These past few weeks, I’ve been re-reading Etty Hillesum’s journal and letters, written when she was at Westerbork Transit Camp, and later at Auschwitz, where she died in 1943. She was just 29 years old.
Her journals are extraordinary. They reveal a thoughtful, deeply spiritual young woman clarifying her own values and deciding how she wants to live, despite being caught up in the terrifying gears of the Nazi killing machine. In the pages of her journals, she meets the shadows of her own impending death in the concentration camps – a death she knew was coming, and which she met by turning her formidably intelligent heart to the holy task of caring for her fellow inmates.
Here’s an excerpt from her journals that speaks intimately to me, and that I want to talk about with you today:
“There is no hidden poet in me, just a little piece of God that might grow into poetry.
And a camp needs a poet, one who experiences life there, even there, as a bard and is able to sing about it.
At night, as I lay in the camp on my plank bed, surrounded by women and girls gently snoring, dreaming aloud, quietly sobbing and tossing and turning, women and girls who often told me during the day, “We don’t want to think, we don’t want to feel, otherwise we are sure to go out of our minds,” I was sometimes filled with an infinite tenderness, and I lay awake for hours letting all the many, too many impressions of a much-too-long day wash over me, and I prayed, “Let me be the thinking heart of these barracks.”
And that is what I want to be again. The thinking heart of a whole concentration camp.”
–Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life, Henry Holt & Co., 1996
What a desire! To be the thinking heart of wherever life takes you – even when it’s into a living hell; crucible of unspeakable terror; barracks filled with the murderous breath of senseless, collective death.
For us, today, if we are willing, the question becomes: How do we become the thinking heart of a pandemic?
My heart’s answers come in layers, revealing new facets each day: Hold the complexities of this global situation tenderly, with love, clarity, truth and kindness. Stay flexible; stay honest. Keep things simple; give yourself lots of spaciousness so you can stay present as events unfold.
Follow public health guidelines. Be willing to change your mind when the science and the data call for change. Deepen your relationship with the Deva of viruses and continue to work with that portion of its pattern from which Covid19 has emerged.
No-one knows what our lives and our world will look like, when Covid19 is done with us. No-one knows if it will ever be done with us, or if it’s something we will learn to live with, like the chicken pox virus.
Meanwhile, around the world, millions of people are infected, thousands dying or dead. Millions more are traumatized by uncertainty, fear, our inability to fight a deadly but invisible foe.
Being the thinking heart of a pandemic means knowing that the world is yours to love and belong to, but not yours to carry — not on your own. It means gathering in solidarity and community with other thinking hearts, close to home and around the world, to craft locally generated, elegant, effective, communally healing solutions to the fracture, evil, and pain on which our post-industrial societies have been built, and on which the virus is shining an undeniable light.
To be the thinking heart of this pandemic means opening our hearts to the fact that Covid19 is lethal to many different populations around the globe, but particularly deadly to the most vulnerable among us – our elders, our children; refugees fleeing violence and death, and finding neither shelter nor welcome on other shores; poor communities who lack access to the very things that alleviate the worst of the virus’s depredations — adequate healthcare, running water, access to PPE, the ability to stay home from jobs that endanger lives, the room to maintain physical distance from others, the power and voice to participate in public policies and decision making.
This virus is revealing the very different worlds in which we live, even when we live in seemingly similar colonial or settler cultures. In every country in the world, this pandemic is most severely affecting those communities who can least afford to be felled by it.
As the thinking hearts of this pandemic, we refuse the hegemony of circumstance, whether induced by a virus or by oligarchs whose only interest is in maintaining their wealth and power. As the thinking hearts of our world, we organize and collaborate to craft creative responses to this pandemic and its long tail of ills – systemic racism, class divides, domestic violence, domestic terrorism, police brutality against BIPOC, settler colonialism, economic inequity, food and housing uncertainty, child poverty, domestic and international terrorism, the plight of refugees, and on and on…
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the problems we face and must solve by rethinking the very foundations of our societies and how they function. The tasks ahead of us can feel Sisyphic. And yet, the toxic systems that uphold our societies will remain sources of inequity, suffering and violence until we change them.
To begin, we bring these enormous, these seemingly unanswerable questions down to their essence, down to the earth beneath our feet.
Each of us (I’m saying us because, if you’ve read this far, I figure you’re as devoted to being the thinking heart of your community as I am of mine) has been given the blessing of asking ourselves this question, every day, and letting the answers that emerge guide our actions: What can I – my own singular self, with my own unique weirdnesses and gorgeousnesses – do, to be the thinking heart of my world now, today? What do I have in my toolbox, or my art studio or whatever it is that holds my creative life, that will help me in this endeavour?
