The Book

Now available!  The book, Finding Our Way Home: A Spiritual Journey into Earth Communityis being published by my own imprint, Small Bird Press, and available through lulu.com via this link.title-page 

What others are saying:

“Myke Johnson’s beautiful stories from her own journey illuminate the way to reconnecting with ourselves, each other and the entire Earth community. The practices that punctuate the end of each chapter help embody and guide the path of reconnection. A book to savor, it is also a compelling reminder of the legacy of stolen land and genocide, and of the urgency to face the past as a necessary step toward healing and finding our way home.”  Anne Symens-Bucher, Executive Assistant to Joanna Macy and facilitator of the Work That Reconnects

“Myke Johnson’s writings are inspiring, transformative and grounded in the mystic contemplative way of life.  Reading her reflections and meditations gives you a deep sense of connection not only to Mother Earth but to her own personal journey. This is a companion book for all that are seeking a simple but conscious choice of living in peace and harmony on our planet with all of creation.”  Rev. Virginia Marie Rincon, Episcopal priest and Curandera

From the back cover:

In this time of ecological crisis, all that is holy calls us into a more intimate partnership with the diverse and beautiful beings of this earth. In Finding Our Way Home, Myke Johnson reflects on her personal journey into such a partnership and offers a guide for others to begin this path. 

Learning from the Indigenous philosophy that everything is related, she found in her plant and animal neighbors generous teachers for a way back to connection: a chamomile flower, a small bird, a copper beech tree, a garden slug, a forest fern. Their lessons are interwoven with insights from environmental science, fractal geometry, childhood Catholic mysticism, the prophet Elijah, fairy tales, and permaculture design. Each chapter includes practices for further reflection and experience.

This eco-spiritual journey also wrestles with the long history of our society’s destruction of the natural world. Johnson investigates its roots in the original theft of the land from Indigenous peoples and in other violent oppressions between human beings. Exploring the spiritual dimensions of our brokenness, she offers tools to create healing. Here is a map into a new relationship with earth, with each other, and with the Spirit within and between all. Lyrically expressed, Finding Our Way Home is a ceremony to remember our essential unity with all of life. 

You can now order the book for $17.99 (plus shipping) via environmentally-friendly Print-on-Demand at this link:  Finding Our Way Home 

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Photo by Margy Dowzer

Myke Johnson is a Unitarian Universalist minister and earth activist, serving a congregation in Portland, Maine, while practicing and teaching ecological spirituality. She holds a Master of Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Episcopal Divinity School.

More recommendations:

“I work with Unitarian Universalist congregational, environmental leaders across the United States. I am keenly aware not only of my need, but what so many seem to experience as a lack, a daily rift between functioning well on Earth, and Living with All Earth in ways that sustain our core. The messages and ceremonies of Finding Our Way Home are as essential, I think, as sleeping. But like sleeping, we try to do without as much as our hearts, bodies and souls need to meet demands in these times. This book is welcome medicine for the beautiful, difficult work and love of our lives.”  Rev. Karen Brammer, UUA Green Sanctuary Program

“As a student of Naiyantaqt, I have, over the long journey of my life, come to appreciate the rhythm of the Great Mystery; the wondrous Consciousness, the empowered understanding and meaning of Manitou, that exists everywhere and in all living and immobile matter. Such connections are profound, relevant, and mark the passage to the future awaiting the enlightened. I am aligned to such kinships and Myke Johnson is a long-time kinship, a seeker of the Divine, a companion in the awe of the Great Mysterious. She boldly embraces the Divine and her quest to connect with the All-Encompassing Mystery. Her book is the re-telling, the sharing of her wondrous spirit, life, and the path to her awareness. Her book will empower true seekers on this Path of Life, a path she confirms by our friendship and mutual journey together.”  gkisedtanamoogk, Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commissioner and author of Anoqcou: Ceremony Is Life Itself

“During times of chaos, whether private or public, the human psyche/spirit seeks inner and outer grounding as its home base. Using her own life as a prism of refracted insights, Myke Johnson has created a tool-kit for the rest of us to use in our personal and/or political struggle to survive, and perhaps even thrive. As she shows as well as tells us how to concentrate and tap into our deepest energy and then send it out into the universe in order to affect change, she does exactly that with this book, her own special gift to the world.”  Gail Collins-Ranadive, author of Nature’s Calling, The Grace of Place

