Whether it is astronomical convergences, or historical cycles, or just coincidence, these past few months have seemed to be time of galactic change in the lives of many people I know. Whatever the cause, upheaval, forced truth-facing, losing one life and embarking on a new one, emotional anarchy, creative excitement and inspiration, initiations and rebirths – all these and more have burst through my daily life and those of so many others in my circles. At the same time, national and global transition seems to be a part of the very air we are breathing.
This image of a violent storm, a ripping away into rawness before a new life can occur, has sometimes seemed like the only way real and deep rebirth can happen, or maybe that is just how it has been envisioned in the culture I grew up in. I usually love a great storm. I have been known to walk through the eye of a hurricane, to stand outside in a lightning storm so that I can experience the electricity in the air all around me, to rush outside when the wind is blowing down trees and power lines in order to feel the earth’s power. But, at this moment in my life, I want peace and gentleness. I crave rest and calm. I want to be a part of the future, but I want to get there differently.
Perhaps we can choose how we experience transformational moments like these. My image of times like these has always been of that gigantic storm causing the land we live on to break up, dissolving into the ocean. We fall into the deep water and sink down, down to the depths where all and only truth lies, where we battle our ten thousand demons and then, eventually, begin our swim back to the surface where the whole universe is roiling and making tsunamis that wash away all that has ever been built. Eventually the chaos subsides and we wash up, exhausted and wounded, onto a newly made self, where we begin the cycle again.
It takes great courage to be part of this intensely powerful surge, to face all that awaits us under the storming sea and then to ascend again like Inanna coming up from Hades. But this image focuses on the going-away, the death, aspect of that moment of transition between the old and the new. It assumes that we naturally hold onto what is no longer needed, or no longer in existence, until it is ripped from us or we sever it from ourselves. What if we paid less attention to the fear of the unknown and the insecurity that makes a trauma out of leaving behind the past? What if we talked as much about what happened to Inanna when she came back from Hades as her journey there? What if we simply walked away from what is no longer a part of us and instead imagined strolling onto the shore of our new lives in joyful expectation and celebrating all that is waiting for us there? What if we push aside the worldview that change must come from conflict and destruction and replace it with one of inevitable but peaceful turnings, the way the earth moves around the sun?
But of what will I build my new life if all around me is turning to dust? I will build it of the only thing I truly own – my faith that I have been made to be exactly who I am and that where I will end up is precisely where I am meant to be. So, instead of abandoning those parts of myself and my life that no longer fit, I will honor all they have done for me and remake them into what I do need, whether it is self-destructive anger turned to determination or meekness made into contemplative wisdom. I will be able to leave behind situations and people who harm me without fear because I will have the strength and hopefulness to find new companions and opportunities. I will nourish my everyday self with healthy food, and sleep, and times of fun and enjoyment and merriment, and solitude and company. I will make sure that I am happy. When I walk out onto the shore, I will expect beauty and kindness to be all around me, and what I don’t discover, I will create, for why else would I have landed here?
Not only will I make a different way of experiencing these times for myself, but I will make it my task to make such a way for others also. When I come across someone who is struggling in the ocean, I will be extra nurturing. I will listen with intensity and nourish them with food and opportunities to celebrate. I will lend them my spyglass so that they, too, can see the new lands arising from the tempest.
Perhaps I will be one of a new profession, that of midwife to those who are participating in this re-creation of themselves and our world. Maybe I will make it my job to be of comfort to those who are more directly in the middle of the maelstrom so that they can do what they need to do for themselves and others. I will place vases of flowers around their birthing room and open the windows to the fresh winds that blow. I will remind those who are in the throes of these moments that they have not been tossed into the ocean without help or a compassionate witness. We will walk out onto the shore shoulder-to-shoulder and experience the stillness of the morning that so often comes after a storm. We will talk about taking care of ourselves, of not burdening ourselves with what we have left behind in the ocean, of giving ourselves time to be amazed and enchanted with our new lives. We will re-envision transformation as the joy of building rather than the pain of tearing down and leaving behind. I think maybe that is who I am and what I am supposed to be doing. Together we will see the land of our transformed lives as a paradise and then it will be one.