This is a place to discover Aura, through the experiences of the women activists who create our first circle. In random order, it is our intention to write monthly of the journeys that we are undertaking in our explorations with Be the Earth of soil, soul and story. We aim to bring to you our hearts - not in perfect writing, we don’t believe in that. But in a generous mish-mash of ways of being that serve Earth, subvert dominant worldviews and radically open ourselves to joy. We have a counter-intuitive sense that going for joy may create around us a ripple of fearless action as we fall in love with the world again and again.
We know the odds against us as humans are not good. Earth’s youngest species have made a right royal mess of the whole 13,8 billion year shebang. Filled with grief, despair at the sheer continuing stupidity, horror at uncurtailed greed, we are finding now more than ever the wherewithal to know things differently. To trust that conscious change is an inside job, indivisibly linked to a teaming, miraculous, insanely beautiful world. Being interconnected, as we change ourselves, so we change our world simultaneously. It’s not a linear thing. From within, we immediately create a different world around us. Not in the grand and the great. Nor in vast narratives of triumph. But in the hyper-local, myriad of tiny changes where the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Don’t get me wrong. Aura is no bunch of goody-two shoes filled with serenity, peace and nobility. We are not holier-than-thou, standing on moral Alps crudely criticising the status quo. Between us, we have experienced untold violence, illness and burnout. We’ve seen the effect of our own shrill activism, brutal hours and tight control. We are even starting to laugh at our earnestly martyred snobbery from working for worthy causes, taking it all simply way too seriously. As if there were a very special award for putting our precious selves last.
Where we don’t laugh, is at the dawning realisation that when we do things from the same harsh place as they were created, then the same harsh stuff seems to happen. It can’t not: we simply duplicate the very patterns that we imagined so fervently trying to change. We don’t need Einstein to tell us this. It’s that obvious. We inflict on ourselves and thus our worlds the epistemicide we curse the colonisers for inflicting on indigenous peoples across the globe. Instead of nuanced, multiple ways of knowing, being and seeing, we tend to act in the world in a tired manner, guaranteed not to bring real change. Bewailing demands of conventional funders, we obediently collude. Working according to financial year ends, endless report-writing, management structures emulating big business, parrot fixed outcomes, monitoring and evaluation that finds ways of reinforcing the sanitised stories trundled out. Deadlines set way too soon for anything useful to take place. Speed and progress the gods to bow to. And thus, all unconsciously replicating patterns of control, competition, capitalism and scarcity.
The quiet voice within, the fullness of loving wildly and receptive nurturing seem to be on eternal hold, while the ‘real activist work’ bossily takes over. Nothing wrong with it - it’s essential. Only, along with social media and electronic connectivity, it has become overwhelming and overbearing. Smothered by a western emphasis on rationality, certainty and coping, the yearning for our hearts connecting with the invisibles and joy in our souls seem to hover ever so faraway on a backburner. With the deep fear that put aside for so long, the flame might just go out. In a sense, we’re lost without myths, rituals and ceremony to guide the big transits of life, let alone connecting with the ever-changing seasons, moon, stars and planets of an infinite universe.
Renata’s invitation came to me on an icy new year’s morning, at the dawn of 2020. As part of five years in retreat, I had just begun living in a small houseboat on the Thames in London, learning for that very strange year in human history, what being in a river really means. Direct experience of being in flow, constant movement and the intricacies of changing tides, seasons and moons. Seals, cormorants, swans and geese as wild companions.
Aura was born as her dream of gathering women, spirit, activism and the more-than-human world. A dream to create space for women activists to become more effective in their working for change. Not through increasing hard skills, nor learning to be more clever. But through spaciousness. Making space and time to come together in sanctuary, in the most ancient of forms: a circle. Early in that year, Anne joined us and Be the Earth started taking its organically morphing form.
The year of lockdown, pandemic panic and deep quiet turned us from ‘curators’ into ‘midwives’. We realised that a midwife only helps with birthing. The real work is that of the mother. A midwife only guides. The period of pregnancy for Aura was given a full year to brew, ferment and create. I realise now the exquisite timing, living in a river while working under the radar in the co-creation of something deeply subversive and radical in its simplicity.
Towards the end of 2021, we welcome 10 women from four different countries into a two-year process of individual pathways, collective connections, healing and the beauty of recognition. Claudelice, Fabi, Ra, Linda, Dona, Amanda, Renata, Nomita, Fabiolla and Flavia join us in creating space for ways of being effective in the world while simultaneously tending to our inner being.
2022 sees the birthing of a new circle: Aura Valley, in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Amy Levendal joins us as an Aura midwife, and this circle is in its tiniest infancy.
Halfway in, our Aura World circle is heroically encountering shadows, welcoming the sheer wonder of being in our bodies, tears and laughter. Extraordinary guides work as mentors to our fellows, in unfolding together more and more the amazing beings that they are. A dawning realisation that the feminine principle, intuition, nurturing, tenderness, dreaming and the sacred feed us all. We’ve become easy with awkwardness, not knowing, uncertainty and painful vulnerability. That’s where the most interesting stuff seems to happen. And, it all simply makes sense - like coming home.
We offer our activism work in a kind of joyous sacrifice to spirit, family, communities and the more-than-human world as a gesture to living our lives as if they matter, and very much look forward to bringing our stories in the year ahead.