“In Finding Our Way Home, Myke Johnson names the many disconnections that modern people constantly experience as the core spiritual issue of our time.  And then through wisely chosen stories from her own experience, she shows us how we might reconnect the inner pieces of ourselves, our relationships in genuine community, and our relationships with the earth into a more integrated whole. She helps us remember our deep belonging with all that is. And that as we engage this process, we are finding our way home.”  Rev. Deborah Cayer, lead minister, Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Durham, North Carolina

Prayer to Mother Earth

Earth_high_def_1024Mother Earth, we human beings have destroyed so much. You would be justified in wiping us off your body. But still–we can sing, and write poems to celebrate your beauty. We are your children, we are so intricately made. There are those among us who are heroes of love and compassion. How creative are the artists, and the stories we humans tell! Let us find a way to live into the future. Help us to grow into our maturity as a species, and not to destroy ourselves and so many others of your children.

Still, if you are on a deeper unfolding journey, of which we know nothing, I yield to this flow of your own maturing. I give thanks to you for being able to witness your beauty and your mystery. You, lovely ocean world, you, blue and green and gold and white sphere full of life.  And always–life and death and more life again. I stand in awe to be included in such a world.

How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy

Redwood Sky DSC06718I was away for eleven days at an intensive retreat in northern California on The Work That Reconnects with Joanna Macy. I have loved Joanna’s work for over thirty years, from when she was leading workshops on Despair and Empowerment in a Nuclear Age.  If you haven’t yet encountered her work, a great book to begin is Active Hope:  How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy, co-authored with Chris Johnstone.

Here is the description of the book from the publisher’s page:

The challenges we face can be difficult even to think about. Climate change, the depletion of oil, economic upheaval, and mass extinction together create a planetary emergency of overwhelming proportions. Active Hope shows us how to strengthen our capacity to face this crisis so that we can respond with unexpected resilience and creative power. Drawing on decades of teaching an empowerment approach known as the Work That Reconnects, the authors guide us through a transformational process informed by mythic journeys, modern psychology, spirituality, and holistic science. This process equips us with tools to face the mess we’re in and play our role in the collective transition, or Great Turning, to a life-sustaining society.

A true gift I have experienced in Joanna’s work is a way to experience my own grief for the world, not as a debilitating or paralyzing weight, but as a doorway into experiencing my deep interconnection with all beings.  We begin in gratitude, and the spiral of the work takes us through grief and interconnection, and we go forth with new strength for changing our lives and our world. I came away from the intensive feeling more alive and whole, and with new ideas for bringing people together around this work. Reading a book or a blog can be a solitary experience, but gathering with others to discuss a book, or doing practices together that make the ideas come alive, can be profoundly healing.  I am dreaming of how I might bring this work to Maine.

Water from Brigid’s Well

On our way from the west to the east of Ireland, we stopped in Kildare, the town which was home to St. Brigid, one of the patron saints of Ireland and, according to the stories, an abbess who founded a monastery in 5th and 6th century.  Many stories link her to the older goddess Brigid, goddess of smithcraft, poetry, and healing.  We had read that there were two Brigid’s wells in Kildare–one now designated for the saint, and a pagan well still associated with the goddess.  Apparently, the pagan well wasn’t advertised, but we had read that it could be found near the parking lot of the Japanese Gardens/Irish National Stud.  So we set out to find it.

St. Brigid's Well, Kildare

St. Brigid’s Well, Kildare

On the way, close by, we saw a sign for St. Brigid’s well and found that one.  People come to the Brigid’s wells for the healing properties of their waters, and so we touched the water and asked its blessing.  The well is shallow, about a foot deep, and is spring fed. We left a coin in the water along with our wishes. It is said that this well, too, may have ancient connections to the goddess Brigid, incorporated into Celtic Christianity as St. Brigid.  There are other Brigid’s Wells all over Ireland.

