Why Ritual keeps you safe as you learn

“My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.”
 Anais Nin (French born American Author of novels and short stories, 1903-1977)

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I have a thirst to explore, understand, experience, get to grips with this life in a raw bloody and direct way. My best understandings and wisdoms have come through experiencing directly the world, the light and the shadow, going right into the midst of experience and letting the waves and traumas of it rock and tear through my body and soul, trusting I will survive somehow. This is all very exhilarating, but dangerous too – and since my new world involves self-care, and care of the feelings of those who have to watch me traumatise myself, I’ve been wondering about other approaches.

I’ve been told that there are many ways to develop understanding – reading, researching, observing others… the key objection to my behaviour in the past, is when I return from my hard-won (or survived…) battles clutching a treasure of pure comprehension saying “look, I finally get it!”  to find my friends and lovers banging their heads against their palms and saying “I TRIED TO TELL YOU” this, “why did you have to go do it yourself? Couldn’t you have just listened to me?” For a long time I didn’t care, because to me the personal knowledge, earnt by myself, is worth so much more than second hand opinion. Also I didnt really think other people knew better than me (yep, I’m that arrogant). I needed to challenge and test everything. But in my new world, I can see the tears, grief and pain behind their exasperation – they COULD see and knew already what I was striving and struggling to understand – they had to watch helplessly as I risked my self, and sometimes defiled my sacredness and broke what was precious. And since they loved me, this caused real pain. It was never about who knew more, or best. Now I understand this, it has led to waves of grief over my past behaviour and what those I care about felt because of my choices and actions.

When you only look at the world as you alone, and part of you craves obliteration, you fearlessly risk yourself. This is not true courage. True courage is daring to feel and face the fullness of your choices, the impact and ripples it has outwards. Taking responsibility for it all. Knowing that every step you take into your fullness will lead to joys and pains, for self AND others. There will always be hurt somewhere. Get conscious of it, and look for ways to care for yourself and those you love as best you can. When you act without regard, you may destroy that which you most cherish.

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The issue for me is that words and reading and mind-thinking is not enough. For true transformation and comprehension, on the deep soul-shaking-making level that I crave, I need a way to experience the phenonemon. Through my body, my energy, my essenece. I need the deepest parts of me touched sometimes, or it doesn’t satsify or reach the root of what wants to shift inside. To open, to release, to transform. I could have happily read books my whole life, but my true life began when I put them down and threw myself into the alchemy of experience.

Two solutions/ideas came to mind today…they relate together quite potently.

1. Developing Empathy and connection

“Empathy is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others. It goes beyond sympathy, which is a feeling of care and understanding for the suffering of others. Both words have similar usage but differ in their emotional meaning.” (Empathy vs sympathy)

In order to feel experience and learn deeply from it, we could consider developing our empathy skills . I do wonder if there are forms of empathy-to-the-world, beyond just direct to peoples feelings, perhaps depending on if we are sound/visual/kinaesthetic in nature. Playing in an orchestra or band require a level of musical empathy or awareness of the players around you, and even listening to music actively requires a level of attentive connection and feeling to the sounds. We can “tune in” to music, and let it carry us and move us, sensing the subtleties of it. Or we can just let it play in the background…fine if you are just in the audience but less so if you are a performer. Visual arts also need empathy to appreciate. It’s only in the last few months that I finally comprehended why people go to art galleries! To do this I had to move beyond a distant intellectual appreciation and simply looking at the art, and instead be in my body and open myself to really feel it. Taking it in through my eyes, but letting ripples of response flow in my body and energy. Feeling the colous, textures, impressions and letting it stir memories and imagination with in me. Not just observing, not just listening – but feeling. And from here I am transformed by the art.

So same with people experience life? The other night I danced for hours in a club, drawing in the drug highs of those around me, mingling it with the music and vibration, and journeyng myself without ever consuming anything. Something in me laughed at the idea of using other people’s bodies to filter the drugs for me, with me siphoning of their excess energy/experience. I can do the same with sexual acts, and sadistic ones. This is a skill I wish to develop, I’m curious how deep it can go, and it cuts out the risk of drug come dowms, sexual diseases and criminal records quite significantly.

Where empathy skills for experiential learning really come into their own is in the use and witnessing of ritual.

Use of ritual

Rituals have always been a part of human development and healing. I believe in reclaiming ritual therapy as a key part of the emerging psychosomatic medicine of the future/past. It is an unspoken component of our lives already.

For example : When patients came to our student osteopath clinic, we met them wearing the recognisable white coats of the medic – making it clear who was in which role for this ritual. Just the act of booking a time and intent to come to the “healing temple” would often start helping people feel better. We would  make a “sacred space” for them in a special room decorated by “mystic symbols” – anatomy posters and diagarams – and then take them through a set of procedures/actions. As budding clinicians we were taught how to use medical language – lots of greek and latin – between ourselves and then translate it for the patient. Either way, hearing “words of power”  – nonsensical but recognisiable as the medicine of the day (another time or place we could be talking about balance of humors, chi-lines, chakra) all added to the aura of expertise and ritual of healing. Often just assesing and offering an explanation for the pain or issue in this context would start relieving the symptoms. There is more to this story, for another time…

I have engaged with, crafted, created conscious and transformative ritual for myself at various key points in my life. These are the moments that creativity, magic, feeling come together. My rituals are not planned out line by line, but flow like a dance, usually seeded by a core intention. Sometimes these have happened spontaenously in other bodywork or healing sessions.

