once-every-few-years gatherings.

First, we drink a lot. I have always noticed this, and judged it; not until this year did I see that drinking is in response to a particular need. For drinking is something not many of us do that much of otherwise. Now I sense that we drink when we gather to help us flow together, since we are all so different, so glad to see each other, and so pent up with years’ worth of catching up with our varied lives. But, since there are so many of us together in one room for our evening events — and since we are drinking! — it gets noisy, and it’s almost impossible to hold a real conversation. So some of us leave our parties vaguely disappointed and frustrated.

And secondly, we sing a lot. Twenty-five years ago, we siblings began a tradition on Christmas vacations, to create a cantata to sing for the folks on Christmas eve. (The goal was to make them laugh and make them cry.) We did this for a number of years, and each time it was quite a production, with lots of planning and rehearsals. Each of us would create our own song, telling about our life, and together we would create another song to sing as a chorus for the entire saga. Most of us are musical, playing instruments like piano, guitar, flute, drums, horn. And though we have always sung a lot, these cantatas became a family tradition, eagerly looked forward to, and glued us together with happy memories. We taped them, of course, so we could listen and laugh again later to the old ones.

This year we seemed to have started a new tradition, to rival the old cantatas, to which we have already given a name, “the legend.” It started when my niece Megan brought her African drum, plus two other drums which she taught, on the spot, two younger nieces to play. They started drumming, and my brother John then went into a wonderful riff about Dad and Mom, making them figures of legend, calling Dad a “faith healer” who knew that Mom (“Lady Renee”) was the source of all his healing. (In real life Dad was a physician who, when he retired, became a deacon in the Catholic Church). Then John pointed to me, expecting me to continue the saga. I gulped, rose to my feet and carried on (somewhat lamely), and when done pointed to another family member, and so on. This “legend” went on for perhaps 45 minutes, and in this way, many people got to tell something of their own story publically to the beat of the drums.

So in that way, the tremendous energy of my family was harnessed. At least for that 45 minutes. Other “performances” came on different nights: my nephew Andrew’s Bob Dylan imitations on guitar; my sister Paula’s presentation of a song she had performed as the lead singer in the musical “Nunsense,” dressed in a nun’s habit; her daughter Rachel’s ballet dance; the two youngest great grandchildren (one of them my first and only grandchild) 13 and 14 months old respectively, rocking to the beat of the music, kissing, teaching each other to push chairs across the room.

These performances organize the mass of individual energies, give them a structure to flow through. At other times however, I, and I am sure others, especially the more introspective among us, experience the family energy as chaotic, cacophonic. Difficult to exist within.

So, it seems to me, what is needed here is more traditions to organize our energies, and to help individuals express themselves so that all gathered may appreciate them. Just partying for four evenings in a row doesn’t cut it. It never did. Yet it is only now, when I am 58 years old, that I can view with compassion our struggle to contain and express this family vitality. I see how the chaos that constantly threatens to overwhelm us is, at least at times, being channeled into creativity. For that, I am grateful and glad.

And I am grateful for my accident too, which literally brought me to my knees. Had I not been stopped in my tracks, I would have not come to this place of compassion. It is time to give up my prime-of-life role; time to sit back and enjoy the flowering around me. From now on I join in, not as leader, but as elder.

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AK Reader: Has “Celebrating Diversity” (1996) devolved into “Identity Politics”?

The theme of this column, written for the Fall Equinox issue 1996 of Sagewoman, is one that I never thought would become even more problematic than I recognized at the time. It sounds so good, that phrase, “celebrate diversity”! But in the last few years, this issue has begun to make my blood boil even hotter than it did over 20 years ago. Why?

Here goes.

Usually I’m all for non-binary approaches to life, realizing that life is much more colorful than merely black and white. But there’s something about the LGBTQ movement, or whatever it calls itself now, that just doesn’t sit well within me.

