Barbara Holmes on Survival, Resilience, Inner Strength & Joy

We are continuing our time at an oasis filling up from fresh waters of hope and wisdom on our journey through multiple deserts in our time.

Author Dr. Barbara Holmes speaks of finding guidance and solace in spiritual connections, remembering and retelling the stories of the ancestors and how they survived in times of trouble. Video by Center for Action and Contemplation.

Barbara Holmes, in her wonderful new book called Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Wounded Village, has a lot to say about keeping Joy or the Via Positiva alive during trying times, times when our culture as well as our souls are challenged by shadow, darkness, trauma and loss.

Drawing on her African American roots, and having worked with the homeless and HIV/AIDS support groups in the US as well as Kenya and Japan, she speaks from a wealth of personal and global experience.  Following are some of her insights.

She describes the bond of strangers being brought to America in slave ships linked by destiny, chains, and moans that focused their intentions on survival, resilience, and inner strength.  Together their moans created a spiritual bulwark, a contemplative space of respite in the midst of unrelenting pain, death, and separation. 

THE PLANTATION SINGERS perform “WADE IN DA WADA” at WoSe OF CHARLESTON Black History Celebration 2012. Video by WoSe ofCharleston

The most one could do was to “let go of our false sense of control and ride the waves of destiny.”  What awaited them in the new world was “extinction, resurrection, or rebirth.  There are no other options.”

This would seem very applicable to our journey today where we face common moans along with extinction, resurrection or rebirth also. 

She speaks to the wounds of such traumas and wisely applies these experiences to our own destiny today as we face our own extinction and call to belonging, resistance and resilience.  The healing is destined to come from “a recovery of memory and story, revival of culture and ritual, and the performance of joy.”*

* Barbara Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Wounded Village (Albuquerque, NM: 2021), p. 12

See Matthew Fox, The Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 213-265.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “From this moment despair ends and tactics begin.” Mural attributed to Banksy which appeared by the Marble Arch during the Extinction Rebellion protests in April 2019. The slogan is a quotation from The Revolution of Everyday Life. Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

Can you identify with Barbara Holmes’s naming of the severe struggles humans often inflict on one another and undergo together?  What about the medicine she offers including memory, story, revival of ritual and the performance of joy?

Recommended Readings

Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart

Matthew Fox’s comprehensive translation of Meister Eckhart’s sermons is a meeting of true prophets across centuries, resulting in a spirituality for the new millennium. The holiness of creation, the divine life in each person and the divine power of our creativity, our call to do justice and practice compassion–these are among Eckhart’s themes, brilliantly interpreted and explained for today’s reader.
“The most important book on mysticism in 500 years.”  — Madonna Kolbenschlag, author of Kissing Sleeping Beauty Goodbye.  

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9 thoughts on “Barbara Holmes on Survival, Resilience, Inner Strength & Joy”

  1. Avatar

    I found the story of the “camel beauty queen contest” – what they do to the camels in preparation for the contest, very disturbing.

  2. Avatar

    Nothing is fixed.
    Everything is shifting.
    Spirit whispers…
    Welcome the unwelcome
    feelings and thoughts.
    Wade into the mudd
    of uncertainty.
    As the tide receeds,
    much will be exposed.
    Hidden treasures,
    will be revealed.

    Nothing is fixed.
    Everything is shifting.
    Spirit whispers…
    Something new
    is emerging
    from the mist.
    Be Still, listen
    to the sounds
    within the silence,
    awakening wisdom
    long forgotten.

    Nothing is fixed.
    Everything is shifting.
    Spirit whispers…
    Walk unafraid.
    Step into the
    cloud of unknowing.
    Intuit the subtle
    movements of the
    essence and presence
    that goes before you
    leading you through.

  3. Avatar

    Thank you, Matthew, for helping to fill us with the Via Positiva. Reminding us of all that is well, all that is beautiful, all that is joyful is so important as we walk through these times. As we fill us our humps of Via Positiva, it seems like a good time to post this poem by priest and poet John O’Donohue.


    On the day when
    the weight deadens
    on your shoulders
    and you stumble,
    May the clay dance
    To balance you.

    And when your eyes
    freeze behind
    the gray window
    and the ghost of loss
    gets into you,
    May a flock of colors,
    indigo, red, green
    and azure blue
    come to awaken in you
    a meadow of delight.

    When the canvas frays
    in the curach of thought
    and a stain of ocean
    blackens beneath you,
    May there come across the waters
    a path of yellow moonlight
    to bring you safely home.

    May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
    May the clarity of light be yours,
    May the fluency of the ocean by yours,
    May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

    And so may a slow
    Wind work these words
    Of love around you,
    An invisible cloak to mind your life.

  4. Avatar

    From the sublime of the Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes, to the ridiculous of the poor camels, I thank you!

    The poem, “Joy Unspeakable”, is deep and moving. I cried the first time I read it..

    I think that the multitude of crises can be an opportunity to draw on the wisdom and resources of our historically oppressed beloveds, including Jews, Blacks, indigenous, women, disabled people, LBGTQ+, poor and homeless folk, etc. The list is endless in this country and around the world. The fortitude and grace shown by so many are models for us all. Most of us are indeed privileged and spoiled by the abundance we experience of everything that we need, and much of what we want. As a severely disabled person, I have always been one of “the least of these” and have experienced much injustice and discrimination. I can therefore relate more easily to and appreciate the sufferings of other minority groups. The importance of compassion in these times, even for the most misguided and oppressive of people, is absolutely mandatory, or we will all go down, in my opinion.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Sue, you are exactly right, what the world needs now is compassion, for all of the “oppressed beloveds” that you mentioned.

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