the ancient radiance of others . . .

ariana's guardian angel by Katariina Fagering

It is such a rare occasion to stand in the presence of another and be truly seen; it is what we all so deeply long for and when it happens, healing takes place. The illusion of separation dissolves and we begin to experience true connection. Perhaps this is the experience we could move towards in this world. Instead of arming our schools with guards carrying weapons to keep violence in check, can we begin to truly see one another and live from a place of embracing compassion so that no one slips into a space of feeling unseen?

I’m discovering that this is an ancient truth that bridges across cultures and time.


The South Africans use the word ubuntu which means: I am because you are. I love this notion that until I know the fullness of you, I can never completely know myself. It’s a way of showing up in the world celebrating everyone, where ever they may be.  Rather than judging others, ubuntu is about embracing them for just existing; for showing you a new aspect of yourself.

ubuntu front postcard by Katariina Fagering

The Celts have an old Gaelic term that means “soul friend.”I learned about this in the book Anam Cara by John  O’Donahue. In the presence of an anam cara you could share your innermost self, your thoughts and your heart’s longings. Since you can never be fully visually present to your self; your anam cara is the truest mirror to reflect your soul. When you gaze at someone with soft eyes and an open heart, and the gaze is returned, there is a merging and deepening of both souls.

shells in Anam Cara by Katariina Fagering

The Buddhist tradition has a term called Kalyana-mitra or “noble friend.” One must depend on the Kalyana-mitra to see what you cannot see for yourself.  So once again, I can’t know myself without another to show me. The Kalyana-mitra compliments the scope of your own vision of self – like a mirror.

Violette reflection by Katariina Fagering

These terms point to the same notion that we are not whole without the vision and expression of everyone. Often I hear people say, “Yes, we are all one!”, but this feels like a cliché despite its truth.  Maybe this is because its’ deeper significance resides in a world most of us don’t experience, especially not with strangers. Can you imagine what it must feel like to look so deeply at someone who they become part of you?

peony by Katariina FAgering

This past fall I had two occasions to speak publicly about truly seeing one another as ourself. One was Call of the Wild Soul Art Workshop in England and the other at the Sophia Circle in Coronado, California. During each presentation I shared an exercise I learned from two of my teachers, Claire Zammit and Katherine Woodward Thomas of Evolving Wisdom.

sophia altar Katariina Fagering

I call it my Ubuntu Exercise because it allows one’s eyes to soften and heart to open enough to experience the woman they are listening to, sitting across from them, not separate but an actual part of them. Taking attention off of self and letting go of concerns of being seen in a particular way is a powerful exercise. I invite them to see their partner (the speaker) subjectively instead of objectively.  I offer visual snippets from experiences in the speaker’s life, universal to us all. For example, “there was a time when she went to school for the first time and was scared. Her parents cried because their little girl was growing up. Then there was the time she bought her first bra, and a time she had her first kiss. She has a story about the time she betrayed a friend and felt horrible about it and another time when she was betrayed.” These are just a few examples of the experiences I bring to their attention as they are looking in the eyes of their partner.

After this, I ask the speaker to speak from the edge of her own knowing about what her soul is calling her to create next. The listener is asked to listen as if what she is about to say is the most important message ever spoken and that the future of the world depended upon it. Can you imagine what it would feel like to be listened to with that level of attention? What would you say?

sophia conference

Not everyone is able to fully engage into this exercise but if they do what happens is magical! Women begin to swell with pride for the woman across from them as if she is their own child, tears then slowly fall down their cheeks as they fall in love with this stranger sitting across from them. An energy swells between the two and there is no more separation because each one is seen deeper than their own sense of vision. Their souls are embracing outside of their bodies and they are enshrined in a circle of belonging.

The Gathering by Katariina Fagering

The true contour of their spirit is illuminated in this soulful space and each woman is able to witness the ancient radiance of the other as themselves. No longer on the outside of their skin this sacred blending begins to heal the wounded self.

contoured over time by Katariina Fagering

This is the world I want to continue to dance in through art workshops or wherever I am called. I am urgently interested in revealing the infinite, ancient connectedness of one another that melts the hardened shell protecting our hearts and allows us to be free of our fear of judgement, vulnerability and being truly seen.