There may have been a few more letters added since last I looked to the increasing subcultural differentiation of the supposed gender spectrum. Notice my snarky tone. And indeed I do feel snarky about this issue, the latest, to my mind, designed and promoted to set us apart and divide us further into tiny little warring groups, not just based on “interest” anymore, but on what we now call “identity.” Voila: IDENTITY POLITICS. And: “if you don’t realize I’m at “this” place on the gender spectrum, and don’t call me by the pronoun that I declare valid, then I will judge you unmercifully as bad or wrong.”

I’m trying to take my own temperature here; trying to figure out precisely why I get so triggered by people who get triggered when others don’t see them as they want to see themselves “on the gender spectrum.” As I said above, and let me repeat: ordinarily I do not “advocate” for binary anything. Indeed, I spend inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to educate others on the fact that opposites need to be bridged and there’s lots of shades in between.

But I do think I’m beginning to recognize what I consider so off and off-putting about this movement to increase the range of gender possibilities in the human world, and to base one’s self-worth on whatever part of the “spectrum” one decides to “identify with” and then not just ask others, but insist that they agree.

I now realize it’s because I’m getting sick and tired of people identifying with the body as their main underlying source of not just “identity” but self-worth. As I told a male friend recently who wants to identify as both male and female and wears skirts on occasion, I’ve been working to integrate male and female within myself for probably 50 years now. (Karl Jung called this process of integration “individuation.”) That for me, this issue is a mental/emotional/spiritual one, not a physical one. At least not usually.

Of course, I realize some people are born with ambiguous genitalia. Native Americans call them “berdache,” and see them as special, holy. Others, even when small children, seem to gravitate to what at least our culture sees as opposite sex activities and attitudes.

But to me, those who use hormones to change their bodies, and worse, much much worse, those who would mutilate their bodies through surgery in pursuit of the opposite sex, are going in a direction that not only might they regret later, but that is against what nature intended, at least in this life.

I realize that I may be considered hopelessly antidiluvian in this attitude towards this latest “celebrate diversity” category, and though I’m usually all for seeing life in terms of a spectrum of possibilities, I do assume that, with few exceptions, most bodies are designed by nature to be either female or male, period, no matter what their occupants might decide. 

So, though I was a tomboy as a kid, and though many people at first glance would think me lesbian (short hair, active, direct thrusting manner), I tell anyone who asks that I am decidedly heterosexual. Not that being lesbian is “bad,” either, but it’s simply not my proclivity to sexually desire a member of the same sex. While I find that the female aspect of myself is by far the more problematic than the male aspect, that does not mean that I want to cut off my breasts and pretend I have a penis. Why do that? I don’t identify primarily with my body. My body as a part of nature, is a vessel for emotional/mental/spiritual aspects of myself.

Nature’s ways are mysterious. And I will learn from Nature whatever it is I need to know about being in this body rather than its opposite.


“Celebrating Diversity” (1996)

by Ann Kreilkamp

I winced when I learned of this issue’s theme. Not because I don’t want to celebrate diversity. Of course I do. Don’t all “right thinking” people want this? What upsets me is that this beautiful phrase, “celebrating diversity,” has been picked up, bandied about, co-opted. It is now just one more “politically correct” tag to use and abuse.

As often happens when many people simultaneously become aware of some feeling, that feeling will be described with a certain phrase. A phrase which is utterly appropriate to the meaning. A phrase which, furthermore, sings. “Celebrating diversity” is such a phrase, and it clicks into the collective unconscious.

As a result, more people use the words “celebrating diversity” to express the feeling inside them. The feeling builds. Or at least we think it does. We hope it does. But here’s where it gets tricky: the more people use the words, the more the words themselves take on their own life. What was originally an inspired symbol of a significant feeling is transformed into a sign, which merely points to something. What? The original feeling which inspired the phrase has become buried, under the projections of those who (intentionally or not) begin to use this phrase for their own ends.

The phrase “celebrating diversity” begins to have another connotation, of a social or political nature. We identify  ourselves with the phrase. The phrase becomes just one more tag which we attach to ourselves. So we begin to think of ourselves as good, wise, politically correct, etc., because we, unlike those other people,  celebrate diversity.

