The North Teaches That Listening Is Its Own Prayer.


I didn’t celebrate the equinox this year, for the first time in a decade. Perhaps because it feels as though we are all stepping into a collective winter.

This equinox had solstice vibes. We all turn within. We all stay inside. We all hope the light will come soon.

This is a fruitful darkness. Together, we turn toward the North, that sacred curve within the cycle of our Medicine Wheel in which dwell the night, the depth, and the ancestors. At the Moondance in Teotihuacan, only a decade worth of six months ago, I danced to the medicine of the North.

Under the light of the full moon, in the shadow of a pyramid, with 400 sisters, for four days, without food or sleep, we sang through the nights, sending prayers vehemently into the voracious receptivity of the earth and sky. And I, in the North, stomped and howled for the Winter wisdom that grants perspectives born of introspection.

The North teaches us to go within, where ancestral memory whispers within the dark DNA of our bone marrow. Where ancients long buried underground hear our footsteps. Where the dreamtime guides us from the dark behind closed eyelids every night. Where roots store the vitality of nature until springtime invites life above ground again.

The North teaches us that shadows are fertile, and that listening is its own kind of prayer. Now, as the world turns to the North of solitary uncertainty, I pray we learn to listen.

I am listening now to my own ancestors who survived pandemics and passed forward the fruits of their immunities. I’m listening to our collective ancestors, those whose legendary wisdom lives in our collective conscience — the freedom fighters, justice warriors and liberators whose legacies are instilled the soil in which we must now plant our own seeds — Marx, MLK, Mandela, Lenin, Gandhi.

These ancestors faced the darkness of their times with ferocity.

Even Jesus roared in righteous rage against capitalistic profiteering as he overturned their tables. In Tibet, the Buddhas of wrathful compassion are both vicious and venerated. Our domesticated cultural narratives tell us that peace and passion against oppression cannot coexist. That pacifism is praiseworthy and revolution is rare.

But paradox is the human condition. Wrath and compassion live side by side in the left and right ventricles of our beating hearts whose thudding mantra reminds us that we are alive. Let’s act like it!

I am listening to that persistent rhythm of opposites in union now, I am listening to our history — not the diluted narratives we learned from the passivity of our school desks, written by the victors and retold by those they rule, but the history of unsung heroes of unparalleled integrity.

The ones whose devotion to equity unrooted the tenacious weeds of Western ideals from the bedrock of nations, whose ideas would dethrone colonialism and imperialism — the virus and cancer that have plagued our planet far longer than COVID-19.

It has been said that coronavirus is like a black light shined on the soiled hotel sheets of capitalism. We are all seeing just how grossly we have been fucked.

In its sadism, the most vulnerable among us have been left to die alone. The homeless. The immunocompromised. The indigenous folks on reservations with no running water to wash their hands. Our brothers and sisters in Third World countries with no access to healthcare. The millions without medical insurance. The incarcerated. Our elders. Our sex workers. The mentally ill.

When capitalism meets pandemic, a eugenics-level cleansing of the lower class is inevitable. And as they suffer, we all carry the onus of responsibility to ensure that the underlying caste systems of their demise get uprooted. We are in the shit, and it reeks. Will we compost this crisis into a more just egalitarian soil where every rich facet of human diversity can thrive?

If we do not each do our part, we will never be able to wash our hands clean, and they will be tied at the stakes of our own enslavement.

It has been said that privilege is the ability to believe that if one isn’t personally affected by something, it’s not a big deal. And cognitive dissonance is the discomfort one feels at the realization of how their behaviors do not match their ideals.

They are both within every Western mind, but they hide in the dim shadows of our psyches, away from the bright distracting lights of our phone screens so we cannot see them.

If you believe in justice, but your voice never rises on behalf of the voiceless, I invite you to notice that now, without self-judgment, first just witness it from the quietness of quarantine, from the idleness of isolation, from this seat in the soil of the North’s stark medicine.

If we don’t tend to our gardens, weeds will grow. This isn’t shameful, it’s natural. We cannot deny it, we have to embrace it. In the paralysis of our disengagement from politics, weeds have overtaken.

From generations of abject apathy, of comfort trumping confrontation, many invasive intruders have colonized our gardens. There are children in cages at borders. There are drones dropping bombs on the innocent. There are slaves in our prisons and poisons in our systems.

But any grower knows, if you’ve let your garden go fallow, it only takes tender tenacity, attention, consistency and some elbow grease to free the soil of festering species. In capitalism, each consumer is complicit in systems of slavery, so our hands are already as dirty as our conscience now. So let’s bury them in the soil and dig down deep until we find the foundations of our shared values and water them.

We value freedom. We value equality. We value democracy. If capitalism has grown to a point that we can now see it as antithetical to those principles, it is time to uproot it.

And as with any worthwhile worldwide awakening, it begins within. How do you deal with your own shadows when they arise in your life? Quarantine is a mirror reflecting us intimately to ourselves, daily, so what are you witnessing?

If all you do in isolation is stay in bed and cry, I commend you for feeling. But cry with open eyes. If all you do an isolation is scroll, I commend you for searching. But do it to learn, to follow the money trails till you find the beneficiaries of disaster capitalism. Not just for entertainment.

Seeds don’t just sleep in the soil, they are toiling within their shells to gather the strength needed to crack them open and sprout in the spring.

In the North of the Medicine Wheel, we share a collective night. Every night by the soft solace of our pillows, we are reminded that darkness is a time to dream. And when our eyes close, an inner light illuminates some vision beyond the world we know, teaching us that we are creatrixes and realitysmiths. Even as our bodies lie still between sheets, our astral bodies are active, designing new dimensions.

Quarantine has tucked us all into stillness, into darkness. I pray it ignites our dreams and visions for a new reality.

We are withdrawing, the way a warrior pulls back a bow. Take this time to aim your arrow, Artemis. Find your target. There is no rush, but there is great responsibility. It is our prerogative to navigate through the clouds of confusion and feigned inefficacy to a cocreated reality of solidarity and decentralization. This is not a dress rehearsal.

I’m sorry to see that there will be little freedom without freedom fighters. But I believe in the strength within each of us to step into the regeneration that is called of our generation. To transmute trial to triumph. To be the heroes we hope for.

The tragic irony is that as the West is suffering the karma of capitalism, the least affected are those who proliferate its cancerous doctrines of consumption. I pray these times will radicalize us. I pray they will sovereignize us as individuals and collectives more capable of sourcing our own sustenance — growing our own food, owning our own bodies and our own labor, educating our own minds.

Too long those sacred responsibilities have been conveniently displaced in the hands of the FDA which has poisoned food supplies, and corporations which have exploited workers, and public schools and mass media that have corrupted perceptions. We have an opportunity, now, in isolation, to cultivate ourselves. To re-source our own sustainable sustenance moving forward.

The Medicine Wheel teaches us that everything has its season within the spirals of time. We are each a garden. This springtime, we can remember how to weed the world free and water seeds of sovereignty.


Isabel Friend is a public speaker, writer, certified nutritionist, Mystic dance and Integral yoga teacher, and Reiki master with 10 years of experience in the health field and an ever-growing passion for earth-based living. Also trained extensively in herbalism and aromatherapy, Isabel is passionate about joining modern scientific understanding with ancient ancestral wisdom in a way that grounds primal living strategies into our 21st century lifestyles. Her recent projects have revolved around exploring the magic, mystery and science of water. She has studied and taught about water throughout the US, Canada, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Thailand, and now offers resources and additional content on her website and Instagram.


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