Finding the Sacred When I’m Struggling to Survive

Early this year, I reworked my entire website, changing the look and adding pages with headings I felt were more authentically me. I also recreated my mailing list links and added them to all pages, with the intent of sharing information and resources on a very regular basis. Then came the COVID pandemic, lockdown, and the complete upheaval of all the illusions of stability. And so here I find myself, firmly in November, feeling this need to write a blog post that is highly inspirational and insightful, when my life is still dominated by my struggle to survive.

It is hard to find that calm within, so hard to center and find that sacred within and  in my life, when I’m worrying about whether I can pay my rent. I was speaking to a friend last night about this and she said, “do you think you’re the only person who is feeling this way?” And that question made me realize that I was working so hard to maintain this “professional” image on my website, my blog, and all of my social media, that I was doing an incredible disservice to you and myself.  Hiding helps no one, and by not sharing the realities of these months and how they have, and still, are affecting me, I perpetuate the illusion that I am alone in this…and that you are too. 

The reality is…this year has been hard. I live alone, and these months of solitude have taken a toll. Now I’m a person who loves their alone time, but this has been extreme. My businesses came to a standstill in March and have yet to recover. My grad school went to completely remote classes, requiring internet and a good computer. In these months I have had multiple times when I was on the edge of eviction. I have been so incredibly thankful for food pantries, because without them I would’ve had no food to eat. And I don’t even want to talk about how overdue so many of my bills are. Or how close I am to losing my car. I know that so many people have been dealing with these same issues, or worse. And I haven’t even mentioned the exhaustion that comes with months of fear of this novel coronavirus, political drama, and multi-faceted civil unrest…let alone decades of white supremacy, racism, ableism, colonialism, and exclusion. 

So, as I struggle to survive, it takes so much more effort to find my center, to find the sacred within and in the world around me. But desperate times call for desperate measures, eh? These are some of the practices I’ve added to my life this year to help me: 

  • Gratitude — it can be so challenging to be grateful when the struggle is so overwhelming. Taking a pause to be authentically grateful for what I do have brings me to the present, to what IS, right now, in this moment. 
  • Breath — I know, this might seem silly. We breathe all the time without even thinking about it. But, I have respiratory issues, and with stress they get so much worse. I started a yoga teacher training in July and learning multiple pranayama practices has helped me immensely. My favorites are nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and kumbhaka (retention of breath). And a slow, deep inhale with a slow, noisy exhale tells your brain that it is not in an emergency situation, allowing it to tell your body to calm. I’ve taught myself to do this almost automatically when my anxiety and stress level gets high, and it helps more than you might imagine. 
  • Community — early on in the lockdown, I realized how lonely I was and that I needed to do something about that. On really bad days, I often forgot that I actually had friends or any type of community whatsoever. So, I made an extra effort to reach out to far away friends and family through phone calls and text messages. My seminary at One Spirit Learning Alliance started adding weekly Gatherings and I made an effort to attend. I attended monthly Ecstatic Dance gatherings via Zoom through my seminary. I reached out to my Sister Goddess community and rejoined a women’s Avalonian Goddess tradition. When I write it, it looks like overkill, but I needed and still need them all. 
  • Meditation — this is a constant struggle for me, but something I work at because I know how much more centered and calm I feel afterwards. Because I have a very busy mind, guided meditation works better for me. I can focus on the words to still my mind. Silent meditation isn’t as easy, though I now find that I crave that silence, a break from the worries and fears around survival.  
  • Nature and Animals — I currently live in an apartment community, and with the pandemic I now rarely leave my apartment. So I can now tell how big a change in my mood, my stress level, my overall energy, just opening my windows or walking outside makes. I am such an animal person and sadly do not have any living in my home right now, so just walking to the dumpsters and taking the time to stop and watch squirrels or listen to the various birds talking in the trees brings such incredible joy deep inside of me. 
  • Music and Dancing — I’ll tell you a secret. I think I was born dancing. But for so many years, I lived in environments where I could not play music or dance freely. So when I moved into my current apartment, I still had this fear around playing music. It took until a few months ago, when my aloneness piled heavily on top of my survival fears, that I finally decided to play music aloud in my home. When the music plays, and my body moves, I am in such a place of  joy. I don’t understand why I deny myself that, and have for so long. 