In this way what was originally a full and generous feeling which prompted the invention of a certain linguistic phrase to express it appropriately, tends to transform, over time, through the magic of our relationship with language, into its own opposite. We celebrate diversity, unlike “those fundamentalists.”

“Fundamentalist”: another word which we use these days, a word to describe those who do not celebrate diversity, but instead insist on their own beliefs and way of life as the only ones which are good, politically correct, etc., because they, unlike those other people, know the Truth.

So we who proclaim the Truth of “Celebrate Diversity” need to recognize our own fundamentalism in judging those who do not know this Truth, as bad, foolish, politically incorrect, etc.

We need to embrace two challenges, here and anytime we use language in an attempt to transform consciousness.

*1) How can we keep the original feeling behind the language alive? The feeling, in this case, which truly celebrates all of life. How can we learn to see through our own words, and the self-identification and self-importance that comes into us when we use them, back to the feeling that birthed these words as a common expression? How can we do this as we are speaking?

* 2) What stops us from opening our hearts to everyone? Why are fundamentalists so angry? Why are the fundamentalists in ourselves, we who despise fundamentalists, so angry? What needs to change within us so that we may truly celebrate our diversity, rather than assuming that we do celebrate it, and hate those who don’t?

The first question refers to the alchemy of language. The second goes deeper, to that which in us slams the door on others. I don’t pretend to know the answers. But I have been looking at the questions, especially the second one. I want to identify and transform the fundamentalism inside my own world.

This task is not just mine, it is everyone’s. Pluto’s 13-year transit through the sign of Sagittarius is going to force us to confront fundamentalism, not in others, but in ourselves. Pluto moved into Sagittarius soon after the verdict was reached in the O.J. Simpson trial. That verdict clued me in for the first time to the profound fundmentalism within myself: I, I now realize,am a racist. This realization came as a complete surprise. The clue was my response to the verdict, and the reports of blacks cheering that verdict. I was shocked, disturbed, nauseated.

I wanted individual justice done, O.J. Simpson convicted. Instead, what America received was racial justice, for the crime of race murder. A balancing of the scales didtake place, not on an indivdiual level, but culturally. But I did not see that at the time; instead, I was furious and terrified — of the black race as a whole. The feeling was familiar. It is ancient, tribal. This was the first time I noticed it move from my unconscious to the surface and erupt.

I was not only shocked at the verdict of that trial, I was also shocked to find myself so shocked. For the first time I was paying attention to a reaction of mine which, before Pluto’s entrance into Sagittarius, I would not have noticed at all. I would have found it normal to be shocked, not noticed the racism underlying it. Now I was probing my own reaction, for what it meant about me. How I could be so racist without knowing it?

This task, of paying close attention to, of probing and dismantling assumptions, is the task of those who intend to evolve under Pluto’s transit through Sagittarius. I have noticed that this task is also fiendishly difficult. When I immediately react to something, it feels instinctive, natural. I don’t realize that my reaction is mediated— by assumptions, values, attitudes which I hold at such a deep level that I don’t know they are there.

Finding my own racism goes against the grain of what I think about myself. My identity suffers when it finds itself interrogated. I think of myself as politically correct! Indeed, as a professional astrologer, for many years my very business has been to celebrate diversity, by identifying the unique energy pattern in each of us. So I find myself almost slack-jawed when my probes into my own unconscious yield results. Each clue to my own fundamentalism feels like extracting a tooth, it hurts.

In my own depths is a largely unrecognized, tangled, coagulated, rock-solid set of unconscious assumptions, which functions as the framework through which I view reality. It is as if there is a set of glasses inside my brain through which I see. They refract my world in a certain way. The glasses themselves, however, seem invisible and weightless. Since I don’t know I have them on, I think that my view of reality is real, objective, “The Truth.”

