Open Heart, Naked Soul

Twenty years ago, I dedicated myself to the Goddess. Not any one Goddess or tradition, but simply The Goddess. The only guide I had was The Spiral Dance by Starhawk. At 16 years old, steeped in the evangelical movement of Christianity, I took a deep breath, inhaled the Goddess’ warm embrace of hope, and exhaled the patriarchy, shame, and sorrow brought about by the God of Abraham.


Even though I had no formal connection to Reclaiming at the time, and knew even less about “witchcraft,” what Starhwak wrote about in The Spiral Dance resonated with light inside my most darkest spaces. There would still be years filled with nights of terror and dread, there would be more fear, more shame, and yes more suffering, but unlike the faith of my childhood, The Spiral Dance and this Goddess never promised deliverance from suffering in exchange for servitude, rather instead simply offered space.


Twenty Years after that first reading of The Spiral Dance, my spiritual path has matured and my toolbox is far more expansive. Yet, in a sea of labels, unverified personal gnosis, rhetoric, and opinion, I still have no real name for the space I share with the the Goddess. And that is okay. I just have the path. My mentor, Rev. Kim Crawford Harvie once said, “there is a misperception that if I committed myself to a spiritual path, that I would rise above suffering.  I have come to learn the opposite is true:  If I commit myself to a spiritual path, I will suffer with an open heart and a naked soul. ”


I wouldn’t blame you if you just thought to yourself, “Gee, that’s depressing.” After all, who wants to hear that it’s going to get more painful before it gets better?  On the other hand, perhaps that truth is strangely comforting, because it is, after all, a relief to know the truth.   Nonetheless, as the faithful psalmist said, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”  And so much of making any headway toward joy is in the spiritual practice of honoring space.


I have come to know the Goddess as the vessel of our most intimate self. Whether in worship, public ritual, or alone in her presence, what the Goddess has provided me is a vessel. Sometimes it is a liminal vessel whereby we are standing on the edge of magic; other times it is simply holy emptiness.  Shallow or deep, this vessel is the fertile mantle upon which I build my spiritual practice; it is where I touch suffering, and release it; and it is where I set my intentions for the world and invite transmutation of personal karma.


I am often asked what my spiritual practice looks like. Is there a reference book I turn to, or a craft tradition I lean towards. The answer is simply no, it is about the work. The only rubric I lean into is the intention brought to whatever work is done. Interestingly, I don’t care what a person’s personal gnosis is, be them Atheist, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Pagan, none-, or all-of-the-above.  Who am I to infringe upon what others know as sacred?


Rather, I look at the work. How are we spiritually co-existing to create a better world? What is the highest intention? If the highest intention is self, will over love, or avoiding the open heart and naked soul, then that person or path is incongruent with the vessel of my sacred self.  But more often, I find that those whom I seek and who seek me, hold steady to their hearts, unwavering in compassion.


The world continues to spin, and with it some deep questions about the state of who we are as a people, community, and more.  I can not control suffering, but I can offer it nightly to Green Tara and open a doorway to change. Each day I can set the intention to be the vessel of love, drawing inspiration from the wisdom traditions and practices around me.  I can choose to live a life with an open heart and naked soul, unashamed.  T. Thorn Coyle once said to me, “Sometimes all we have is one drop to offer to humanity’s bucket of suffering. Just one drop, but one drop of good can change the sea of suffering.”


What is the drop you offer into the space of human experience? I have learned in these last 20 years that the Goddess continues to still be the way to love with a naked heart and open soul. Living in the lap of the Goddess that is generative. Hers is an overarching response; one that is measured with care. Hers is the voice that says, “how can I help?”


The Goddess’ dance is spiral. She is the returning joy. She is the drop in the bucket that manifests change.


This article originally appeared at Patheos.com in the column: Alone In Her Presence