Perhaps because it is what I need the most!

With Deep Love,


surrender by Katariina Fagering

ubuntu . . .

A few years ago I was admitted into the VA Hospital for a month stay in a lock-down unit on the Mental Ward for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The years following my return from a year in Iraq with the Marine Corps were challenging to put it mildly. It turned out I wasn’t equipped to find my way back from the war zone with all of its death & destruction on my own. Although I was very aware & educated on the subject, I still lacked the skills to manuever around triggers & keep myself safe. I think the biggest problem was that I was in denial about my skills, abilities & the depth of how depression & PTSD were truly affecting my life.

in the in-between

I was spiralling down fast when I finally admitted to myself that spending some time away from my life focusing on unravelling the meanings I made of everything witnessed & experienced in Iraq would be empowering. I knew I had to do something.

The program was for women only & they called it WISER (an acronym for something clever about women). I expected the other participants to be combat vets from Iraq & Afghanistan, but as it turned out during this session they were from the Vietnam era  & were mostly Military Sexual Trauma victims. In addition, they were all southern women from various backgrounds that didn’t look anything like mine. They were kind but I felt like an odd duck for numerous reasons having to do with education level, income level, interests, time in service, rank, & color of skin. They all seemed to share a common southern language that was spoken quickly & softly using words in contexts I had never heard before. I found myself saying, “huh?” a lot, or just laughing & nodding at everything they said. Most of what they said was usually cracking a joke so laughing was a safe bet. These women loved to laugh, to eat & to smoke.

the little girl within is angry

I spent the first week trying to figure out how I had ended up in a cohort of women who were nothing like me. What was the lesson here? Then one day while reading Brian Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, I stumbled upon a page that I had folded, penciled, underlined, & starred with little side notes. It was entitled, Ubuntu. Suddenly I got it!! They were not different from me. They were me & I them. I could not know myself without knowing them with compassion & love. My judgments were more about myself than them. If the women were similar to me, and had been in a combat zone, then perhaps I would have missed my opportunity to focus on myself. As it turned out, I was one of the youngest in the program, I think the oldest was 65 or so. This allowed me to take on a baby role, rather than having to nurture & mother those from the Iraq/Afghanistan era who are much younger. It was serendipitous to land in this pod of women.

the little girl inside is tired of holding it all in

The program was a very intense, life-changing four weeks where the life I had been living, the meanings I made of everything, even back to childhood, & the choices I made were all laid out before me & slowly unravelled to make sense or allow it to just not make sense.

I learned a lot during my stay but Ubuntu was one of the juicier lessons learned.

I wrote this poem below while in the hospital & read it to everyone at graduation.

the gathering


 Katariina Fagering

I came here afraid, alone and lost. I
had forgotten who I was

in the shadow lands of darkness, I questioned:

How did I
get here?

Who are
these women?

Do I

But then a
whisper filtered through my heart ~



I am,
because you are.

my sisters appeared and I found me in them.


I am,
because you are.

Because she
is nurturing, motherly, love,


laughter filling the room,

Sunshine-sweet-southern drawl,

So am I.

she is elegant, wise and brilliant,

searching and humble,

A courageous, proud, fierce protector,

So am I.

with heart, I take you in my heart.

Because my
sister was raped, I was raped.

Because my
sister has HIV, I too have HIV.

Because my
sister went to war, I went to war.

Because my
sister is an alcoholic, I am an alcoholic.

Because my
sister’s mother died, my mother died.

Because my
sister has been beaten, raped, humiliated, lost, tossed and mistreated,

So have I.


I am,
because you are.

we are reaching out,


love, loving ourselves,

Audacious enough. She is enough. I am enough.

All that I

witness in you, my sisters,

So am I.

you shared the gift of you,

 I now know the fullness
of me.

Marine with Iraqi Children, Karabyla, Iraq 2006