Episode 9 ~ Elizabeth Russell

 

This month we talked with Elizabeth Russell, the Creative Founder of Be Space Integrative Arts.  We explore the "Spell of Urgency", our ability to slow down, and our ever-present ability to belong to ourselves and each other.   We can not say enough about the inspiration and timeliness of the messages excavated in this conversation between two lovers of the Earth, humanity, and our collective dance towards awakening.

Elizabeth would like to offer each Full Awakening member the opportunity to join her at the New Moon Cafe, a virtual ritual space to explore the themes of the month ahead.  This monthly circle is given "in the gift" and is now open to all.  The next circle is Saturday September 28th from 10:30 - 11:45 am PST.  Visit this page for more information and to sign up!  

Find out more about Elizabeth and her heart-centered offerings by visiting her new website!! https://elizabethrussell.space/

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How does anyone remember what they were like as a child? How do we see the path we are on while we’re on it?

What I see when I peer into the mists of time is an introverted perfectionist, an intensely self-critical people pleaser, with a yearning for solitude and quiet.

My parents were very influenced by the counterculture of the 1960s and 70s. They have also lived with mental illness for most of their lives. Because of their challenges, I didn’t grow up with either of them. My grandmother raised me, giving me stability and an upbringing that was informed by her Depression-era ethos.

She had a controlled and focused survival drive and a practical, inborn environmental sensibility. I started a serious paper route business at age 8 and have worked ever since. We spent long days in the wetlands and prairies of central Nebraska, birdwatching, picking wild asparagus, hunting pheasant, gathering chokecherries and currants for pie.

My family teased me for being extremely empathetic toward the animals around us. Turtles crossing the road, stop to help them across. Find a dead bird, give it a full funeral and proper burial. I talked to tadpoles and cars and trees like personal friends. I failed miserably at the fishing & hunting outings our grandparents took my brothers and me on. It seemed clear that I didn’t have a thick enough skin for many of life’s requirements.

I was traumatically separated from my mom and dad when I was 2 years old. I had a chronic longing to learn about and be closer to them, which led to a fascination with subjects that I associated with each of them...ecofeminism, social change activism, astrology and Tarot, radical performance art, and parapsychology. I developed a hypervigilance trained on my inner state of being--the message I got from early on was that I needed guard my ‘sanity’ against the possibility of hereditary imbalances. This gave me a pretty strong self-awareness and respect for divergent psychospiritual experiences.

It wasn’t an easy way to grow up, and on more than one occasion I was abruptly sent away from my home and family to eventually live independently while I finished high school. By the grace and kindness of teachers and other adults along the way, I managed to finish high school and find my way to college.

I enrolled at Kearney State College in Nebraska, but it wasn’t until I transferred to the University of Missouri–Columbia for my senior year that I began to see the world as a place I could possibly belong. This was a pretty significant turning point for me, even though it seemed like nothing at the time.

I remember feeling incredibly despondent and isolated in my junior year. A friend had committed suicide, the US invaded Iraq in 1991, and I began to feel more and more pain & anxiety about the emerging issues of climate change and deforestation. Somehow I got myself to a counselor’s office through my school’s student services. I knew something had to change, and she suggested the National Student Exchange program which allowed me to attend a different school during my senior year.

Through that program, I had the privilege of living and studying with a cohort of other honors and international students; I was able to take classes in Peace Studies, learning about the discipline of nonviolence as a means of social transformation. While in Columbia, I also began to explore psychedelics and the intelligence of the natural world, and discovered activism as a means of expressing my values in the community.

That single semester I spent at UMC became a major turning point in my life. It felt like I had been placed finally in my right circle of belonging. I lived for nearly a decade in Columbia Missouri, several years in Colorado (studying performance & movement arts at Naropa University in Boulder), and almost 20 years in Portland. I now consider myself

100% at home in Eugene, Oregon. I’m surrounded by oak and ash trees, and can feel their loving root system extending below my feet.

I’ve been honored to convene many different creative and community projects over the years, including an ecofeminist intentional community, Gaia’s Witness Pilgrimage Project, Be Space studio, and the annual Life Art Being Integrative Arts festival.

Now I am focused on hosting the New Moon Café and creating Dreamfruit 2020, an interactive almanac for radical belonging. My feeling is that a great many of us feel ‘orphaned’ from our mother earth, and that we have forgotten our natural inheritance as a fundamental part of the larger organism of Gaia. Dreamfruit is designed to call us back into the circle of life as engaged, c0-creative cells in the living body of earth.

Of course, we all know that the world is in dire straits, and I believe we are being called into an enhanced biophilic state of being (biophilia = the urge to affiliate with other forms of life). Our greatest good right now is served by projects, people, structures and experiences that awaken our ingenuity, authentic self-expression and embodied presence in the world.

The future is all about slowing down and clarifying as a means of ‘amplifying the signal’.

At this point, I’m mostly just carrying questions:

How do we enliven a sense of love as a potent force for change? How do we tap the birthright tools of intuition, relationship, creativity and compassion to shift our experience of power? What will the world be like and what choices will we make as we grow more and more aware of our interconnectedness with all life?

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