Well, wait a minute. It’s not thatcrude. I dorealize that other people see things differently, that each of us has a “point of view,” a certain angle or perspective through which we view the world. I realize that since each of us occupies a different point in space, no two “points of view” are identical.

So my background as one who truly does (in theory) celebrate diversity is not just astrological, it is philosophical. In fact, it got me in a lot of trouble as a doctoral student in philosophy, where “epistemological fundamentalism” is the norm. This idea is that, despite our different points of view, there is One Truth which we are all attempting, somehow (hopefully through science) to attain. What I did, back then, 25 years ago, was question how, if we do occupy different points within space, we could ever hope to see things the same? For this, I was scapegoated.

And I have been scapegoated by my own family, where my father is a fundamentalist Roman Catholic. As an obvious fundamentalist, his beliefs structure his life entirely. Whenever there is a conflict between what he thinks and what he feels, what he thinks seems to win. At least it seems to with me, the eldest of his eight children and the only one to directly question his beliefs. This puts me in a confrontational situation with him, over and over again, and it makes everyone else in the family extremely uncomfortable. So, even though some of them also have quietly diverged from the family belief structure, I am the only one to make an issue of it.

On the one hand, I want to say that all my brothers and sisters are fundamentalists, since they all still seem to live within that bubble created by the patriarchal father’s beliefs. On the other hand, I must admit that, besides my father, I am the other serious fundamentalist, since something about my personality, and my Sun in her Sagittarian desire for Truth creates a strong polarity with him and his beliefs. We judge each other absolutely. Our absolute judgments come from our “true beliefs.” It doesn’t really matter what those beliefs are. What matters is that, for each of us, those beliefs are so strong that they create a structure through which we justify ourselves.

My father’s giving up his beliefs would be his giving up his reason for living. His entire life has been organized around his belief system. Letting that go would be a free fall through space. Terrifying. Impossible.

I am more fortunate. It is not impossible for me to give up my fundamentalism, though it may hurt. Despite my Sagittarian tendency to dogmatism and righteousness, I belong to a generation whose ingestion of “consciousness-altering substances” helped us realize that all beliefs about the world arerelative. For if the world changes under the influence of LSD, then the one world which I had known before, fractures into two. And if there are two worlds there are many worlds. This is the essence of relativism.

Once I go through the painful process of discovering my “true beliefs” I can give them up, and drop down into another part of myself, the part which breathes, and digests, and loves, and acts. I can connect with my body, its real, unmediated instincts and desires, its pleasures and pains. I surrender to a larger whole by trusting in dreams and visions and the uncanny synchronicities of everyday life.

But if I let my Sagittarian personality take over, if I proclaim this more inclusive, right-brained way of life, this way of life which is larger than anything I can say in language, then I am trumpeting my own fundamentalism, blasting others with me, what Ibelieve and how Ilive, rather than letting them live in their own terms.

Therefore part of what I need to do in probing my own fundamentalism is to see how and where and how thoroughly I do assume that I am the Sun at the center of the universe, and that my rays reach all corners of the dark sky. Notice that here is one of those assumptions which I did not know I had: I assume the sky has corners, that it is finite, bounded!

But I don’t believe this! Not consciously! Indeed, I have not believed it for many years. In fact, one way I introduce astrology to clients is to say this: “You are the center of the universe. Everyone is in the center of the universe. Because the universe has no circumference, the center is everywhere.”

So, not only do I believe in diversity, I have a wonderful, expansive philosophical rationale for it: the universe is infinite in all directions. Spiritually and intellectually, I have long sensed the infinite mystery that surrounds this tiny little world we occupy. Even so, on a personality level, my own Sagittarian Sun (occupying the first house of my natal astrological chart) is so strong that it tends to scorch those whom it touches. I may say that I believe in diversity, but in practice, it is difficult for me to live and let live. Especially when I am up against one whom I consider to be “fundamentalist.” Such people make my blood boil. I instantly polarize, and there I am again, back duking it out with my father.

