holding dreams

How do we ‘hold dreams for others until they can hold them for themselves?’

I came across this question today from the Center for Courage and Renewal‘s newsletter, Words of EnCOURAGEment. And then read on to these fine words from Parker Palmer, found in his eternally inspiring book, The Courage to Teach:   

from Words of EnCOURAGEment


Isn’t that lovely? I got to thinking about this question of mentors. For as long as I can recall, I have mentored. From my first professional jobs in teaching hospitals, I was drawn to create a networking community to help women in healthcare management find their dreams. I helped them shape their resumes, present their passion and exchange job-searching tips and leads. And today, I mentor a number of previously incarcerated women now released into the community, helping them remember and strive to follow their dreams.

In between I have called myself midwife to other women’s voices. But truly, voice is a way of expressing those dreams; and midwifery, another form of mentorship. I invite you today to consider whom you might mentor into passion, voice, career, relationship; how you might hold the dream for another until s/he can do so on his/her own.

to be or to do

To be or to do — is that the question? For reasons perhaps found in the stars, this thread has run through no fewer than four intense conversations I have had in the past 48 hours with thoughtful, creative, middle-age women.

The specifics are less important than the shared tug-of-war within. Between feeling a need to be ‘out there’ offering proven gifts to others, tugged by a sense of generalized obligation; and a vague sense of being called by a very different need, the one that lives deep ‘in here’ at the core of who we in fact are.

Universal? You bet! And I could ask a whole host of additional questions, such as ‘why do we only ask this question in our 50’s or 70’s?’ ‘What has our culture DONE to us that we no longer value our BEING?’ Or ‘what about the moral imperative to make the world a better place?’ Apparently us Vermont women are not the only ones poking around in the hearts of ourselves; Parker Palmer recently wrote, in part:

. . . Who we ‘be’ is far more important than what we do or how well we do it  . . We pay a terrible price if we value our doing over our being. When we have to stop “doing” — e.g., because of job loss, illness, accident, or the diminishments that can come with age — we lose our sense of worthiness.
– Parker Palmer, On Being March 26, 2014

For my part, I come by this struggle honestly. One parent ‘just wanted me to be happy;’ the other wanted to know ‘what I had done to justify my existence today.’

Perhaps, after all, the question is NOT whether TO BE or TO DO. Perhaps, it is how to truly live a balance between BOTH being AND doing, such that one is nurtured sufficiently to be able to give well.


we must begin to listen

graphic from Piercy poem

Once again, I need to lift Parker Palmer’s Facebook post and plant it here. Not only does he state beautifully what I might try to re-state less deftly. He uses one of my all-time favorite poems by Marge Piercy to illustrate his point. In the interest of sharing the already-invented and of honoring my “Con Fem Friday” post theme, here is an excerpt from Parker; and the full text of Marge’s poem.

He says: “If we value things like friendship, family, community, education, workplaces that work, and democracy, there’s a minimum requirement. We must learn to talk with each other, even when we disagree. Not ‘at’ each other, or even ‘to’ each other; but WITH each other!”

Parker goes on – but I want to share lines from Marge’s poem that speak strongly to me – and hopefully to you, as well:

We must sit down …

Perhaps we should sit in the dark.
In the dark . . .
only the words
would say what they say…

into the dark, perhaps we could begin
to begin to listen…

The men must bother to listen.
The women must learn to say, I think this is so.
The men must learn to stop dancing solos on the ceiling…

Read the entire poem here:  COUNCILS – Marge Piercy

And thank you for listening!

tending my soul roots

Today, Parker Palmer posted the following observation from Thomas Merton on Facebook:

When we fall into the frenzy of overwork, we do violence to ourselves and kill “the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

We need to expand our understanding of “violence”, a concept that goes well beyond doing physical harm. We do violence every time we violate, or fail to respect, our own or another person’s soul. Psychological and spiritual violence do as much harm in their way as bombs and bullets do in theirs.

Living nonviolently means more than “Thou shalt not kill.” It means, “Thou shalt not violate anyone’s soul”, including your own…

This week, I am living nonviolently. I am giving my soul a rest. I am tending my roots of inner wisdom.

bounded and blooming

About a year ago,I rooted a small hibiscus twig harvested during routine trimming of my Mini hibiscus in bloomlong-time tree. Later I potted it, curious to see if hibiscus would grow in miniature. I did not follow bonsai protocol. Just let it push against the edges of its small container. And today it bloomed. A perfect blossom! On a mini-tree barely 8 inches tall.

It strikes me, at this mid-point in my core writing classes at Women Writing for (a) Change – Vermont, that there is something similar going on with the women in the circle. As Parker Palmer writes in The Courage to Teach, learning space must be both bounded (reminding us that our journey has a destination) and open (there are many ways to reach that end). This is one of his six paradoxes to induce creative tension, which sets the stage for greater awareness and effective learning.

At this mid-point in the semester, one of two things tends to happen. Women appreciate the safety created by a carefully crafted container held with attentive intention to its integrity, are settling into it, finding their rhythm and resulting process; OR they quit, complaining of constraint to their creativity.

The reality is: by carefully defining and holding boundaries, we know exactly what to expect. Which frees us to explore, to take risks, to dive deep and know that we will surface still in the safe and structured container we have woven together. Those who resist this structure as stifling tend to be ones who would benefit from an authentic dive into self.

On the WWfaC-VT facebook page, I have posted some of the incredible writings ‘my women’ shared this past week as part of our routine mid-semester reflection. Like the hibiscus blooming in its tight pot, their spirits have taken root and their words are abloom with creativity and growth.