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Reflections on The Flowjo's Death (Summer Newsletter)




Death is not an aberration. Death is a sacred passage and the ultimate destination of every life. It is with sadness, gratitude and faith that I, Julia, aka Flowjo Mama close our Carrboro studio's doors permanently. After eleven years of conceiving, nurturing, tending, of mothering The Flowjo and the communities who practice here, I am releasing the space, the project, and also the archetype of Mother that I've been embodying. Mothering is required to sustain many forms of creation. The path can be (and has been for me) reciprocally supportive. The Flowjo has given me endless gifts and also sustained my life for several years. The womb-like space has nurtured and healed me, taught me to mother myself. Mothering can also be a self-sacrificing path. Whether we look at human mothers (and also fathers and gender-fluid parents) struggling to care for their children in this all-too-often inhumane capitalist world; local business owners trying to make it in a pandemic; or Pachamama herself, being responsible for the survival for self and others can require tremendous life force. Sometimes our visions and creations stand to devour us. I have DEEPLY loved holding down this sacred space in Carrboro. Full stop. Wow. A decade of stewarding growth, beauty, healing, creativity, awe-inspiring movement, play, collaboration, transformation, community building... what a holy time. That happened. I'm so honored to have received a seed of this vision and genuinely proud to have said "yes" and offered my labor of love and devotion to sustain this life-affirming and at times life-saving Sanctuary. I have learned more than I would dare to recount here about humans, the body, the mystery of dance, ritual, trauma, interpersonal dynamics, cultural wounds, becoming an adult and the magic of uniting as a collective organism. Despite the sheer magic and potency that persists in that space, upon the return phase post-pandemic, it's clear that I can no longer offer the bounty of my life force and creative vision to that specific project, a cherished beloved of my own creation and the place on Brewer Lane. After a long COVID-coma, The Flowjo is dying. Sigh. The Flowjo's cause of death? Well, now that's complex... On some level, natural causes could suffice. Beings die. Or my inner "no" to returning to the stress I felt there the last year of stewardship. But, as a human, I tend to create and tell stories. So here we go... As I attempted to drive my--OK yes, semi-struggling chariot-- to The Flowjo for our FIRST INDOOR event in SIXTEEN months, (after over a month of mental and heart gymnastics to conjure a "safe" and inclusive as possible container for a multi-generational community, mostly vaccinated with a few unvaccinated and months of looking at possibilities for sustainable structures on the other side of this mess...) I TOTALED MY CAR. Mental exhaustion, delta variant stress, projections and unseen forces swirled together creating a curious, distressing vortex. As hickory and metal collided, stopping me dead in my tracks, blocking the road out of Heartward Sanctuary, clear messages were heard: Stay home. You cannot return to that life. Fuck. Oh, and PS-- if you push, the next message may come THROUGH YOUR BODY. Fuck! That's right. When the messages come and we deny them, sometimes they speak louder in the form of pain or sickness. Sigh. Tears. Heard. When that clear guidance like that is finally offered, the best response I know is: thank you. In truth, the causes of many deaths are curious and deserve much more nuance than often given. Many variables converge to compromise health and end a life. As we've seen, it's not only COVID that's taken life this year, but many intersecting lines of racial, cultural, gender, and economic privilege as well. Stress, ancestral trauma, health conditions, work environments...I wonder how our medicines would differ if we deemed the cause of death disparity rather than diabetes. The cause of The Flowjo's death could be attributed to COVID but perhaps better yet, this is a capitalism-casualty. As many businesses and artists imagine how to return, rebuild and resume participation in the demands of capitalism in a still unpredictable pandemic and economy, many are struggling. Respect to all who are trying to make it out there, who've closed their doors this year, who are struggling to survive, or adapting their lives in the wake of this pandemic. Respect to those who've lost their homes or businesses possibly on top of loved ones. Our community has kept The Flowjo on a trickle of life support all year holding out for this moment only to find that the wheels of capitalism are speeding up while very few people are ready to take on the risks of resuming regular programming indoors and the responsibilities and financial overhead required to maintain them. At least not those with the budgets of small, independent, working class business owners and community oriented project stewards. My landlord