So what makes my blood boil? What makes the Montana Freemen’s blood boil? What makes the Middle Eastern terrorist’s blood boil? The feeling is so instantaneous and so strong that it must have some kind of survival value and must be somehow connected to a more primeval part of ourselves, the limbic brain, perhaps. In order to release that boiling blood, some deep insecurity, some deep threat to our own personal safety, will have to be addressed. Pretty words like “Celebrate Diversity,” won’t do it by themselves. We don’t go forwards into a larger life until we first make our foundations strong.

What is missing? What is the real foundation for which our various and conflicting “True Beliefs” have been a substitute?




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Post-Summit Reverberations: The Astrology of “Trump’s 5 Rules for Ruling the World”

This is an amazing article. Maybe it means I don’t have to read The Art of the Deal?

Trump’s 5 Rules for Ruling the World

I can’t help but see these rules in light of his astrological chart.



Mars in late Leo conjunct Ascendant at karmic 29° Leo with Regulus, King of the Heavens.


Sun conjunct North Node and inventive, out of the box Uranus.


Sun conjunct North Node and wild, unpredictable Uranus opposite Moon (born at an eclipse).


Sun in Gemini can hold opposite views at once, combined with Uranus, nothing is too strange to consider. His apparent long-term strategic thinking (which is beginning to show, now that he’s been in office nearly 18 months), indicates  multi-dimensional awareness of big, bigger, and even bigger pictures: Sun/Uranus in Gemini opposite Moon in philosophical Sagittarius, he who searches for larger and larger spheres of meaning.


That Mars again! What, me worry! That’s for you peons.


In short, let’s intend that Donald J. Trump be guided by higher intelligence. And that, at some point soon, he will walk barefoot in the forest on mushrooms. 

Because once that happens, then his Sagittarian capacity to see widening perspectives will enlarge even further. That infamous egocentric Mars/Sun/ Uranian energy that is proving so effective in blowing up the old globalist agenda, uncovering corruption, and overturning stuck structures and mindsets will then redirect itself from freeing up the world for uber-capitalism to beam its laser focus onto his actual path, which is in earthy, grounded, stubborn, sensuous 24° Taurus, at the Midheaven.

May Trump — and all of us — remember — re-member! — the natural communion of our human species with Earth and Her cosmic home. Nature calls, beneath Trump’s rules. Nature’s rules of continuous, rhythmic, open-ended interdependency and differentiation easily trump Trump’s rules of pretending he is the best, strongest, most dominant God to ever live outside Nature and declare “dominion” over Her.


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Post-Summit: Michael Pollan’s new book, “How to Change Your Mind” trumps even Trump’s Summit

If Michael Pollan can publish a book like this, and get yuge publicity, given his platform, then anything, literally anything, is possible. This trumps even Trump’s Summit. Why am I just now getting wind of it?

In the past month there have been gobs of video interviews with Pollan. Here’s one of them:

Way back in 1969, I was introduced to LSD, and it literally blew my thoroughly indoctrinated mind wide open. From then on, I was no longer cemented into the world-view of Roman Catholicism, or even of western epistemology. From then on, I knew that “reality” morphed into whatever “I” choose to focus on,  that the sky is wide open, and that “I” am one with the sky.

(Oh wow, just went to grab the cover of Pollan’s book and noticed the image on it. Brilliant. And exactly my experience on LSD: beyond the wall, the open sky.)

Yes, I date my own transformation to my first LSD trip, and my second one. There was no third. No need for one, though I have taken other psychedelics, including mushrooms, psilocibin, and mescaline over the years. None recently. Again, not needed. Once we are open to the universe, it’s hard to close the doors.

