Rising Out of the Ashes of Who We Can No Longer Be
We are here– where we told ourselves we would be one day if we didn’t stop.
And we didn’t.
In Northern California, my home of 20 years, this week my friends and communities woke up for the first time in a lifetime without the sun– so thick has been the sky from the wildfires raging in all directions throughout our beautiful state that the sun could not reach through to announce a new day and bring in the light–something we never before questioned it would do. And although I am just witnessing it all from Europe where I am currently, many of my California friends woke up wondering: Where did the sun go? What happened to us? Is this the apocalypse, at last?
And while the untamable fires have spread into Oregon and Washington and we mourn lost homes, lives shaken up to the core, and skies raining black ashes, something even more painful is crystalizing: Only in the last year, such immense, uncontrollable, and unprecedented fires have raged in Australia and Brazil and all over the Amazon, in Russia and Portugal and the Canaries and…. The most massive storms and hurricanes have been hitting the world’s coastlines, and Siberia got hotter than any place in the Arctic has ever been. Scientists say this too is only the beginning of our “new normal”. Adding in the pandemic that has seized our ways of life as we knew it, it seems like there can be no confusion: The Great Reckoning is upon us, in ways we cannot turn away from. It is likely no one will be spared from the process of facing the truth, with their whole life.
Al Gore called it the inconvenient truth many years ago. And so many of our visionary thinkers, leaders, and elders, and even children and youth, have come forward powerfully over the years to warn us, to guide us, to insist that we make changes before it’s too late. So many of us agreed passionately, wanted and prayed for the same! But the Machine of What Is has been too powerful to overturn, fueled ever further by the madness of greed and power, gain and growth at all cost, politics on asteroids, and the shadow of patriarchy and capitalism looming over everything, even as we keep calling them our Normal.
So when such profound changes and disasters strike, what is our resilience defined by, what are our resources, how do we stay sane? If we are phoenixes rising out of the ashes of what has been lost, the ashes of who we can no longer be, then who do we become? Who do we want to be, if we get another chance?
I deeply agree with two of my guiding mythologists, Michael Meade and Dr. Sharon Blackie, who urge us to turn toward what we love the most and do more of it and in this way “to make more soul for the world”, and to connect to the “sense of one’s own calling, of personal vision, of that unique gift which you, like everyone, chose to bring to this world at this time”. Yes, YES. But there is more. These times are demanding that we ask ourselves some essential questions:
What are those parts of us, of me, of my wild soul and uneducated nature, the signature qualities and longings of my personhood that have been silenced, abandoned, and crushed by the culture I’ve been molded by, and by its values that I’ve often accepted as my own? What in me holds the beat, the pulse, the signature of something truer, deeper, more loving toward the Earth and those I share it with? How can I pause my own spinning cycles of fast and busy, of buying and consuming and needing more and making more of the same––when I have almost forgotten that these were never my values or my dreams in the first place?
In the slowness offered by all these pandemic months, I myself have been pressing my ear and my body to the lands and the seas, and feeling, listening for the response to these questions that are already known in the shared psyche between me, you, and the Earth. The answers must come from our shared belonging, from the mutual dreaming between us and dolphins, whales, fox and elephant, and once-upon-a-time animals and plants that have now gone extinct but their “mind” is still alive in the living psyche of it all, just like our ancestors’.
And in the end, it is the body that hears; It is the body that albeit everything we have done to remove ourselves from nature, knows itself, always, through the rhythms of the Earth; It remembers everything about evolving wisely and reliably. It is the body– your body– that knows that its only healing comes in the falling into rhythm with the living mother that holds it, and that drawing our value system, our pace and speed in the world, our choices, our city planning and governing– all must come from that relatedness, from that embrace. That is a restoration of sanity, of wholeness, of life. But it can’t begin unless it begins in my own boy, and in yours.
If the world has been living for centuries heavily rooted in Logos, the principle of mind, intellect, evidence, structure, and vertical power, uprooted from its natural balancing force, Eros– the principle of body, senses, the wild, the earthly and the artful, the mysterious and the invisible– then a restoration of Eros, of sensuous body and deep-body rhythm, seems to be not only our most natural unfolding, but the true and urgent request of these times.
This restoration can only begin in our own bodies, yet as simple as this sounds, I have been learning that it might be the hardest recalibration to undertake: To get to know and stay in my own deep-body rhythm, in my need for a certain slowness, for a cycle of creativity followed by disproportionate (by social standards) cycles of rest or aimless wandering, to grant myself the time and the orientation to attune to the rhythms of plants and trees and breezes, to engage my mythic imagination and converse with ladybugs and the shapes of clouds, to write poems or volunteer, to touch another body for much longer than it is common; in other words, to feel the deep-body love that is propelling me toward an existence entirely different than the one my culture has given me– this has been a mission endlessly contradicted by my social mind, always overruled by the habits of productivity and going against my inner season and succeeding at what I must do...
This, I know now, will be a slow dance– between our learned minds and our wild bodies that have a mind of their own. Between Eros and Logos learning to dance again in each other’s embrace. But this, this, is our way of rising out of the ashes of who we can no longer be. Our new story cannot come from the old one: To project a new story from where we stand now would be a devastation. There are truths we do not yet see and know, and possibilities that live in entirely uncharted territories we have not yet ventured into. Our deep bodies are the journey there.
In fact, in those spellbinding moments when I let my own body’s rhythm take me closer and closer to the rhythm of the Earth, when these two rhythms harmonize and converse with each other, what I hear in my skin and in my bones is this, exactly: The ground on which we now stand is shaking and disassembling. “Normal” is no longer the point. We are in a new rhythm and to know this rhythm, we must feel its change and its pace in our bodies; from there we will know which kind of change to make. Re-embodying ourselves in the sanity of our own deep-body, earthly rhythms– in the simplest but most determined of ways– will take us back to those parts of us that have been crushed by a world gone mad, and allow us to bring those deep-bodied rhythms, longings, imaginations, instincts, and dreams to the new life that is waiting to happen: To begin a New Story.
To begin right here, now, is always the way of the body. So, how are you, as body, feeling right now? What are you needing, sensing, intuiting? Are you, as body, on board with what you’re doing? Are your thoughts, habits, or agenda overriding some deeply essential process that is longing to happen through you?
Can a deep-bodied inner restoration of sanity be the path to the restoration of collective sanity? I propose that such simple "inside" restoration has vast consequences: It can change both lives and cultures.
Because what changes when you and I live the deeper life of our bodies is... the world.
I would love to hear how this all lands with you in the comments below! And please join me in the practice, the discovery, the investigation: Two FREE MINI-WORKSHOPS with me on Sept 20 and Oct 18 2020.
DEEP BODY RHYTHM FOR PERSONAL AND SOCIAL CHANGE: Rediscovering Our Bodies As Visionaries, Leaders, and Evolutionary Storytellers in the Shaping of Our Emergent Story. REGISTER HERE