(Essay) Coming Home to Our Senses: Placing Ourselves with Story By Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

This essay is an edited excerpt from Chapter 8 of the author’s book PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion.

In the Old Western Way,

The receipt of story by eyes or ears was regarded as a vital pathway of blessing, if the reader or listener were in a state of proper attention and respect. Those who merely siphoned the words off the page like a vacuum cleaner, those who sat inattentively, mentally wool-gathering did not receive the blessing. Our own saturation with printed materials sometimes renders us insensible to the sacred blessing of story and its many gifts … But when we memorize a story, its blessing works at a deeper level within us. It is then that we enter fully into its workings; it is then that we become the story. When we become garments of story, we are able to clothe others with blessing.[1]

The process of participating in “sacred space” – conscious ceremony – is different from simply being lectured to or told something, or from having a discussion. In conscious sacred space, the whole being is engaged; we are able to speak and hear the depths of our felt knowings. In conscious sacred space, we are close to the blueprint of our lives, as close as each is able to be; and that ability within each is varied and complex and unknowable. The variation of ability to approach the “blueprint”, from time to time within the same person, and then from person to person, affects what a participant will gain and possibly integrate. But the reaching for it, co-creates the very receptor that is required – as surely as the chlorophyll molecule was co-created by Earth and Sun, as Earth reached for nourishment; as surely as the ear was co-created by subject and sound, as the subject reached for an unknown signal … the reaching for Her, co-creates the desired presence.

GAIA Conference ceremony Australia 2008

Personally this practice has taken me from fragmentation and alienation to wholeness and belonging, as I reached for She Who Is, She Who Will Be, and She Who is the Transformation of the Ages. It has brought me through so much, sustained my personal evolution. It has been “geotherapy” – a term Brian Swimme uses to speak of how the vision of the whole story of Earth, of the Universe, may enable the human to proceed from the present alienated pathological mode of being to wholeness – as we learn our story.[2] I have personally responded to the re-storying of the Female Metaphor, associating Her with Cosmogenesis – the Unfolding of the Cosmos, and embodying Her in seasonal ceremony. My search has been an intensely personal one, but it has been earthed and patterned in an ecological psychology that has been able to bless and “clothe” others as well. This blessing has been a completely reciprocal process, wherein they blessed me as they resonated with the story within me, and I resonated with their response – I unfolded, they unfolded, we were delighted … as something new came into being. We found and expressed a resonance with Gaia’s Seasons and Her Creative Unfolding, we noticed Her more – around us and in us. It is deeply personal yet related, each one’s unique poetry and life story finding a Place in other and all-that-is, and vice versa.

“Cynefin”- Home – Self, Earth, Universe

Often when we humans can describe gravity, the weather, our bodyminds and more, we think we know what they are – we can sum these things up. But it is simply a different kind of knowledge of Her; it is not Her sentience, which must be felt. This cosmology of devotional conversation with Her is about sensing an organic space and time, Being in Place – knowing that the dimensions of Self-place, Earth-place, and Universe-place are not separate; that this is all one’s “country”. Another word for this “country” may be the Welsh word “cynefin” (pronounced KUN-EV’IN). It has often been literally translated into English as “habitat” or “place”, but the sense of it is more: the word articulates a reciprocal relationship with one’s particular place, and may be understood to consciously include the multivalent dimensions of this nested reality of Place. “Cynefin”, like ”country”, includes the stories of one’s multiple belongings – personal, cultural, geographic, cosmic … they are all religious in the sense of connecting, and more than we can know.[3] This “cynefin”, this “country” – a “PaGaian” sense of habitat – includes knowing that one IS a Place, a place of the Sacred Interchange of Life – with all the complex web of stories, to which one belongs, and with which one acts. It is an intimate reality, but remains mysterious and unknowable in its infinite dimensions of belonging and action. The breath comes in – a gift of all that has gone before. You are the Place where it is received, changed and given forth again; your organism is the Dynamic Place of this exchange. You are then the gift as your breath is released: and so, for all other bodily exchanges with our place of being.

reaching in, reaching out. GAIA Conference 2013

This Place of Being is not static, it reaches in and reaches out – a place of reciprocal interchange. Perceptual psychologist, Laura Sewall advocates awakening our sensory systems, which are “exquisitely evolved channels for translating between ‘in-here’ and ‘out-there’” and she describes this skilful ecological perception as a “devotional practice”,[4] of coming to recognize Earth’s call.[5] Sewall lists five “perceptual practices”:

(1) learning to attend, or to be mindful, within the visual domain; (2) learning to perceive relationships, context and interfaces; (3) developing perceptual flexibility across spatial and temporal scales; (4) learning to reperceive depth; and (5) the intentional use of imagination.[6]

developing perceptual practices. MoonCourt, Australia

The practice of celebrating Her seasonal transitions through the full cycle of the year, however they manifest in your place may meet all of these practices, (re-)developing ecological perception. It is a “devotional practice” – of becoming receptive to Gaia/Great Goddess’s speech, heard deep within and deep without. Her speech is like a ghetto-blaster really when we pay attention, find an art form to receive Her, a place to hold a Conversation or a Dance. We come to feel the infinite belonging and to act in accord. And there is no need to go to Eleusis to find this place, or rely on external authorities … this practice is Home-ly: that is, it is “a ‘domestic’ religion … one that may be known in the familiarity of one’s dwelling – bodymind, home, region, ‘country’, Earth, Solar system, Universe.”[7]

© Glenys Livingstone 2015


[1] Caitlin Matthews, The Celtic Spirit, p. 334.

[2] Brian Swimme, Canticle to the Cosmos, video 8.

[3] Its meaning is described at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin My understanding of the word as being similar to “country”, a commonly used term by Indigenous Australians, comes from Taffy Seaborne’s stories of his childhood experience in Wales and his later experience in central Australia.

[4] Laura Sewall, “The Skill of Ecological Perception” in Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind. p.203.

[5] Laura Sewall, “The Skill of Ecological Perception” in Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind. pp.201-215.

[6] Laura Sewall, “The Skill of Ecological Perception” in Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind. p.204.

[7] Glenys Livingstone, PaGaian Cosmology, p.66.


Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. Lincoln NE: iUniverse, 2005.

Matthews, Caitlin. The Celtic Spirit. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2000.

Sewall, Laura. “The Skill of Ecological Perception” in Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind. Roszak, T, Gomes, M E, & Kanner, A D. (eds). San Francisco: Sierra Books, 1995, pp. 201 – 215.

Swimme, Brian. Canticle to the Cosmos. (Video series). CA: Tides Foundation, 1990.

Read Meet Mago Contributor Glenys Livingstone.

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As a person who has been celebrating earth -based ritual for thirty years in every place that I have lived ( including11 rentals while in graduate school) I know that the powers of place (cynefin) can be discovered and developed anywhere. In fact, it may be that we need to develop our relationship with place before we can find ‘home” in any spot? Attention and Intention, coupled with the understanding that developing a relationship with a particular place are prerequisites for entering “sacred space” seem to me to be the most important components of this process. And I so agree… Read more »