I have just returned from an extended visit to care for my father as he recovers from surgery.

Every afternoon I needed to get out of the house and walk. I visited some old-favorite trails and I had some wonderful surprises as new paths led me to great vistas and special spots.

How wonderful to be given a path to follow! Especially when the next step in life, whether in health or in the general chaos of this moment, feels uncertain.

Which leads me to write in celebration of four women trailblazers.

Part of what I enjoy about these women is that their traditions (Buddhism, Judaism, Shamanism) are outside of what I study. But their approaches to weaving together arts and the Wisdom tradition are very aligned with my vision and the spark igniting my new collaboration: the Eye of the Heart Center.

Even though I have only recently encountered their work I feel like they have been breaking ground for me all along. It has been wonderful to discover these women as elders for my work.

We all need elders and inspirations, so I share them with you today!

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb

Lynn Gottlieb, one of the first women to become a rabbi in Jewish history, is a pioneer Jewish feminist, human rights activist, writer, visual artist, ceremonialist, community educator and master storyteller.

I’m particularly inspired by her classic book She Who Dwells Within. She has inspiring examples of creating rites of passage for both coming into adulthood and entering elderhood. I’m also deeply inspired by how she integrates women’s wisdom back into Judaism by recovering the wisdom stored within music and dance.  

Roshi Joan Halifax

Joan Halifax
Photo by Katsuhito Hanada

I encountered Joan Halifax when I was researching the Grand Compassion Sutra and found her beautiful translation.  I then dove into more of her work and resonated with her early travel and study pursuing Earth based wisdom from around the world.

She teaches that contemplation, teaching, activism, and creative expression are one and the same—no difference. Makes me want to learn more!

Deena Metzger

Deena Metzger
Photo by Jessica Shokrian

I met Deena Metzger’s work when a friend shared with me her list of 19 Ways to a Viable Future For All Beings. I immediately resonated with this comprehensive list inviting cellular as well as systemic change. Reading it bolstered me to keep leaning into the wild mix of healing, nature immersions, dance, and community that I offer.

Deena Metzger is a poet, novelist, essayist, storyteller, teacher, healer and medicine woman. I’m again inspired by someone for whom there is no line between creative expression and creating transformation.

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
Photo by Anna Cummings.

If you have been with me previous autumns and winters, you will have noticed that programs such as Winter Rest and Dancing into the Dark are devoted to transforming our relationship to the dark. Much of the wisdom about relating to the dark is hidden in …… well, the dark.

When a friend shared with me Osho Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s latest book Opening to Darkness, I realized I’d encountered a master. She is a Zen priest and is also strongly influenced by Native American and African indigenous traditions. In her words, “I am a dark seed of a lineage that has resisted annihilation for thousands of years. I am a voice from the great darkness of transformation, grace, and constant birth and death. I am a collective voice that weeps and protests. I am the ever-abundant blackness and darkness that has given birth to everything. I am life from the first source of life. I am because we are.”

Stay tuned for more about the book Opening to Darkness this winter!

Aren’t these a fantastic group of elders?!

Who are your elders, the ones that inspire with you with the paths they have traveled? I’d love to be introduced.

What kind of elder do you wish to become?