So now I would amend my former advice to Donald Trump. Now I say: Don’t just take off your shoes and walk barefoot in the forest, DO IT WHILE ON MAGIC MUSHROOMS. (Note: I’ve corrected this to magic mushrooms from LSD, see Laura Bruno comments.) You’re a fast learner. You will fall in love with Nature, and won’t need to do psychedelics again. And your famous Mars-on-the-karmic-29°-Leo-Ascendant-with-Royal-Regulus EGO will get even more laser-like in focusing what it wants to see happen without your essence getting at all identified with it. As Thich Nhat Hanh has been saying, for years:

We Need A Revolution: It Starts with Falling in Love with the Earth  

It’s either that, or Jon Rappoport is right, Trump’s uber-capitalist world-view, now visioning gigantic hotels on North Korean beaches, will accelerate the destruction of this planet to warp speed.

It’s Showtime in Korea

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AK Reader: World peace begins within me (2001)

How appropriate that on this day when some are inspired and overjoyed by the apparent success of the recent Trump/Kim summit and its possible initation of world peace, while others  project the usual hate and judgment, assessing the summit as too much or too little, impossible to fulfill, I come across this old essay, written in response to the theme “Peace and Power” for the Summer 2001 edition of Sagewoman magazine.

Cassandra of Troy

World Peace Begins Within Me

by Ann Kreilkamp

In December, 1981, my life had ground to a standstill. I was lost and confused and had no home. Some friends called the place where I was staying to ask me to housesit, saying they would already be gone when I got there.

I drove to their house, found the key, and unlocked the door to the living room. A year’s worth of New Yorker magazines were on the coffee table. I sat down on the couch and listlessly flipped open one of them. There, in front of my eyes, was the title page of the first long article in a series, “Fate of the Earth,” by Jonathan Schell.

The article instantly galvanized me out of my lethargy. I was both shocked and astonished. And profoundly grateful.

Here, at long last, was an author whose sensibility, and whose feeling of being haunted by grief over the probable fate of Earth and all Her creatures was much like my own. In a tone both elegiac and funereal, Schell spoke of the nuclear miasma then (and now) contaminating the world, and of how this perverse presence has already corrupted our relations with each other and destroyed our ability to believe in the future.

The article was stunning in both its sweep and its compassion. Its author was not so much angry at the state of the world as despairing, deeply melancholy.

In reading that article I knew intuitively that something was about to change. That this was another pivotal provocative New Yorker article. That it would be instrumental in shifting the zeitgeist. In the late ‘60s, a New Yorker article about the Vietnam War had seized the collective imagination and helped trigger the national protest that eventually ended it. I sensed that once again this magazine was operating in a prophetic manner. The consciousness of the world was bout to undergo a profound shudder, as people woke up, came to their senses, and banished the nuclear menace.

In the long term, I was dead wrong: nearly 20 years later we still have many thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at each other’s throats. But I was right in the short term. Only months later, in May of 1982 one million people marched through the streets of New York City to protest nuclear weapons, and the Nuclear Freeze Movement was born.

My own response to this movement was paradoxical. I was hunkered down in Casper, Wyoming, having driven there from Idaho to escape a former husband who I feared was stalking me. So I was not exactly in an empowered position, and certainly not at peace.

Several months after reading all of Schell’s articles (by then published as a book under the same title), I saw a poster announcing a meeting to start a local Nuclear Freeze chapter. I was excited to find others also concerned abou the fate of the Earth.

My excitement was even greater than you might think. For I assumed that this would be the very first time in my life when I would be meeting with a whole group of people who shared my grief and horror.

I was unusual in that from the time I was very small I had consciously sensed The Bomb poised overhead, and as a result, what should have been a carefree childhood was destroyed.

Instead, I was Chicken Little, for whom the sky was always about to fall, and this chronic fear isolated me. I didn’t talk about what bothered me because literally no one else seemed to either know about it or care.

When I was 13 years old I fell in love with a boy who did understand my terror and the reason for it. He and I would pore for hours over fallout maps, trying to figure out where we could go to be safe. The entire east coast was blacked out to the Mississippi River. Much of the west was also black, or at least grey. There was only one clear spot reasonably close to where we lived in Idaho: the southeast corner of Oregon.