Then we went on to the Japanese Garden, and searched around the parking lot, but didn’t see anything.  We went inside, and had a lovely lunch at the restaurant there.  Afterward, we asked a man at the ticket counter about the second Brigid’s well, and he told us to go around to the other side of the parking lot, behind a little wooden gate.  So off we went, and we found it.  Totally unmarked on the outside, but set into a lovely little paved area, with a half circle of stone wall opposite that could be used as seats.  Nearby, people had left ribbons on the branches (we saw those at the other well too).  It was intriguing to Margy and I that these ancient sacred sites are so hidden in plain sight.

Brigid's Well, Kildare

Brigid’s Well, Kildare

I felt so delighted and awed to be in this place where healing waters have been flowing since ancient times.  Margy and I drank a little water, and took pictures, and absorbed the magic all around us.  Then, an unexpected encounter–I was down on the stones next to the well, with the camera, and Margy was on the stone pavement above, holding my backpack, and she leaned over a little, and suddenly my metal water bottle that was in the open pocket of the backpack fell right into the waters of the well.

Into the Well!  Photo by Margy Dowzer

Into the Well!
Photo by Margy Dowzer

Those of you who know me know that this water bottle I carry has its own sacred role in always reminding me of the holiness of all water.  When I saw it there on the bottom of the well, I remembered that I wanted to take some of Brigid’s healing waters to bring home with me.  Was Brigid herself reminding me, and making a personal connection to us in this way?  I have celebrated her holiday in February for many many years.  So, I leaned in to scoop it out of the well, and then emptied its water into the nearby plants, and filled it with water from the well.

After that, Margy and I sang some more songs, sent healing wishes to all our friends back at home, and left our own ribbon on the branches hanging over the well.  If I may, I also send healing energy to you who are reading this.

Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms

My favorite novel of all time is Chickasaw writer Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms.  Published in 1997, it is the story of Angel, a girl who was taken from her Native relatives as a tiny child and raised in foster care, after being abused by her mentally ill mother.  At 17, she comes back to find her grandmothers and learn about who she is.  During this time, people in her small village discover that hydroelectric dams are planned for their ancestral homeland in the north, so four women travel by canoe to help in the struggle against it.  I first read this book when I was working (with Massachusetts “Save James Bay”) against the hydroelectric dams that were being built in Quebec, and I learned later that Hogan had drawn from that situation in creating her fictional account.

But this brief description of the plot can’t do justice to the many layers of poetry and meaning that are woven into her narrative.  I learned about what it might mean to be deeply connected to a place–to be indigenous to a place.  I learned that loving the earth isn’t just about loving the planet, but rather about loving a particular island or river or peninsula or forest.  I learned that we can love the earth even if we are not indigenous, even if the earth keeps some secrets from us.  It helped me along my journey to find my own connection to the earth.  The elder Tulik tells Angel, “Here a person is only strong when they feel the land.  Until then a person is not a human being.”⁠ [p.235]

Linda Hogan tackles issues that face Native people–including the taking of children and the taking of land–and brings alive for all of us the heartbreak and courage that are born in this brokenness, and the beauty that may be created as people move toward healing.  As we face more and more destruction on our planet, we all so much need to learn to “feel the land.”

Broken Rock DSC00135

Magic Uses Imagination and Action

As I said in my last post, when prayers have been powerful in my life, when magic has happened, there are certain aspects that have often been a part of that prayer or magic. First it is necessary to be aware of the desires of our hearts, and then to send those desires into the larger universe.

Then, it is also important to take some action on our own behalf. These actions might include both mental actions and physical actions. Mental action is using that tool of imagination that I have spoken about. Imagination is a powerful tool for prayer and magic. Notice that the roots of the words magic and imagination are the same. A few years ago, when I lived on Cape Cod, a Wampanoag grandmother gave me a trouble basket. She said: “Whenever you are worrying about something or feeling sad, you can put that trouble in the basket. You can write it on a piece of paper, or hold a stone, and imagine your trouble on the stone, and then put it in the basket, close the lid, and let go. It won’t feel so heavy.”

White Candle MJ DSC09662Images focus and shape the energy generated by our desire, so we can work with it. The image of the stone in the basket can focus our letting go of trouble. Or for another example, if we desire to heal someone we love, we may imagine white light flowing through their body. The image of white light gives a form to our desire for their healing. We can also use material objects to focus our imagination. When we light a candle, the bright light of healing becomes more tangible. The more vivid the image, the more powerful the energy can be.