Because rituals are so immersive  – there are layers of sound, colour, sensation – I find that they can touch and work on those deep layers of the soul that I long to access. Ritual scenarios are the art equivalent of life. They are not the direct pure experience, but they allow us to access or feel echoes/ressonance with the real thing – perhaps based on how willing we are to let go in to our imaginations, our living empathy, our response to the symbols and activities. Rituals, like paintings and music, must be actively engaged with in order to be fully appreciated. Wheras real life situations are going to smack you round the face with full intensity, whether you are ready for that or not.

But can a ritual drama  ever provide as authentic  an experience and understanding as the real thing? I’m not sure if this is the right question any more. Authentic experiences can be dangerous and cause ripples of trauma through my tribe. What is useful is accessing or  developing an appreciation of the patterns, the way one thing changes to another in order to release what is stuck, finding the emotional-experiential feel to support or challenge the intellectual understanding. I have the sense that done carefully and powerfully, ritual experiences can help carve out channels-pathways through our soul-feelings-emotions that allow true alchemical change to flow or understanding to come. We don’t need to actually risk death to have a profound experience through a death ritual. Another slant on this is how many shamans and magic workers HAVE gone through a genuine near death experience (for example) – and then can use or draw on their experience to help others move through a ritualised version. Lots more to discover with this.

Rituals are medicine for the soul. The soul  impulse arises from a desire to learn or transform – we use our creative-intellectual skills to craft a ritual around this living impulse, and Life supports us. Otherwise ritual can be an empty, sometimes repetitive action with no power or essence to it.

What I want to develop and explore now is getting into ritual deeper, to craft indiviudalised magics to help an person or group transform. I also get the sense that if the right level of empathy could be invoked in those watching-participating, then it might only take  one or two people to go through  the experience (especially good if it is an ordeal!) for the whole group to feel echoes of transformative effect.

Something like this can happen watching theatre, drama, even horror films. We can ride the currents of our emotional response, sometimes using this to release stuck emotions or gain insight. I think of times a tragic scene or lost love in a film trigger memories of my own lost loves, allowing tears of grief to release. Or friends who play violent computer games to deal with anger. This is just the tip of iceburg.

in my new world – I will seek to notice and develop rituals for my souls’s needs, allowing the transformation to happen in an environment of consciousness and love. This might save it from spilling out in to shadowy actions and unneccessary risks. And might even be more effective…?

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[1]There’s an essay I should write on this topic alone – but I laugh when people dismiss something as “placebo” or “psychosomatic.” Give me a sugar pill that makes me feel better any time over a drug with toxic side effects. Most people don’t ask themselves what the mechanism actually is  behind this real therapeutic benefit.  The details are fascinating, I encourage anyone interested to go on an intellectual adventure. The End of Modern Medicine, by Laurence Foss is good place to start…

Empathy and ocean

As part of the new world of togetherness –

Claiming our empathy is part of feeling deeply how we are not alone. We can feel with and through the life around us, the experiences of others, of trees, of water. We can gain and flow and learn from this. We do not have to carve out every experince directly and uniquely.

I used to think “being an empath” was something you were or you were not. [1] Now I feel it is more a matter of degree, of how much and how willing you are to open that channel, and sometimes how capable you are. (My) Body-soul work helps to identify and unblock-release the channels that may be getting in the way; to allow a fuller participation in life.

Still  – it’s not all about being totally open and merged. The paradox is to also find and know your limit and centre, and stand in it at the same time. I vision it as being a rock in the ocean, either standing on the rock so you can see the waves around, merging into being the solid rock and the waves and currents themselves, then crystallsing back to the rock-vantage point. You need to know where that rock is, where the root to ground is.  Empathy can feel so good because it is the extreme end of feeling total connection and merging – and there are those of us who can feel good if we are merging with pain and horror as much as light and laughs…its the merging that feels good. But to only be that is to become the ocean, to be lost in the currents and to loose your sense of self care. This can be hard not just on ourselves but on those around us who care about what you do with yourself. Remember we are together now, and your choices influence others around you.

If we stand only on the rock/as the rock, eventually we get jealous and longing to feel the excitement for of flow and water. We feel and hear the battering of waves against us, wearing us down, the scent and spray of sea form tantalising us.

With people who exist duality view/world – it looks like this; the sensible friend who stays sober in order to keep the party girl from destroying herself. This dynamic slowly (or rapidly) eats away at love and leads to disconnection.