My boyfriend was the first and last person to whom I could talk about the dread that shrouded my life and that I intuitively knew shrouded everybody else’s too, though no one seemed to notice it.

So the idea of going to a meeting of many people who shared this nuclear awareness made my heart race with excitement.

Well then, you can imagine my surprise when I walked into that room and found myself shrinking. I wanted to hide! Inside, I was feeling shy, even defensive, obscurely upset. Why? My response confused me. Rather than openly and joyfully seeking camaraderie with my own kind, I was trying to make myself invisible, and with squinty eyes judging everyone as not serious enough, or smart enough, or informed enough, compared to me.

I realized later that my paradoxical reaction to meeting the people with whom I assumed I would automatically feel comfortable had to do with me, not them. Their very existence threatened my long held identity as a Cassandra figure, the Sensitive Outsider. A lifelong self-image of being the only one who understood the gravity of humanity’s probable fate had created the illusion that I was special. I was the one who understood, the much misunderstood heroine in my own drama.

Once I had identified the problem I was able to move through that strange emotional block. I  then volunteered to edit our statewide newsletter and became great friends with the tall rangy woman who headed up Wyoming Nuclear Freeze.

That responsibility brought me to Jackson Hole (where I still live), initially to attend a tri-state meeting with other nuclear activists, and then to impulsively and with great excitement co-found Heartland, a publication to network peace activists in our three states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.

That’s when some serious learning began. I moved in with the woman who had started the magazine with me. Her male partner also lived there. She and I, despite his constant and heartfelt objection to smoke, proceeded to chain-smoke cigarettes as we brainstormed and put together the magazine.

Our override of her partner’s needs should have been a clue that we were not exactly walking our talk. Peace was abstract and pure, not to be confused with the messy details of daily life.

One big difficulty we faced was how to probe the cold secret technical facts in the military/industrial complex without becoming numb, depressed, enraged, or paranoid. We had no spiritual practice to balance our focus on the negativity we tried to force down everyone’s throats. And the more we talked about our opposition to the patriarchy, the more that conflict started to infect our personal relationship.

Within a year, she had left town, and I had moved to a house where I gathered others to live with me and share the job of producing the magazine. By this time I had stopped smoking. Though everybody I lived with did smoke, I knew I couldn’t take even one more puff without starting that habit again;  I also realized (I was beginning to get a glimmer of understanding of how karma works) that I couldn’t judge others for their smoking, that I needed to have compassion for them. I knew from my own experience that they hated themselves for smoking; to judge them would not only make them feel worse, furthermore it would boomerang and I would start smoking again.

Besides our magazine, other projects had sprung up in the three states as a result of the tri-state meeting. I wanted us to all connect and cooperate, but none of the other groups seemed willing. This puzzled and frustrated me, and I spoke hotly of the inappropriateness of territoriality in the nuclear freeze movement. In our own group, the endless discussions about numbers and kinds and kill-ratios of nuclear weapons tended to sap our energy and poison the atmosphere.

One of my tasks was to go on the road and speak to groups. Time after time, faced with uncomprehending or resistant stares from one more disappointingly small audience, I would become enraged. Demanding that they recognize the urgency of what I was talking about, I would insist that they drop everything to work for the nuclear freeze.

Finally, after another year of emotional and intellectual rampage, my inner fire had burned out. I was exhausted. I needed to leave the house and the magazine. I could do no more.

I had become aware that I was part of the problem. That I was a violent peace activist.

My focus on outer violence had turned 180  degrees; I needed to focus on my own inner violence.

On January 1, 1985, I moved into a 20-foot diameter yurt in Kelly, 15 miles north of Jackson, Wyoming, directly across from the Grant Teton,  home to wild animals and their calm, present, healing ways. From January through April I sat in my yurt directly in front of the fire and stared into it. The flames took shapes that triggered images from the past. Memories of my own violence flooded through. I was driven to explore every little nook and cranny of my mind and heart that held memories of which I now felt ashamed. I needed to fully acknowledge the shame, and then sacrifice the memories to the fire.