We take action in our imagination, but also in our daily life, to bring our desire to life. Prayer is not a substitute for action in the world; rather it goes hand in hand. For example, if we want to find a place to live, usually we must go out looking for one. Years ago, five of my friends and I wanted to rent a big house in Jamaica Plain so we could live as a community. We lit a candle, and then we went out and looked at all the houses that were advertised in the paper. But nothing seemed right all day, so we finally stopped for ice cream. Next to our booth was a bulletin board, and there we found a new poster for a house to rent. We called and it turned out to be our perfect house, three doors away from the ice cream parlor.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, says that when we are firmly committed to a course of action, the universe responds. I find it often responds with humor and quirky irony, and in ways we don’t quite expect. We didn’t find our house in the paper where we looked. We found it after looking while getting ice cream. I will never forget a prayer in which I imagined a white horse coming to take me to visit a loved one I was yearning to see. The next day, someone in a white pickup truck offered me a ride to my destination. Synchronicity!

Does prayer work?

First of all, what does it mean to ask if prayer works? Usually, by that we mean that our appeal for help is answered in a way that we get what we need or want. But sometimes, prayer works because it connects us to the larger Mystery, and we feel the deep peace of that connection. We feel seen and understood. When that happens the specifics may start to become unimportant.

However, sometimes prayer also works on a very practical level. To take away pain, to heal, to find something we need. Once, I placed my hands on the head of my friend, and her headache disappeared. I was curious. Why does that happen sometimes and not other times? Are there ways to pray that make prayer more likely to work?

When I look back at my experience, I see that there have been certain qualities that were often a part of such prayer with tangible results. The most powerful prayers in my life included the experience of becoming aware of the deep desires and yearnings in my heart. I would even say that desire or yearning or felt need are the root of the power in prayer, the source of its energy.

It may take a great deal of introspection to know what we truly desire. Some of us have learned to pay so much attention to the needs and desires of others, that we don’t know how to imagine our own. Or we have been misled by advertising, which manipulates our desires toward the pursuit of consumer products and stuff. Some of us may feel we don’t deserve what we desire. Others of us may have felt that religion asked us to give up our own desires. But I believe our deep desires come from a sacred place. We are all sacred beings and worthy of receiving good things from this world. In prayer, we must welcome our true desire, our yearning, our need.

Drawing by Benjamin Crowell, Creative Commons

Drawing by Benjamin Crowell, Creative Commons

And then, in these most powerful prayers, comes the experience of sending that yearning or that desire out into the universe. I imagine it like shooting an arrow from a bow. A big part of shooting an arrow is letting go of the arrow. Letting go of our desire does not mean abandoning it, or giving up on it. Letting go means not clinging to the need. An arrow can’t reach its mark if we hang on to it. We must trust that if we send out the arrow, it will have an effect.

Prayer is not the same thing as worry. Worry is a kind of hanging on, imagining the worst future, rather than being open to the possibility of something good. We are finding a balance between feeling our desire, and letting it go into the universe as it will. So we send it out and let go.

All desire, all need, all prayer, has a risk attached to it. If we let ourselves feel desire, we risk the pain of its not being fulfilled. That becomes easier when we understand that our desire is holy whether it is fulfilled or not. Desire is only unholy if it harms other people, or disregards their freedom. We must hold a deep respect for all beings. Prayer is not coercive. For example, if a person is romantically attracted to someone, they can honor that desire as holy. But they can’t force the other person to be attracted back. Letting go of the arrow honors the powers beyond us, as well as the powers within us. We are joining forces with the universe, not trying to force the universe to do our bidding.

Sending out the arrow is a symbol of asking for help from the larger reality. Here again, the arrow is just an image. There might be other images to help make it real. We can send forth our desire into the hands of God, or imagine it being received by an all-encompassing Love. We may imagine it entering like one small channel into a great river of life. We can also send forth our prayers into the care of our friends. We can tell other people what we desire and need. When we join our power with the power of others, it grows stronger.