Published Articles

Remembering the Ancestors

Remembering the Ancestors
November 2017
By Aninha Esperanza Livingstone, Ph.D.
Common Ground ~ The 43rd Anniversary Gratitude Issue – November 2017

Remembering the Ancestors:

Widening our Circle of Gratitude

The practice of gratitude is one that changes our state. This shift in attention has the power to rearrange our hearts, broaden our thinking and expand our energy field. As we remember what we are grateful for, we weave ourselves more deeply into the fabric of life, disrupting habitual ways of thinking about ourselves, and the world. […]

A Call to Soul Activism

A Call to Soul Activism
The Role of Creativity and Imagination in Creating Change
By Aninha Esperanza Livingstone, Ph.D.
Common Ground ~ The Creativity Issue ~ May/June 2017

As the political landscape intensifies at home and abroad so to does the question, What can I do? The impulse to act likens to a healthy immune system that protects one’s life and well-being. Within this body politic, we must each navigate what activism means to us. […]

The Ecology of Calling

The Ecology of Calling 
Tracking the Scent of our Soul
By Aninha Esperanza Livingstone, Ph.D.
Common Ground ~ The Green Issue ~ April 2013

Do you believe that you are on Earth for a reason, that you have a unique calling? Do you long to embody your innate gifts and to contribute to the world? Answers to these questions vary, depending upon our relationship with ourselves, the world, and ultimately the great mystery.

The theme of calling is ancient. We find it in myths, fairy tales, and more recently in films and television. Joseph Campbell, well known for the phrase, “Follow your bliss,” taught that to engage one’s calling is to embark upon a heroic journey, which culminates in the ability to share our gifts with the world. During this initiatory process, we face great ordeals and find help in unexpected places.

Nature can be one of those unexpected places. An earth-based approach to living our purpose invites us to slow down, to ponder who we are, and from where we came. In the company of trees, lakes, mountains and stars, the mind quiets and the senses reweave themselves into the fabric of life reminding us of a belonging we cannot buy.

We are invited to leave behind a sense of self that has been shaped by our modern way of life, and return to ourselves as nature. When we see ourselves through the eyes of culture, our calling can end up feeling like a product, and we a brand, but when we remember ourselves as part of the natural world, our calling becomes a process and we participants.

To engage our purpose through the lens of ecology is to take a quantum leap in perception. We move from the view that we […]

Women and Ritual

Women and Ritual
Fanning the Flames of Ancient Wisdom
By Aninha Esperanza Livingstone, Ph.D.
Common Ground ~ The Women Issue ~ Oct. 2013
There was time when our ancestors knew how to meet life and death and all of the passages in between. So too, was there was a time when our female ancestors passed on rituals from grandmother to mother to daughter, and felt held by a deep wisdom of which they knew themselves to be a part. Ritual was a way of meeting and creating change, as well as of maintaining balance between the seen and unseen worlds.

The term ritual originated from the Sanskrit word rtu, meaning menses. The origin of rituals specific to women’s creative power and to the fertility of the earth date back to at least 6000 B.C as evidenced by ancient artifacts found throughout Europe. No one knows exactly when women began using ritual to meet what is often referred to as the blood mysteries: menarche, childbirth, matriarch and menopause, but we do know that it is a cross-cultural pattern seen throughout time.

For the majority of people today, ancestral traditions have been lost. As a result, ritual can feel foreign, contrived, or forced. And yet, it is anything but foreign. It lives in our bones. Anthropologists believe that humans have been creating ritual for at least 100,000 years.

The language of ritual, rooted in the realm of symbol, metaphor and myth, is a powerful tool for our times regardless of gender or age. The retrieval of this lost art can be especially powerful for girls and women as an alternative to the cultural response to women’s development, which tends to be profit driven.