None of these are magic answers to my survival struggle, but they have helped me to stay somewhat sane, and to find that calm and centered place inside where I know the Sacred can then and there be Seen, Felt, and Known. In these activities, I can suddenly Know the Sacred outside of me as well as inside.  Sometimes I only see it for a brief second, but that second is like a healing balm on my most painful, wounded places. And with that healing, I am able to stay centered longer, more present, more grounded and rooted…and I passionately believe that the more I heal and grow, the closer I am to releasing this state of suffering, this seemingly unending struggle to survive. 

How are you feeling today? Are you struggling to survive as well? Where has this years struggles taken you on a deeper level? Do you have any powerful tools to help you find the Sacred? 

HOLDING SPACE FOR PREGNANCY LOSS

Holding Space for Pregnancy Loss (HSPL) was created by Amy Wright Glenn, founder of the Institute for the Study of Birth, Breath, and Death. This workshop will compassionately and wisely prepare participants to more confidently and clearly hold space for one of life’s most painful and devastating losses.

This workshop is designed to benefit midwives, obstetricians, doulas, nurses, lactation consultants, prenatal yoga teachers, prenatal massage therapists, hospital chaplains, ministers, counselors, and pastoral care providers who support women/pregnant persons and their families through pregnancy loss. One need not be employed in these fields – everyone is welcome.

Rev. Dawn Welburn will guide participants through a heartfelt analysis of three key components central to holding space for grieving mothers, fathers, pregnant persons, and their families ~

* An introduction to the companioning model of care * An exploration of best care practices surrounding bereaved mothers/pregnant persons. * A cross-cultural understanding of the healing power of ritual

  • This training is ONLINE, 6 hours long–divided into 2 days.
  • October 24 & 25, 2020. 11am-2pm Central US time each day.
  • Cost is $90 * some scholarships available
  • **there are no refunds. May be used for next training in circumstances of a birth/death you need to attend.

Contact Dawn@Dawnwelburn.com with questions and to register. Links to pay via PayPal or Venmo will be sent.

Between the Worlds: Journey into Death and Grief with Janus

With Rev. Dawn Welburn

and Community In Spirit

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

10am – 3pm Eastern

Online via Zoom Videoconferencing

Let us take a journey between the worlds of life and death, looking back at the past to more consciously grieve and die today…

Janus has two faces, one that looks into the past and the other looking to the future.

In this workshop, we will explore and experience how our ancestors in cultures around the world expressed grief and death, and how we feel about bringing those practices into our lives today to more actively and consciously embrace death and grief.

The Between the Worlds: Journey into Death and Grief  workshop is a place for heartfelt inquiry into death and grief. People of all philosophies and faith traditions are warmly welcomed to gather together to listen, learn, and ~ most importantly ~ personally reflect upon how we experience death and grief.

Cost is $135. Register HERE . For more information, contact Dawn@DawnWelburn.com

Holding Space for Pregnancy Loss training

Would you like to host a training with me?
I am currently scheduling training workshops around the US on pregnancy loss, for summer and fall of 2019.

Holding Space for Pregnancy Loss (HSPL) was created by Amy Wright Glenn, founder of the Institute for the Study of Birth, Breath, and Death. This workshop will compassionately and wisely prepare participants to more confidently and clearly hold space for one of life’s most painful and devastating losses.

HSPL is specifically geared toward Birth Doulas, Therapists, Nurses, Midwives, Ministers, OBGYNs, Fertility Specialists, Birth Photographers , Prenatal Yoga Teachers, Prenatal Massage Therapists, Funeral Home Directors, End-of-life Care Professionals, and Bereaved Parent Peer Supporters and Activists.

Click here for more information on this course. Contact me at Dawn@DawnWelburn.com for any questions and to schedule a training.

Interfaith Seminary Exploration — Yazidism

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As a part of my Interfaith Seminary homework this semester, I was instructed to pick a religion not covered in our curriculum and write a brief summary of the basic beliefs and rites of that religion. I chose one that I have been fascinated with for quite a few years, Yazidism. I apologize to any Yazidi who read this and find it incorrect or too simplistic an overview of your ancient culture and traditions. I wrote this with nothing but the greatest respect for Yazidism and the Yazidi people.

