Sunday, November 3, 2019


This is from an old 2018 blog post, never more relevant than today.

Hecate, goddess of thresholds, mystery, magic, and the moon, via Jean Bakula,

Beautiful, deep, alive silence.

Outside, rattle and roar of wind against windows. Inside, the quiet of a hundred people sitting in meditation, inhaling, exhaling the peace of this space. Dozens of small story fires radiate through candle flames. A carved wooden statue of Avalokitashvara, the Buddhist goddess of compassion, stands on the altar, as loose and graceful as an unfurling wave. 

It's New Year's Eve. Twenty blocks north is Times Square, with its screaming millions. Here, a different plane, one that I've been craving. I have chosen to welcome my new year at the annual New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care sit with other like-minded, softhearted New Yorkers trying to get through these noisy and scary times with equanimity. 

Why here? I am attracted to ZenCare's mission of offering solace and companionship to suffering people, including those at the end of their lives. During their dharma talks this evening, the two guiding teachers, Robert Chodo Cambell and Koshin Paley Ellison, invite us to lay aside resolutions, which we'd be sure to fall away from by mid-January. Instead, they ask us to consider a quality we want to embody and nourish in our world in 2018. They suggest that embodying is an expression of giving birth, bringing a gift from within ourselves, is a Divine Feminine way of stepping into the new year rather than the conventional patriarchal notion of reaching out or making something happen in the material world.
I exhale. This is an easy one for me. 

Listening. It is what I do, have always done, since I was a pesky little girl tugging on my father’s pants leg: “Tell me a story, Daddy.” I have been saying virtually the same thing – tell me a story – ever since, as a comparative literature student, a reporter, and since 1994, a healing story counselor. “Tell me your story.”  

Given this luscious time to remember and visualize listening, I know with certainty that in 2018,  I want to be able to listen more deeply to the stories life is telling through clients, the places I walk through, environments in which I live, friends, family memories, new adventures, and through through my pen on the page. To listen more deeply to whatever is calling to be born in that moment. 

What quality are you embodying this year? Can you give it a visual metaphor?

Mine is Hecate, goddess of thresholds, magic, mystery, and the moon, the one who lives at a crossroads outside of town, listening for the cries of lost souls.

When I first started my Living Story practice in the world's most lost and forgotten places,, I read a lot about myth and fairy tale, because ordinary language was inadequate to contain and express that experience. Two goddesses especially resonated with me, both of them transformational: Aphrodite and Hecate. Transformation through love, and transformation through deep listening and intuition. Lighthearted listening through delight, love, and playfulness, and deep listening to the call of the world's suffering.

Through the years, as I have listened to more stories, and especially in the last year, as I have faced personal challenges and my country has slid into a sorrowful place, Hecate is the spirit and the energy that most guides my practice. A mature female goddess whose wisdom comes from lived experience, Hecate is the goddess who hears the cries of lost souls and guides them home. 

I found the image at the top of this post on google and followed it to the website that houses writer-astrologer Jean Bakula’s blog, Briefly, Bakula notes that Hecate’s three-headed dog represents her ability to see past, present, and future. In my practice, Hecate’s way of knowing comes through story, which creates coherence between the present moment, the past that has led us to this place, and the future possibilities latent in any situation. From my own reading, The serpent head at the top of her staff represents higher consciousness, and broomsticks represent the sweeping away of threshold hindrances. 

Most important to me about the energy of Hecate is that she brings the quality of listening to the world. It was Hecate who could not see but who heard Persephone’s cries from the underworld to which she had been abducted by Hades. It was Hecate who called upon an army of other gods to rescue the buried child, and it was Hecate who remained Persephone’s companion throughout her life, even when she returned every six months to take up her role as Queen of the Underworld, guiding those who had fallen there back to the light. 

I want to manifest Hecate's energy ever more fully this year. 

The evening concludes with the ringing of a bell 108 times for the 108 gates of liberation and the 108 hindrances, which in Buddhist tradition are the same. Reverberating with the deep clear tones of the bell and my personal intention, I walk out into the night both grounded and lifted. Struggling against the frigid winds to the subway, past other stragglers going to their midnight destinations, filled with new energy, knowing that my path this year is about bringing forth more deeply the quality of listening – for the story beneath the story, the story that wants to emerge – in my life, yours, my world, yours, ours. 

Are you listening to the story your life is telling you?

In every moment we’re at a crossroads: past and future are right here with us in the present. We’re always being asked to let go of the past by telling its story, and to choose a direction forward. The fact is that we’re given difficult situations to help us grow — not to overcome  problems, but to ripen and blossom through them; to look and listen more deeply into ourselves and our experience; to discover strengths, gifts, and a degree of commitment to life that demands more than we knew we possessed. 

Your personal world and its mood. The environments in which we find ourselves or choose to live often mirror our internal landscape. What does your world look and feel like? What features stand out for you? In my own recent life, I’ve lived in a series of rooms that aren’t my home. They reflect the major life transition I’ve been traveling through since my mother’s death five years ago. When I understand my experience this way, I feel not homeless and anxious, but calm and focused on listening for what is trying to come forth and what is being asked of me now.

Your supporting cast. Who's with you and who matters? I’m sure you’ve heard it said that everyone we meet is a teacher. This is true. The characters who populate our lives affirm and lift us, or denigrate and deplete us. Remembering that all the world’s a stage, and that the people whom we meet outside are often reflections of characters in ourselves, who uplifts and energizes you? Who sabotages you? Understand that we are all made up of light and shadow energy; your hero and your "villain" can be the same person. I have met both companions and adversaries during my life, and I am careful now, as I grow older and want my time to be spent more meaningfully, to identify and travel with the light-bearers who energize and inspire me.

What perplexing situations or yearnings are calling for your attention now? 
What are they asking of you?   
What do you need?



All rights reserved, 2019, Juliet Bruce, PhD