Those four months were the most intense inner process I have ever undergone. I learned that peace must begin with me. Unless I could make peace with my own past, the internal war would continue to generate conflict in my outer world.

At the end of that process I knew that I had just begun. And I figured it would take another six months to two years before I could complete the transformation I was seeking.

I was wrong again. The transformation is ongoing, though I can say now that the first seven years were the ones in which my main job was to transform myself. Though I worked as an astrological consultant, and had friends and plenty of fun, everything else during that period of time was peripheral to this unswerving inner dedication.

I remember the day that I stood at my sink, peeling carrots, and actually becoming quiet enough internally to notice a subtle current of anxiety running through my nervous system. This was the very first time I had ever stilled myself enough to notice it! I realized then that this current was always there, undermining everything I thought and did and said. That this low-level anxiety was probably the residue from my fear of the Bomb as a child. I thought then how wonderful it would be to actually just be standing at the sink, peeling carrots. Nothing else. Just that. To be that present.

This subtle, gradual process of coming to peace within myself, sensing the power of the present moment and allowing that moment to unfold, continues. Whenever I reach a point of complete surrender, the present moment opens; my inner sensing becomes more acute, and I discern even more subtle aspects of myself where peace is lacking, where I still hold on to control, still need to make people do things my way, still think the outer world is to be judged or blamed.

Each entry into a new dimension triggers a eureka moment of mixed shame and anticipation. And each time, the willing descent into shame propels me through it.

My life is a flower, opening to the Sun.

My life is a fountain, spilling up from the deep.

Peace, I am discovering, is not a state of being, but a process of becoming.






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Post-Summit: Reverberations in Media

I wondered how the Trump/Kim Summit success would affect the huge divide in this country regarding the phenomenon of Donald Trump. Will those who hate him continue? Or will they begin to soften their antipathy. Well, the jury’s not in, but I do see that the chasm I noticed earlier between the views of my fb “friends” and those I choose to follow on twitter still yawns wide and deep. By and large, both sides are still stuck; filled with righteous rage, they look down on each other with contempt.

It’s obviously not one-sided, this alt-epistemological struggle. I too, have to keep reining myself in, lest my own emotional disgust with those who continue to reflexively hate Trump get the better of me. Keep in mind, all you Trump-haters: I AGREE WITH YOU that his attitude towards the environment is horrifying. I’ve said more than once that this man needs to walk barefoot in the forest for awhile to even begin to get a sense of the sensuous complexity and interdependence of all living systems. He wants to “Make America Great Again,” by which he means strip environmental protections so that industry can again contaminate earth, air and water. For him, the issue is the Great American blue-collar worker, who has been stripped of his or her ability to work hard for a decent living, given the way industry has fled to the third world in order to turn a profit.

He’s still an uber-capitalist, and for me, capitalism is still the problem. (Not that communism, socialism, is any better: both come down too hard one one side of the dynamic paradox that unites individual and community.) But meanwhile, we need to recognize his priority as valid from his point of view. First things first. And first is that people need to be able to earn enough money to feel materially secure.

And while his foreign policy is the other area where at times he seems completely crazy, on the other hand, given what just happened with Kim, I’m beginning to recognize that Trump really may be playing 4- or 5-D chess.

Yesterday, I looked in the liberal alt-media to see if there might be an editorial about-face that might now begin to support Trump, given what just went down, and came across Robert Scheer, of truthdig. Grateful.

A Victory for Sanity in World Politics

Truthdig also just published this:

How Corporate Media Got the Trump-Kim Summit All Wrong

BTW: If you haven’t yet seen the CNN interview with Dennis Rodman, do. I had no idea that Rodman has been attempting, single-handedly, to bring the U.S. and North Korea together for five whole years, and that when he took his message to President Obama from North Korea, that they would be willing to talk, “he just blew me off.” That this interview was on mainstream CNN is another good sign of a possible shift in the collective atmosphere.


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