Today I want to introduce you to one of my dearest friends and mentors, ALisa Starkweather. She is the founder of the Red Tent Temple Movement, Daughters of the Earth Gathering, Priestess Path Apprenticeship, the Women’s Belly and Womb Conferences and co-founders of Women in Power; Initiating Ourselves to the Predator Within. She is a contributor in the newly published anthology, Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership; Where Grace Meets Power and is working on launching her new internet show, She Loves Life. She is featured in the upcoming documentary, Things We Don’t Talk About. This springtime ALisa is hosting a teleseminar among the wisdomkeepers to bring women and men together in a global dialogue of “It’s Time for a New Story”. According to ALisa, I am one of her “most beloved and treasured sisters on the path of life.” What a HUGE compliment! I’m so excited for her to share her wisdom today. To connect with ALisa, follow her on Facebook. You can also follow the Red Tent Temple Movement on Facebook. You can experience ALisa’s programs by visiting www.alisastarkweather.com.
Gratitude on Life’s Terms
By ALisa Starkweather
Life, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…
As a young teen I once read that if I woke up every morning and began to say thank you until sleep it would never be enough time to count my blessings. Now that was a gratitude lesson into wide-awake consciousness. Why? Because a couple of things dawned on me pretty quickly; the likelihood of following through with this practice of a chorus of thank yous echoing in my mind as a backdrop to my senses seemed a remote possibility. Also I did the math and realized that with my present viewpoint, I would run out of good things to say pretty quickly. That is, unless I changed my perspective on what I was appreciating about life. This pivotal moment however woke me up as a teenager to what we likely take for granted when we are not noticing the dawn, our ability to breathe, our constant beating heart, the vibrant colors or the things in my lifetime that I would not yet know were ephemeral like the abundance of songbirds, the honeybees, and with the birds and the bees, the ending of my virginity. By seventeen I became the single-parent mother giving birth to this magnificent gift of life while being on my own to discover where one finds good when life turns into hardships.
Yes as you can imagine, poverty, lack of continuing education, low self-esteem, depression became the internal dumping grounds in my psyche where my dreams were trashed. Did that ever happen to you too I wonder in some way? I would go there and pick over little chards of who I once was or wanted to be and bring them home again with a deeper sense now of what it means to find treasures in life in the most forgotten places inside. Gratitude was no longer a good idea for a spiritual practice or a learned courtesy of “hey thanks” but an actual means of survival where one remembers that no matter how hard things become to live at all, to breathe at all, to be part of this mad horrific beauty is everything…. everything. Unlike the generations to come, my life then was not about stuff that I materially desired but rather a simpler ground of do I have the courage and the faith and the will to live this day? Each moment of “thank you for this life and all the beauty, all the miracles, all the tiny triumphs” gifted me with the next ability to face hardship graciously and strengthened my resolve to live into the wisdom that would become my bedrock as the mature woman in my fifties today.
Little did I know then that by walking that path, anchoring to the wisdom of gratitude I would later be a teacher for women’s empowerment and on the path of the ecstatic wild woman where sleeping on the floor of a cave with dripping waters flowing off rock walls is a phenomenal experience that I say wholeheartedly, “Wow. Thank you. What an unforgettable night!”. Or dealing with whom many might consider a difficult personality in my work has me exclaim sincerely, “What a great woman. What a teacher for me to examine my own vulnerabilities!” I admit that sometimes I am like the baby of life who wants to spit out the mouthful of food that it spoonfeeds me while saying that it is yummy. I am not going to lie to you because you know as well as I do that it doesn’t all taste good. What is remarkable however that with choice, with finding our ground for digesting life on its terms, we have the opportunity to take the energy life gives us and do some amazing turn-arounds if we choose to.
Thank you for my mother’s criticism and shaming remarks that helped me to learn the importance of kindness and how to create safe containers for people to know unconditional love. Thank you for my father’s rage that taught me the importance of patience, tolerance and how not to blame or project on others when one is innocent. Thank you for disempowerment and the feminization of poverty that brought me to my work with women so that I could lift them up and ask them to believe in their power and their worth. Thank you for the places I have been violated as a woman because I found my compassion for others, my leadership, my strength, my courage and resolve to stand up and to fight for women and children around the world. Thank you for the ones I have loved and lost through cancer and illness because it has taught me to value every second that I have with anyone I have ever loved. Thank you biased media for the altering the reputations of brave global citizens who fight for their families and children because you taught me to discern for myself the goodness of who you diminish. Thank you for my broken heart and betrayals in past relationships that brought me to experience the truest of loves. Thank you for my son who is my master teacher of how to persevere. Thank you for living now at a time in human history when we are faced with our own extinction because it helps us all collectively to wake up and not take anything, even our tomorrows, for granted. Thank you, thank you, thank you…