Yazidism

Brief History

Yazidism is the religion of the Yezidi people, an ethnically Kurdish religious community indigenous to Northern Mesopotamia.  They live primarily in Northern Iraq/Kurdistan and speak Kurmanji, the Northern Kurdish language. They have migrated throughout the region into Armenia, Turkey, Syria and Iran though most have continued to migrate into Europe. They have been persecuted by neighbors for centuries, with the most recent persecution and genocide starting in 2014 by the Islamic State group in the campaign to cleanse the area of all non-Islamic influences. The Yazidi trace themselves back to the Garden of Eden and consider themselves to be the descendants of the son of Adam, with their present religion dating back to the last Floods or approximately 6,000 years ago.  At that time, they moved throughout India, Afghanistan, and North Africa before returning to their homeland in Northern Iraq. They consider themselves to have helped create the Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations. In the 11th Century, the Yazidi culture and religion was reformed by the Sufi, Sheikh Adi.  With the guidance of the Peacock Angel, Tawsi Melek, Sheikh Adi created scripture, hymns and prayers and established the current caste system consisting of the Mir or Prince (the religious head of the Yazidis) and his caste, the Sheikh caste, the Pir and the Murid (the commoners). Within these castes are also the orders of mystics, Faqirs, Qewels and Kocheks. The role of Mir is hereditary and is considered the official representation of Tawsi Melek on Earth.

Basic Tenets and beliefs

The Yazidis believe in one static, inactive and transcendent God who resided ‘across the water’ and out of a pearl, created the earth, planet and stars. He then created the Seven Great Angels, the leader or Archangel of which is Tawsi Melek or Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel.  They believe that good and evil both reside within human beings and it depends on humans themselves to choose, just as Tawsi Melek chose. An important facet of Yazidism is the belief in reincarnation, meaning the soul is not destroyed and changes body after death. This is called Kiras Guhorin (changing of garments).  This concept applies even to Divine beings, as they believe the Seven Angels periodically reincarnate into human form or koasasa. The Yazidi see hell and heaven quite differently than many of their neighboring religions. They believe that Tawsi Melek saw the suffering of the world and cried. His tears fell onto the fires of hell and extinguished them. With hell extinguished, and reincarnation, a soul would be reborn repeatedly until rejoining heaven. Another important facet of the Yezidi faith is their oneness with nature. They pray three to five times each day towards the sun, seen as the ultimate truth, sacred and an emanation of God. In Yazidism today, practice or careful adherence to the rules that govern all aspects of life, are more important than scriptures, dogma or personal beliefs. This religious purity, along with reincarnation, are the two keys of Yazidism. Some of these rules are, the caste system, food laws, a variety of taboos, and the preference for living within Yazidi communities and marrying only another Yazidi. One cannot become a Yazidi, they must be born into the religion and ethnic group.

Leaders/Teachers 

Sheikh Adi is the Sufi reformer who lived among the Yazidi in the 11th century and reformed it into what is looks like today. He is considered a divine being and possibly an incarnation of Tawsi Melek.  It is believed that as the same time as he was incarnate, the other six Great Angels were also incarnate. Sheikh Adi once stated: “I was present when Adam was living in Paradise, and also when Nimrod threw Abraham in fire.  I was present when God said to me: You are the ruler and Lord of the Earth. God, the compassionate gave me seven earths and the throne of heaven.”  Sheikh Adi ibn Mustafa was of Umayyad Muslim descent and spent many years among Sufi adepts in Baghdad before settling into the valley of Lalish (northeast of Mosul), after visions instructed him to move north and help save the Yazidis. Part of his reformation was to mandate that Yazidi could not convert to another religion nor could someone from another religion become Yazidi. Sheikh Adi created the caste system of Murid, Pir and Sheikh as well as the Order of Faqirs. Upon his death, he was entombed in Lalish, the spiritual Heartland of the Yazidi and where they find spiritual solace as well as physical protection during times of persecution. Lalish is also considered the landing place of Tawsi Melek. Yazidi pilgrims from around the world travel to Lalish to visit his tomb and receive his blessings. There are also tombs dedicated to six Great Angels who were incarnated with Sheikh Adi, shrines to the miracles of Sheikh Aid and landmarks said to have been transferred from Mecca.

