We’re all consuming a myriad of different forms of data and information and not all of it is helpful. In an unexpected period of crisis, our bodies and minds can become overwhelmed and exhausted. An extended emergency, where a sense of persistent impending danger continues for days, weeks and months, causing us to exist in a near constant state of traumatic stress.
In the time of the wild wind, every surface or interaction poses risk. The repeated act of checking the safety status for ourselves and our loved ones becomes ritualised at a certain point and a reinforcement of our fragility and mortality. This is a time where we are being forced to confront all aspects of existence.
There is an accumulative psychic cost to this confrontation; an alchemical process has begun.
I have never before engaged with or witnessed an entity that has the ability to force our species into direct communion with the key questions of our lifetime. This is the culmination of the Information Age we exist within, both individually and collectively. It’s akin to witnessing a gargantuan ghost move across the world, rendering us emotionally mute at the immensity of all we face.
There is a great deal of suffering across all spectrums. The key essence of this is spiritual. The karmic debt we have amounted collectively.
Stories of pain, trauma and loss, the key moments in our lives have been called forth to meet the wild wind. The gravity of suffering calls our pain free, from where it has been anchored deep within. The emotional memories rise to the surface in a recalling of personal truth.
You know when the BBC starts to report on the collective lucid dreams of the populace, that this is a moment unlike any other. A litany of prophetic stories has been unleashed.
The question I imagine many of us are asking is, how long do I need to endure this experience before I can go back to how things were? To my normal existence?
I do not believe we are ever going back to the way things were, individually or collectively. The world has changed forever, our emotional titans have been unleashed.
Resilience is a trigger word for many. It immediately instigates an emotional arithmetic, a calculation on how resilient we believe we are.
I’ve read a lot of articles and essays discussing resilience. People misunderstand its true nature and it’s believed to exist in a form of accumulative action. The number of sit ups you can do, the amount of rice or food you have hoarded, the wealth you have in the bank.
Linking back to the first letter on noetic and experiential learning. The key value of ritual is the ability to experience and endure many different forms of overwhelm:
Emotional, physical, spiritual.
Resilience is one of the key attributes developed through ritual practice, but it is not in my experience, an active state. True resilience exists in a space of calm acceptance of what you are enduring. Be it pain or pleasure.
Resilience is a form of faith.
A calm acknowledgement that what you are experiencing will dismantle, destroy or consume the systems you have put in place to protect you or your clan. Resilience, in my experience, is being completely present with this form of calamitous occurrence. The tearing open. A vigil upon the dissolution of self and the memories and rising emotions to the point of potential panic and fear that you cannot withstand what you are experiencing. At a key point, you witness a zenith, a critical mass, a psychic storm in which aspects of self are burnt away. Then slowly, you realise, that there is an aspect of self, that can withstand all that you are enduring. It is this key truth. A faith that the question at the centre of your being will remain after the storm has receded. It is the quiet moment at the end, where you realise that there is a quality within you, that has the ability to survive all experiences. You need only live through this form of initiation once to understand that the true nature of resilience, is faith. There is something inside you, that will always survive if you are willing to relinquish that which must be sacrificed for spiritual growth. Each time we endure a dark night of the soul, our true essence is clarified. Our true spiritual nature and inherent resilience is tempered and clarified.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, systems that we base our day to day lives upon, have slowly begun to unravel. This can appear terrifying when a culture bases its foundations and teaching in the story of the achievement of societal permanence at all costs.
Many people who have based their entire existence on achieving permanence, have spent their lives fleeing the form of initiatory experience we are collectively experiencing. It’s completely understandable when stasis is worshiped, and we are led to believe that the challenges we face are not a natural part of existence.
Stasis is not natural. Transformation is a natural part of the ebb and flow of existence.
Our ancestors in Hunter-gatherer societies, would have understood the critical importance and value of risk in ritual and storytelling. The majority of indigenous cultures ritually instigated these forms of crises, so that the collective of the tribe would understand how to endure transformation. Many key rites take away the safety of the tribe and ritualise knowledge gained via interaction with the wilderness, so that experiential knowledge and fortitude would be gained first-hand. This would have encouraged the spiritual growth of the tribe and would have certainly made them stronger and more resilient in times of crisis.
No system is perfect. What we have lost in our connection to sacred forms of medicine has been replaced with new forms of science and medicine, that greatly increase our chances for survival in times of crisis. However, it needs to be noted, those very same sciences have enabled a form of exponential growth and greatly increased the possibility of our future destruction.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
― Frank Herbert, Dune
As I venture further into my work, I have become deeply suspicious of definitive answers. There is only the truth of your incarnation. Nothing else. It’s important to note, again and again, that no one has all the answers.
In my own story, the last three months have been focused on bearing witness to the materialisation of this plague from the perspective of my work as a shaman and storyteller.
I recognise myself at a familiar precipice. I note the omens and portents of the unhelpful behaviours I’ve been aware of in myself. This week, as we reach the eye of this storm, I’ve watched my own anger and frustration rise. There is frustration at my inability to effectively warn friends that I care about, of what was about to occur.
Due to my ritual work, I understand and acknowledge the expression of these emotions are a natural indicator of that which I am being called to relinquish, if I am to experience transformation. These letters are part of that growth.
What steps might we take to prepare for the passage through our fears and painful memories? As stated above, resilience and subsequent growth are aided when we are willing to let go. The more we hold on tight to that which stands in the way of our true spirit, the more likely we are to experience a direct increase in our suffering.
It makes sense we listen and take stock of what we are being called to relinquish. Ritualised retreats of all kinds offer space for contemplation, for a time where we are able to clearly see what is transpiring. If we rush to fill our time and replace what we have lost in lockdown, with all manner of delights offered via the internet, we run the risk of clouding our insight, when we need it the most.
For the last few days, I’ve been preparing to make use of the lockdown in the best way I know how, in a ritualised retreat. I’ve taken the decision to minimise my interactions online to the facilitation of my work. I’ve declined invitations to Zoom group chats, removed WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram from my phone and prepared to engage directly with the reality of my story, so I might make the most use of this time and better see the landscape of my story as clearly as possible. I need to create a space to feel and think, if I am to be of use to you.
I’ll be sharing my experiences of this retreat in letter four. See you on the other side.