And then: Who are my adventure-mates – who will come on this journey with me because they want to be thinking hearts too? What will we discover and create together that’s surprise and wonder wrapped up in love, that becomes part of our collective thinking-heart landscape, the one we’re sculpting separately together, each of us the thinking heart of our own little Covid isolation pod?
Energetically, we are not confined; we can be anywhere, with anyone in the world, provided everyone involved agrees to the connection. This is enormously consequential, especially when your desire is to be the thinking heart of a pandemic.
It seems to me that the thinking heart of a pandemic is a collective heart – one made of individual hearts, yours and mine, linked together by a common purpose, to nurture the well-being of our world; to remake the world in alignment with the pattern that the Devas of Humanity and of the Earth hold for our species and all the lives with whom we share this planet.
So often the heart is thought of as a somewhat daffy organ that mires you in unhealthy relationships with people rendered as witless as you by hormones and heat and the mistaken conflation of romantic desire with love. Or, it’s wrapped up in the myth that the heart is flighty, unreliable – it leaves you stranded with no more than a duffle bag and a tin of spam in the wilds of Outer Mongolia because…well, the stories of the wayward heart are legendary.
Or else The Heart (capitalized!) is deified as dwelling with the angels but essentially stupid, ethnocentric, and uninterested in science, reality, data, or anything that interferes with its stubbornly-held beliefs and prejudices.
Or the heart is expected to fulfill functions it was never made to fulfill. Wear a crown! Be the Throne of The Goddess of the East! Forgive All; Become One With All!
Friends, the thinking heart is not a symbol, or an icon, or a love-and-light champion who doesn’t know what day it is or doesn’t care to parse who’s making and enforcing the rules or where the money goes.
The thinking heart is a metaphor, in one sense, but Etty Hillesum wrote those words in a concentration camp. To her, it may have begun as a metaphor, but it ended as a reality she strove to live each day, in circumstances you and I can barely imagine.
To be a thinking heart is a reality I seek to live each day too. Do Etty’s words call you to this path of devoted, intelligent service, of being the thinking heart of your community?
In my younger years, as a new immigrant to Canada seeking to belong, I cloaked my intelligence from folks who were all heart (as they defined it) and who were repelled by or contemptuous of any form of thought or intellectual curiosity that threatened to upend the claustrophobic world they inhabited. Maybe you have similar stories and experiences from your own life. How did you feel, and what did you do, once you realized that you were hiding aspects of your self to get along, usually with people who weren’t yours to get along with?
I’ve also hidden my heart, less successfully, around people who valued intellect and considered the heart a functional organ designed solely for the purpose of pumping blood through the body.
Neither kind of abandonment worked, for me, since both truncated significant aspects of my being. I got bored and cranky, being only half of who I was, to ensure the comfort of people who had no idea who they themselves were, although they were convinced that they did. It was dishonest, I didn’t want to do it, so I stopped.
Your thinking heart, by definition, is in intimate relationship with your intellect. It doesn’t leave thought outside in the rain, like a pair of discarded gumboots. Your heart knows — because it is, itself, a highly intelligent organ – that it needs the mind’s laser beam to complement and enhance its own light.
The heart’s light is solar radiance – it fills a room the way sunlight does, or the luminescence from a lamp. Its light shines on all equally, illuminating everything around it, coaxing an answering light from all it touches.
The mind’s light is a laser. It also illuminates what’s in its path, but its beam is purposeful, narrowly focused. It illumines the structure, pattern and form of things. Its tools are observation and analysis, discernment, truth and clarity. It blends its creative vision with the heart’s compassionate wisdom.
For me, the answer to this question of what it means to be the thinking heart of a pandemic resides in the things I’ve been doing daily for most of my life, and teaching for the past 40 years. Yet I feel a pressing urgency now, born partly of the fact that the horizon of my life is closer than it’s ever been.
In another five years this virus may have killed off millions of people and animals around the world. In another five years, I may no longer have the desire to do much more than make oatmeal for breakfast, read all morning, and have a nap after lunch.
So, here are some of the things I’m doing, to be the thinking heart of our pandemic-wrenched world this year.
1. A few weeks ago, the Deva of Humanity dropped by for a visit. It is the subtle energy being who holds the pattern for the perfect unfolding of the life of our species, at every stage of human development. It invited me to work with it on a project involving the women, men and children who were murdered in the Holocaust, many of whose souls have been unable to energetically complete the incarnation they were so brutally ripped away from, more than 75 years ago.