 

Scriptures and sacred writing 

For most of the history of Yazidism, the scriptures have been transferred orally rather than in writing.  The books that exist now have much controversy surrounding their authenticity and authorship. These are: Cilwe (The Book of Revelation) and Meshefe Res (The Black Scripture). These are both composed in the southern Kurdish dialect but their stories are the same as the oral stories in the northern Kurmandji dialect. The funeral prayer – Talqina Ezdiyan – warns those who do not accept ‘The Black Scripture’ that the time will come when people would not utter the names of Jesus, Moses or Muhammad; they would ask Sheikh Adi to be merciful upon them. So, even though these books fail to meet criteria normally used to judge authenticity, the contents seem to be validated by the oral tradition. The core religious texts are the qawls, hymns in Kurmanji which make allusions to events and persons not explained in the texts. These have been orally transmitted, with the recitation and knowledge of them kept by the Qewels, Now, various Yazidi communities around the world are attempting to collect and transcribe these qawls for the education of the children.

 

Holidays and Festivals 

The Yezidi religious year includes four Holy festivals: The New Year, The Feast of Sacrifice, The Feast of Seven Days September 23-30, and The First Friday of December feast following three days of fasting. The New Year is celebrated on a Wednesday in April and commemorates when Tawsi Melek first came to Earth. Part of this celebration is the coloring of eggs, which represent Tawsi Meleks rainbow colors displayed in his form as the Peacock Angel. Women also place blood red flowers and shells of colored eggs above their doors so that Tawsi Melek can recognize their homes.  New Years day starts with a feast for the dead, in which women mourn the dead and feast between the graves.  One of the most important events of the New Year is the Parade of the Peacock. Bronze lamps or Sanjaks are paraded through the villages. Of the seven original Sanjaks only two remain. In mid-February is a forty day fast observed only by the Yazidi holy men in Lalish.  At the completion is the Feast of Sacrifice, which commemorates when Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son Ishmael but replaced with a sheep. The holy Men make a pilgrimage to Mt. Arafat, sacrifice a sheep and then light sacred fires all over the valley. At the beginning of October, the Feast of Seven Days is a sacred time when the Yazidi make the pilgrimage to Lalish to unite as one people at their holiest shrine. They believe that there is an upper, heavenly Lalish where the Seven Great Angels shower blessings down on those in the lower, earthy Lalish at this time. The Sacrifice of the Bull takes place on the 5th day and signals the arrival of Fall. During this week there are continual baptisms of children and holy objects. The Three Day Fast of December is expected to be observed by all Yazidi from dawn to sunset, with nights of feasting and prayer.

 

Religious Practices  

The Yazidi are concerned with religious purity and are concerned with the mixing of things seen as incompatible, which is seen in their caste system as well as taboos affecting everyday life. Some of these taboos are: the prohibition of eating lettuce or wearing the the color blue. The purity of the four elements are also protected by taboos such as no spitting on earth, water or fire. They consider too much contact with non-Yazidi to be polluting and avoided military service to avoid living among Muslims. This aversion to mixing with non-Yazidi maybe be what lead to the taboo against writing and reading, preventing the literary transmission of their religious tales in books and manuscripts. Yazidi pray between three and five times a day, though prayer is a personal choice and not a mandate.

 

Resources

Yezidi Religious Tradition

Religion ديانتنا

http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Religions/iranian/yazidis.htm

http://sacred-texts.com/asia/sby/index.htm

Click to access Omarkhali-2009-MO-15-2-200912.pdf

https://yes.hypotheses.org/

http://www.pen-kurd.org/englizi/zorab/zorab-SheikhAdi-Sufizm.html

http://www.encyclopedia.com/places/asia/iraq-political-geography/yezidis

A New Journey

After much consideration, thought, meditation and increasing pushes from Goddess, I have applied to and been accepted into the Interfaith Seminary program at OneSpirit Interfaith Alliance. I begin my distance learning in just a few weeks and am both incredibly excited and more than a bit nervous about my upcoming journey. I have been a very spiritual person my entire life and spent much of that time exploring religions and spiritual paths. How does this tie into what you see on this website? Well, Goddess has always been the driving force behind my Work. I’ve just tended to keep that more to myself and that quiet behavior just isn’t quite enough anymore. I see this new journey as providing both the nourishment and the glue for all of my various Works and endeavors. I trust that by immersing myself in these Spiritual studies, I will ReAwaken the Work here in this site and possibly add even more facets to that work. I do need some help from you to make this happen. I have started a GoFundMe page and am accepting donations to help me on this new journey. Would you be willing to donate? Please see my donation page HERE and thank you for your support on my journey!

