Making Community – Kelley Harrell

I joke to my flist on http://www.livejournal.comabout dreams that I have, in which we gather for reunions infused with long-weekend slumber parties and lots of gluten-free snack foods.  The thing is, I really have had that dream recurrently, for years, and half or more of the people on my flist I’ve never met in-person.  These are people I’ve met through various venues, interests, and life stages, who for whatever reason have become a solid presence in my life for the last nine years.  Yet in some odd ethereal way those dreams are gatherings of this unique clan of writers, soul friends, spirited minds, and our time together is very much not out first meeting.  It is a reunion.  We are not starting from a beginning.  We are in progress.

Other online groups I meet in dreams for rituals, the creative goddesses who craft the cosmos through their art, the global priestesses who genuinely do tend All Things in their daily spiritual practices.  We assemble and bless the event, evoke the spirit, chart it into our footsteps then clear out, leaving not a careless crumb behind, cos we are ladies, after all.  These are my dream communities, not just in my dreams but my ideals.

In the west we come to animism from the rough, or “wampyjawed,” as my southern ancestors would say.  Modern shamans largely are solo spirits pulling together various threads to weave ‘tribe,’ or they forego the effort and attempt to wing it purely solo.  There’s no correct or incorrect way, though I’ve learned in twenty-four years on a shamanic path, without conscientiously tended ties to a mentoring elder, and in the absence of a tribe of individuals who, despite not having chosen a shamanic path, at least understand ecstatic challenges, we’re doing it the hard way.

Having pioneered along my own broken path I’ve worked with others as clients for fourteen years.  Time and again I’ve watched others and myself peak with euphoric healing and enlightenment, only to wither in a couple of weeks under the drudge, the toil, the work of being human.  We swing from extreme to extreme—clear, well, balanced to confused, frustrated, disenchanted.  We make every effort to carry our transformations alone, because our cultural identity is singular.  It has taught us we are of no value if we can’t stand on our own.  Somewhere along the way, even in the most earth-based modern life paths, we’ve lost our sense of community and of the needs that it fills.

I’ve asked myself, “Is this just the way the animistic spiritual path of the west is?”  Maybe.  I don’t know.  I do know that it doesn’t have to be that way.  We don’t have to isolate and assume that no one else will understand our spiritual experiences.  In fact, no one has to understand them at all. As long as we have careful others who can witness them, give life to them as midwife and loving friend, we can sustain wisdom.

Along with that insight I’ve had to reckon with the fact that I just don’t have the availability for spiritual social gatherings that I had pre-parenthood, though I’ve no less need for them.  I have to find that support where I can, even if it comes to me in dreams, bits, and bytes. 

Throughout the day you’re likely to catch me having conversations with some unseen colleague—walking down the corridor at my day job, stopped at intersections, ambling around in my garden.  It probably looks a little odd to passersby.  For me, though, it’s not only normal, it’s desirable.

Talking to myself with my community in mind helps me step out of the cultural expectation to keep things to myself, to do everything for myself.  If I can risk looking like a nut talking to the air I can cut to the core of exactly what I need to give and receive when finally I am able to post that journal entry, respond to that forum thread. 

And so what if a good part of my community is online, people I’ve never met in-person?  They can deal it to me straight, they can empathize, or speak whatever we both need most in any transaction, because compassion is the fore.  I am their community as much as they are mine.  As an animist it’s all connected—life, life forms, thoughts, cars, social media, emotions…  It’s all real.  It’s here, and There.

Community is where it is.  The more we settle into that wider awareness of how we find each other and share heart-centered experiences, the euphoria from healing or fantastic awakening won’t wither.  It will thrive and enliven some next wonder, for all involved.

And don’t be surprised if we only know each other online and in some common space I refer to you as my coworker.

And thanks Mandy for starting it all with that first paid subscription to Live journal! has a complete list of publications.

“Remembering the Tradition: Timeless Heritage, Curious Fate,” Engaging the Spirit World: Shamanism, Totemism, and Other Animistic Practices by Lupa. Immanion Press, 2012.

“Telling the Bees,” The Spirit of a Woman: Intimate Stories to Empower and Inspire. Edited by Terry László-Gopadze, LMFT. Santa Monica Press, June 2010.

“diligent suns,” The Journey of Healing: Wisdom from Survivors of Sexual Abuse. Edited by Marjorie Ryerson. Safer Society Press, May 2010.

“Spiritual Gardening: Creating Sacred Space in Nature,” Nature’s Gifts: An Anthology Celebrating Nature and Our Natural World. Edited by Smoky Trudeau. Vanilla Heart Publishing, March 2010.

DIY Totemism: Your Personal Guide to Animal Totems by Lupa. Forward by S. Kelley Harrell. Immanion Press, August 2008.

Gift of the Dreamtime: Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma, Spilled Candy Books, September 2004. Read praisefor Gift of the Dreamtime and an excerpt.

8 thoughts on “Making Community – Kelley Harrell

  1. ok. new word Wednesday. what the "f" is a "flist". shuffles to Google. cool. now I know. great post! I remember the days of lamenting that tech would bring about a great dystopia and separation of human from the natural world–clearly, it has also provided a conduit to share in ways that I never imagined. 🙂

  2. My dreams are as real as my waking time, and for a few years, they almost stopped, while I tried to save a business from the economy. Finally, I let go and moved into the life I wanted…and they're back. I truly believe the people we are connecting with on the internet are old friends, in fact when I meet them in person, I know it. It's an amazing time, when we can connect with one another as we do.

  3. LOL @Kerry. You know I've been in IS for ages (how funny is that) and there everyone echoes the sentiment that technology separates us. It's been the exact opposite for me. It allows me to be a hermit in so many other spaces!!

  4. Yay, Kate! It's good to know you =)
    Keep singing that song about letting go and moving into the life you want. I need to hear that chorus a lot lately.

  5. Eileen, thank you for posting this and giving me space to Be. You are one of those wonderful people I might have had to wait much longer to meet without the Internet!

  6. Kelley: Thank you for a wonderful post. I enjoy reading your work and have enjoyed your peaceful energy. 🙂 On the tech issue – I've heard these arguments about how technology is ruining our lives. The only thing ruining our lives is us – we choose how much we allow anyone one thing into our lives and if we are addicted to technology then it is our own fault. At least that is my opinion. I honestly don't know how I would manage with my girls in Georgia if we couldn't video chat and text frequently. It is how we stay in touch. Plus I've met some incredible people through groups online (like you Kelley). So I'm pro-technology (with the caveat that we have to be in control of our own lives) Thank you for sharing your words and your wisdom!!! Eileen

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