The work I’ve been invited to collaborate on includes specific, technical energy alchemy processes that will assist these folks, who died in incomprehensible pain and suffering, to complete the pattern of their lives here on this earth, so they can move into the next phase of their journey through the post-mortem realms. It also includes working energetically with the field inhabited by their descendants, helping their communities release the energetic effects of epigenetic trauma, and accompanying fear and death energy. There are other details to this project that aren’t necessary or even possible to share right now.
This sort of assignment is part of my everyday world – I work with the Devas daily on a variety of energy alchemy projects that serve different communities around the globe, depending on what is asked of me, and where the areas of greatest need happen to be. But this time, the Deva of Humanity was clear that this particular project could not be done solely in the subtle energy realms – it needed a human component, a ceremonial, ritual component, to serve both the dead and the living who mourn and celebrate them.
Although I’ve worked with the Deva of Judaism for over 50 years, I’m not Jewish and while I have a profound respect for the art of ritual and ceremony, I am not a ceremonialist. It felt imperative to collaborate with someone deeply immersed in Jewish tradition, culture, language, spirituality and ritual, who also understands my way of working with Devas and other subtle energies to effect this transformation.
So, I invited my friend Taya, who is a Jewish wisdom-keeper, Kohenet Priestess and ceremonialist, a devoted and experienced leader in her community, to co-create this project with me. She is crafting a ceremony based on Jewish tradition and practices, while I will do the work that the Devas guide me to do. The process feels profoundly sacred. It leaves me humbled, heart-to-ground, every day.
2. About six weeks ago, I began mentoring a lovely young woman as my apprentice. Christine is brilliant and kind, her thinking heart deeply devoted to shaping a world that works for everyone. Sharing my body of work with her gives me the opportunity to revisit it from my present state of understanding, and in relationship with someone for whom the work is entirely new. Astonishingly, it remains not only relevant but more useful and necessary than ever, today.
3. Teaching Christine is also helping me organize my body of work into a new certification program that will open for registration sometime in the coming months. I don’t yet know when the program will begin, but it will be later this fall, or first thing in January. I’m still in conversation with the program’s Deva, working out its structure, timing, content, and pricing.
What I do know is that we will be an intimate group. This work is profound, and I will be working closely with each person in our circle to ensure a solid grounding in the work and its applications in your own life, as well as with clients and in your business.
If you are feeling called to add energy alchemy skills to your professional work, and you wish to develop an essential but undervalued set of nuanced, precise, transformational practices with which to serve and benefit your clients, please do sign up for the early notification list. I’ll email you with details as they emerge, and you will be the first to receive an invitation to apply for the program.
This program is for you if you are a mature, thoughtful, experienced coach, therapist, founder, CEO, social entrepreneur, healthcare professional or transformational leader in your field. If this moves you, I would love to have you in the program. Our work together will open up multidimensional worlds, but more importantly, it will give you a set of energy technologies that will significantly enhance the quality of your everyday life and expand the scope and efficacy of your professional work.
I’ve been working with energy for over 60 years, learning through experimentation, research, curriculum creation, mentoring and teaching. This work has applications beyond anything you’ve dreamed of.
Here’s the link to sign on to the early notification list.
This pandemic invokes a new calculus, as so much of what we have relied on in the past is no longer viable. Many of you are scrambling to restructure your businesses so you can survive and thrive within the new limits imposed by the pandemic.
My intention is to offer you a program that will revitalize your business and your work on behalf of your clients and communities; that will provide you with right livelihood, and a way of working, living and being in relationship with your world that will serve you for your lifetime and the lifetime of your business.
This program will be practical, elegant, deep and profound. It will include personal development; energy alchemy skills and practices; building lifelong relationships with the Devas; developing a nuanced social, cultural and political analysis of the ways in which systemic forces act upon us and affect our own as well as our clients’ abilities to craft lives and businesses that serve, bless and provide for everyone in our communities.
This certification program is built around energy alchemy practices that I have created and that have been tried, tested and replicated by thousands of my students and clients. They are ground you can stand on in any situation you encounter, in your business, with your clients, in your life.
Energy alchemy, as I practice and teach it, is precise, complex, and powerful. It gives you the tools to access the full range of your powers so you can use them to live a life of joyful abundance and loving service. I can honestly say that, after decades of creating and offering this work, it remains fresh, fascinating, incredibly powerful, revealing the world anew to me each day. I’ve never reached the limits of what it offers. After all these years, the work remains my teacher, mentor and most beloved friend.
If you feel called to this program, please do sign up for early notification, here.
I wish you rest, ease, and simple pleasures – all the delights of a stay-at-home summer. Be well, be happy, be the thinking heart of your world.