Unexpected Life Changes

Unexpected Life Changes

Life has been pushing me hard in the past few months and the last few weeks have stepped up the pressure, with both personal crisis and the health of a family member across the country from me.  This convergence of personal and family issues is forcing me to make the decision I did not want to make–leaving NY.

For me, the Universe started by sending these little hints that things were shifting.  Dreams…comments by strangers…. emotions…and memories coming like a breeze blowing by with a hint of a far off place riding along.  Then things I’d set in motion slowly began to come to a stop. I’m a bit stubborn sometimes and did not want to see what I was being told, but as a spiritual person working my own journey of Reawakening, now is the perfect time to listen and act with Love and Purpose.

I have enjoyed my time here in NY, and most especially here in Brooklyn. Thank you for all that I have learned and experienced during this piece of my Journey and my work with each of you.

I will still be available for Massage Sessions until August 16th. Email me at ReAwakenThroughTouch@gmail.com ASAP to book a session.

I wish you all the very best on your own Journey towards Reawakening!

In Service ✴DAWNNYC

New Services!

pregnancy-clipart-img_b2301912aa1Pregnancy Massage + Birth Doula

I am so very excited to announce New Services by Dawn Welburn LMT here at ReAwaken Through Touch. I have spent the past few months in intense study and workshops for both Pregnancy Massage and Birth Doula and am in the last stages of the certification processes. I am so pleased to now be able to offer these Services to the women in the NYC Metro  community.

Both Pregnancy Massage and Birth Doula are Services that have you, the Mother, at the center. Knowledge of the physiological changes within the body from the time of conception through 3 months Postpartum are at the core of this work and the safety of Mom and Baby at its forefront.  Services are Integrative and Individualized for each client, as with all of my other services which I provide. My vision is to assist you in having a safe, comfortable, joyful and pleasurable organic birth experience.

For more information, please take a look at the specific pages on the website for each of the services or contact Dawn at ReAwakenThroughTouch@gmail.com.

Allergies anyone?!

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Today was a particularly rough day for me and my constant companions, ALLERGIES.   I often joke that I have sensitive skin EVERYWHERE, but it is far from a joke. The surface of my outer skin has proved itself to be incredibly sensitive  to chemicals, making everything from lotions, shampoos, deodorants and soaps to laundry detergents, clothing, and sunscreens, a treacherous experience. The surfaces on the insides of my body, today most particularly my entire respiratory systems surfaces, are just as sensitive with often more frightening reactions.  It amazes me, every single time, how swiftly my body can move from detecting a smell or sensation, to swelling, itching, wheezing and struggling to breathe.

The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (www.aafa.org) gives information and statistics on allergies in the US:

  • Allergy is characterized by an overreaction of the human immune system to a foreign protein substance (“allergen”) that is eaten, breathed into the lungs, injected or touched. This immune overreaction can results in symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and scratchy throat. In severe cases it can also result in rashes, hives, lower blood pressure, difficulty breathing, asthma attacks, and even death.
  • Allergy is the 5th leading chronic disease in the U.S. among all ages, and the 3rd most common chronic disease among children under 18 years old
  •  An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from all types of allergies (1 in 5 Americans) including indoor/outdoor, food & drug, latex, insect, skin and eye allergies. Allergy prevalence overall has been increasing since the early 1980s across all age, sex and racial groups.

AAFA_AsthmaAndAllergies_BarGraph_final-Smallfrom http://www.aafa.org

Wow, that is a lot of people struggling with these same allergy issues!  In many life situations, I find that I feel alone, surrounded by people that have no understanding of what I am going through in my body. I want you to know that I understand. Let me repeat myself. I UNDERSTAND.

That is why in my Massage practice, I strive to be as ALLERGEN FREE as I can and will make whatever additional changes that need to be made to provide you with a safe and relaxing space for your bodywork. I personally use almost entirely scent free body products on myself, so I will NOT be carrying fragrance allergens. The lotion that I use for massage is unscented, hypoallergenic and USDA Certified Organic. I also do what I can to keep the space I work in as clean and scent free as possible. If you have specific allergy issues and needs please contact me prior to your session so that we can work together to create a trigger free massage experience for you.

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