Whether it be the pharmaceutical drug Lybrel which offers the complete elimination […]

Ancestral Roots

Woman’s Ancestral Roots
Moving Forward by Looking Back
By Aninha Esperanza Livingstone, Ph.D.
Our lives have invisible roots. We are all shaped by the experiences of our ancestors as they run through our blood and settle in our bones, below the level of our thinking mind. We humans carry the inherited wisdom and weight of those who came before, and it is up to each of us to live the story forward for future generations.

We may think of this as a heroic solo journey, but more support is available than meets the eye. The very ancestors whose tragedies and triumphs inform our lives may be closer than we think. Cultures around the world know this and ritually feed the ancestors daily as a way to honor them and to open to their generative guidance.

This is less common in the United States where western culture tells us that nothing is real unless it can be weighed and measured. Indigenous wisdom however reminds us that there are two worlds, the seen and unseen, and that we are made to live with one foot in each world.

In my personal life, and in my work with women who feel blocked in their calling, ancestral healing has deepened the journey of breaking destructive patterns and of embodying inborn gifts. Although both maternal and paternal lineages influence the human psyche, as women we share the unfolding story of womanhood with our foremothers with whom we are connected psychologically, biologically and historically. Dr. Naomi Lowinsky refers to this as the Motherline.

On a psychological level, mothers pass down their experience of being female, and their beliefs about the world to their daughters. We often see the social messages of our times as our primary influence but […]

Ecology and Imagination

Ecology and Imagination
Awakening the Visionary
By Aninha Esperanza Livingstone, Ph.D.
Common Ground April 2014
Visionaries have always relied on the imagination as a source of inspiration and guidance. In these times of ecological crisis, logic remains the dominant mode of thinking. Imagination has become an underused resource. Reengaging this truncated capacity could catapult us out of the dread of probability and into the spaciousness of possibility.

One of those visionaries was Albert Einstein who claimed, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” The ecological problems that we currently face arose from thinking such as:

Humans are the apex of evolution.
We are the only species that is truly conscious.
Competition is the natural order.
We are separate and independent.
The instinctual and earthly is lower, sinful, dangerous, and to be dispelled and conquered.
If this kind of thinking cannot lead us out of the mess we have gotten ourselves into, what kind of thinking will? Einstein might tell us that we need to give more credence to our imagination, based on his proclamation, “Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

To imagine is to leave behind the conventional, the rational, the known, and the expected. It is a leap.

Imagine this:

You are a cell in the body of the earth and you have a specific cellular function that when carried out helps maintain the health of the planet.

The earth is self-healing and you are part of that process.

Everything is alive and in conversation.

The waters, plants, animals, and ancestors are all allies in planetary healing.

Your life exists for something larger than you […]

A Feminine Approach to Calling

A Feminine Approach to Calling
How the Underworld Can Support Purposeful Living
By Aninha Esperanza Livingstone, Ph.D.
Common Ground Oct. 2014
We are born of mystery, and to the mystery we will return. Our time in this world brings us face to face with the questions Who am I? and Why am I here? Our deeper identity and purpose can sometimes feel like cryptic hieroglyphics scratched into the walls of our life.
The masculine powers of logic, linearity, and productivity are essential to living our calling, yet they cannot decipher the message embedded in our souls. In order to access this level of clarity, we need the power the feminine, of She who oversees the dark mysteries of death and rebirth.
The story of Innana, the Mesopotamian goddess whose tale was discovered on ancient clay tablets, offers this wisdom. Her initiatory descent into the underworld reflects the archetypal journey we must each take in order to live our calling from the depths of our being. […]

Health and Humility: The Hidden Gift of Illness

Health and Humility: The Hidden Gift of Illness
Sometimes it takes a significant life event to open us to new ways of being…

Original post on RainbowLight Blog

By Aninha Livingstone

To be alive is to be vulnerable. Health challenges are just one among a myriad of experiences that can shake up our world, reminding us that ultimately, we are not in control.