has been an angel this year. Understandably, he has a mortgage to pay and needs a tenant who will commit. Despite the Sanctuary vibes and community-oriented, church-like project, we all still exist in a capitalist world that will not stay paused. Re-starting the heart of The Flowjo feels nearly like starting over. Which means in the small business world often means by doing considerable unpaid labor (ah, back to the mother archetype.) At this point in my life, that's something I don't have the luxury to do. As a community leader aiming to live into values of inclusion, community well-being and personal choice, I'm also struggling to draw lines of inclusion and exclusion while there is still risk around the pandemic. Sitting with the new circumstances, I've felt waves of hopelessness and overwhelm about the work required to prioritize community-building indoors for the current and coming phase. Different needs, opinions, desires, risk tolerances, vax statuses and news reports nearly driving me into temporary madness (like, for real, I felt a quiver in my brain that felt like an imminent short circuit.) While I'm willing to take calculated risks with my own body, I genuinely don't and can't know what risks others should take with theirs. Maintaining rent on a commercial lease that requires me (and others) to gather people indoors that simultaneously draws firm lines of division amongst community, is a lot of weight for for my nervous system to bare. If capitalism or a pandemic alone wouldn't do it, Capitalism + Pandemic = Trauma Aside from the context, another true story about The Flowjo's demise can be told from the perspective of soul. As Bill Plotkin describes, when we've reached certain goals or successes in a phase of life, it's a natural soul process to move on, to sacrifice all the benefits and comforts of the old form to continue a path of soul development. From this perspective, the death is related to a natural completion and a new calling, growing up/into the next stage of life for me. This story of soul also weaves in the theme of sacrifice. Having participated in and trained with people in varied spiritual traditions, sacrifice or making offerings is a common theme in spiritual practice. Whether it's an act of service, a period of abstinence from sex or certain foods, offering of wine and bread, song and dance, an outdated identity, one's hair or blood...there's a spiritual economy going on between the seen and unseen. I've heard a Nepali ritual mentor say that sometimes it takes a life to save a life. In the case of The Flowjo's fate, each of these stories true in their own way, all intertwining to confirm one final reality: The Flowjo's death. Thus, I place this beloved, sacred, community art project--one I have held great pride in and received tremendous teaching and healing from--on the proverbial altar as an offering to spirit for what is being called forth from me now, what is currently gestating at Heartward Sanctuary, as well as for my own health, vitality, soul's growth and destiny. I pray for the next phase of life to be fed by the last. I offer up the identity of Mother and any outdated self-or-other harming versions I have internalized from my family or culture of origin to step into something more life affirming, whole and balanced. May my community stewardship and leadership genes find a healthy, updated, healthy expression appropriate for an evolving world and my next phase of life. May this offering serve as a message to the unseen forces who back my life. May this be an adequate expression of my commitment and readiness to step fully into stewardship of Heartward Sanctuary and the work being asked of me now. Work that brings deep healing and reconnection for humans and the other-than-humans, the ancestors and future generations, the waters and the earth herself. Work that includes, but is not limited to dance. Work that reconsecrates death. Work that midwives metamorphosis for humans and our culture. May the community that has formed around The Flowjo continue to grow, blossom and collaborate in new and unexpected ways. May it be so. I hope that my sharing about this process can inspire you to let go of what's yours to release when it is time, even those beings or identities you love. I share all this as a story that may be of use to anyone navigating their way through this return phase of initiation, for those who may feel fundamentally changed by their time in chrysalis and now must change their circumstances to embody the transformation. If you've loved The Flowjo or if you're a friend from afar who has only heard the name, the funeral rites may even serve as an opportunity to release outdated versions of yourself. Metamorphosis isn't easy. In my experience with initiatory processes, we don't choose what melts down or what emerges. We do our best to listen for the whispers, signs, synchronicities that nudge us along our path towards destiny and keep letting go to open the roads. riding the currents of change ~ Julia

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