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Writing into the Holy We

It is an honor to be asked to endorse a book. I’ve endorsed three recently, all InterPlay friends and folk– Christine Painter’s The Wisdom of the Body, Connie Pwll Tyler’s Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, and Beverly Voss’ book of poems Sycamore Skies

Words offer a sacred path. An early mentor taught me that words are alive, that they dance. The stories of life can gradually take form outside our body creating a trans-formation that is alchemical. Thickets of body data having daunted us, begin to reveal new paths. The deeper we go the more our bodies change. Our minds change. Next thing we know life has changed.

At the same time, wise language requires artful levels of love and attention. As an improvisor I know too well that off-the cuff words carry the power to harm. In this regard I make it a practice to try to speak to my own life rather than about others. While fear doesn’t stop me from improvising, it requires disciplined levels of consciousness and craft. I take it as a teaching when my words hurt others, learning that unless I embed my word in my own lived experience, treat them as anything less that holy, I reduce words to being merely tools or worse, weapons. To render a living thing into a utility is dangerous. Sadly, we kill the sacred in our words everyday. Words want to play. They don’t want to be dead.

Enter the artist and storyteller. I am grateful for the way craft and practice slow me down. To write a book is holy work, for the writer most of all. To endorse a book is to bless a soul transaction.

Last weekend at a writing workshop with Deena Metzger– elder teacher, healer, and author, I watched my words simultaneously agitate her and meaningfully connect. Deena is a medicine woman and author who helped bring an African community healing practice into the U.S. Her parents were Russian Jews. She is intimately alive to first people. In retrospect I know I need to learn to speak with full respect for first peoples, people that I have tried to protect by standing back from their ways even as I hold them in reverence. Gratefully, the retreat brought me into the teaching place.

At one point Deena told me that my words erased first nation peoples. I was stunned. It wasn’t my intention. But I knew to listen. I was speaking to my lineage as a descendant of Puritans exiled by the early Boston colonizers for being committed to grace-making. But, I spoke without mentioning any awareness of the permeating genocidal injustice that ensues from “colonizing mind.” As a white person to skirt the horrendous impact of damage is not only insufficient, it creates further harm.

Praying again for mindfulness, humility, as well as bravery to speak exactly as I speak, as an artist and speaker I take full responsibility for my words. In order to offer my voice as worthy I acknowledge that words that I think are loving can add to pain. (In racial transformation work this is called intent vs. impact.)

Post retreat I am both more clear and more challenged. Can I marry my personal, limited consciousness with a sacred consciousness inextricably interwoven into the current socio-political reality? How can all realms be intertwined in a creative and health filled way in order to serve through this particular white, middle class, mystical, teachable, dancing body?

As a writer and a thinker I seek a way to true my words  to the lineage story, earth story, and the intricate interplay of stories. This requires community. Everyone else’s story and their reactions to the story I tell are the only dependable way that truth comes. As Deena said, “In the end good writing is one of the great communal projects. You can see it in the acknowledgements.”

So reader, here is to the Holy We in writing. I bow to you and the Holy. Thank you reader, listener, and friend. I welcome comments of all sizes and wonder what you are practicing as you speak and write life into your world.


Christine Paintner’s 10th book Coming Home to Your Body from Ave Maria Press includes four InterPlay exercises, (The Hand Dance p. 19, Shape and Stillness p. 46, Story of redemption p. 70, Dance on behalf of p. 86).