Life is always in flux. During certain periods we find ourselves on top of the world and at others, on our proverbial knees. It is during the more difficult times that we are reminded of our true size in the face of the mysterious workings of order and chaos.

The loss of vitality, the presence of symptoms, and the uncertainty that accompanies medical diagnoses and prognoses disrupt our accustomed ways of experiencing life. Whether illness arrives at our doorstep as chronic or acute, the sense of powerlessness that can arise in the face of impaired capacities may challenge our very sense of self.

In this state of vulnerability we cannot find solace in the mainstream values of autonomy and mastery, nor in the sea of commerce built on the denial of our shared mortality. As such, we must look elsewhere for repair and restoration.

One such place is surrender. As we risk letting go of the culturally reinforced need to perform, prove and produce, illness has the potential of becoming a transformative process. When productivity is taken off the altar, the bare bones of our lives begin to rattle and what matters most will not be silenced. Here, we are offered the opportunity to see from a different place, one that does not take health, and perhaps life itself, for granted. 

This common phrase, “for granted,” points to a shared awareness […]

The Ecology of Health: Caring for Ourselves and The World as One

By Aninha Livingstone, Ph.D.
Originally posted on RainbowLight.com Blog
There is a growing recognition that we are dependent upon our precious planet and her on-going generosity and health.

There is a burgeoning awareness that all of humanity is connected, as electronic wizardry breaks the spell of time and space, and we collectively face growing changes in weather patterns that do not discriminate.

 There is an awakening to what earth-based cultures have always known, that what we do to the earth, we do to ourselves, and to all living things.

And yet, our conception of health can remain captive to the old paradigm of separation. Plagued by overwhelm, it is all too easy to close our minds and hearts to our collective well-being and focus solely upon our personal best.

It is an understandable response. Why create greater stress, one of the primary causes of ill health, by turning our attention toward that which may evoke grief, anger, despair, or powerlessness?

The truth is, whether we turn towards or away from the health needs of our planet, and our fellow humans, we are affected. Even numbness is a response. In fact, it is a testament to how deeply we are impacted, and to the need for a newfound resiliency.

Healthy organisms depend upon the ability to be sensitive to changes in the environment and to adjust accordingly. It is our biological imperative to listen and respond.

This is supported by biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s, General Systems Theory, which posits that all systems self-correct through feedback, from eco-systems to governments. This affirms our innate capability to self-regulate in changing times, and to evolve in complexity in order to meet new demands.

Let us celebrate our capacity to be affected as a sign of our collective and intact health! And, […]

Ecopsychology

Ecopsychology
The Healing Force of Nature
By Aninha Esperanza Livingstone, Ph.D.
Common Ground April 2012
We live during a time in which most Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, people recognize more names of corporate brands than of plants, and parents fear what kind of world their children will inherit. When we let ourselves feel the extent of the global issues at hand, we often feel so overwhelmed and powerless that we turn toward distraction, become numb, or succumb to despair. Clearly, we need help in navigating these turbulent waters.

Perhaps the field of psychology can help. There is a new leaf unfurling on the tree of psychology. It receives its nourishment from deep roots, those of indigenous wisdom traditions. And yet, it is also informed by the winds of change, those of modernity. This new leaf is referred to as ecopsychology and it aims to address individual and collective suffering as well as its cultural sources, such as the impact of technology, urbanization, and the myth of the rugged individual.

Psychology as a field has spent a vast amount of time studying dysfunctions, but much less time investigating love, especially when it comes to the love of nature. The term biophilia refers to human’s innate love of the natural world. Evolutionary biologist Edward Wilson who coined the term, believes that our need for time in nature is genetic. After all, the industrial revolution marks only a small percentage of our human existence, and our nervous systems have grown in concert with other life forms for hundreds of thousands of years. Ecopsychology aims to resurrect this inborn love of the natural world. Can we really afford to continue without retrieving this aspect of our humanity?

One way of naming the increasing loss of connection to […]