So embracing the paradox view here – is we seek to be both the rock and the ocean, at the same time. This is the point I stand in when I do my magic and facilitate healing work. It takes cultivation and practice. Sometimes you need to spend time in both positions purely to know what they feel like. I started my life as the closed rock and couldnt feel at all, when opening to feeling I got lost in the joys of the ocean, loved to abandon myself to the currents. But for love of life, those I care about, and my own self, I’m now coming to a place where I can be both. It is standing here I feel both strong, centred, and joyfully alive. My capacity to feel and participate fully in life rises dramatically – I can both feel everything AND care for myself. I am the party girl who knows when to stop and doesn’t get hung over, ha 🙂 best of all of it.

 

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[1] This is part of the old world of confining boxes and lables…release yourself from that prison.  Saying you “are not” something means you are limiting yourself from discovering more of your soul. Saying “you are” something also confines you to a fragment or other of your fullness. Risk giving the whole identity-based-on-labels up, and change the question – “what is my true soul/self longing to express here?” participate in your unfoldment and feel the joy and pain for it, playfully, profoundly. We let go IN to our truth, and the bliss and freedom of that can carry us to way beyond lables or definitions.

Paradoxical vision – trust and wariness

In magic-hippy land you are often encouraged to “trust in the universe/god/guru”… The cold cynics shake their heads at the stupidty of this life strategy whilst secretely being a bit jealous.

See the Fool step off the cliff edge at the start of the tarot.(Add More describing this)

There is a power to the trusting Fool, and this had been part of my crazy and strange dance. I’ve fallen off some big cliffs, down holes, seen the world upside down and torn apart, and discovered unexpected joys in strange places. In the process I’ve gained insights and learnt the power of laughter and not taking yourself or your preconceptions preciously. There is an exhiliration to the constant cliff-diving and the naive trust does offer a kind of protection. Like the cartoon character running out across thin air — you’re so oblivious to the danger sometimes you end up miraculously skipping past it. It can’t touch you because there is no hook for it.

Of course, other times this is no protection at all, and you fall dramatically to the ground, breaking bones and then finding ways to rebuild yourself anew, laughing as you do so, and then returning for another go.

Living this way has fostered in me an eye for adventure and draw to the unusual and risky. I know there to be wisdom to gain in these places. What I have been missing though is my new-world notion of care. Not just care for self but care for those who love me.

It’s horrifically challenging to be in love with a coyote, and watch her risk herself over and over, oblivious to the dangers, each time hearing her say she understands it now and yet knowing she will be out there again the next day.

At the same time, my coyote journey and foolish dance has led me to some incredible and unexpected situations. It shakes the world and allows for catalysis and real change. Humour and a slightly wise sense of perspective that I value.

Often times I have gone into situations oblivious or not caring about factors that would make most people run a mile. Or I have seen the spark of love and kind-truth in a person surrounded by darkness. I have been giving people the benefit of the doubt rather than doubting up front and this has let me reach the untouchable with truth and magic.

The paradoxical vision I want to foster now is to be able to see both from trust and wariness. I want to practice looking at all the dangers and issues as well as the unexpected joys. People, situations – dont tend to fall into one box or another. There is usually a mixture of both, especially in the rich and intriguing life situations I often find myself exploring.

So rather than categorize as trustworthy/waryworthy(?)… in my new world – I wish to see as much as I can in others/situations – to see simulataneously with eyes of trust and wariness. To hold both possibilities at the same time, with dual awareness. From here I can make choices based on more complete understanding. It might not stop me doing the crazy things, but at least start being a bit more prepared for them.

(Add info/links to Books of innocence and experience – william blake)

Envisioning my new world

The story of facing my death-destruction desire will come later. For now, notes on the new world I chose to grow into. All visioning subject to change

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In my new world –
I am a Priestess of the gateways, of truth and Life, love is the central part of that but now I can see so much more…I am a magical creature, and I am flawed human. I am sacredly profane and embracing of my vulnerability as much as my strength.

I can feel the currents of growth and decay and I can hold them in non-judgement and without fear for they are part of Life. The light and the dark. Everyone on this planet has free choice.

I am not naive or innocent, I can see it all and discern the full truth of Life. Or at least, this is what I am moving towards.

I am not here to pretend the world is light and fluffy or ever can be. I am here to aid those who chose Life; to be here in their fullness, their spirits dancing in materiality, to serve and celebrate Gaia and all that is. To guide them and support them in accepting and being in their truth, and empowering them to create the life they choose here.

If people chose destruction, obliteration, that is fine too. I hold it all and I am a destroyer as well. I can help people die and be with them through the destruction and do so with love.

in my new world –

I am responsible for the life i surround myself with. For the balance of growth and destruction. I can choose a life of travel and wealth, of family, of art, of drugs and destruction, of depression and apathy. I can have any of it and all choices are equally valid.

There is no battle between good and evil

I will not go against the true Will of any being or soul. I can watch people destroy themselves and enjoy watching it. I am not here to force my vision on the world, to save or rescue it.

Still – many people are lost. Many people don’t realise they have choice. Many people are running from their truth. Many want to change but dont know how.

These are the points of possible catalysis. There are many gateways of transformation, within and without the being involved. Some more risky than others…

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I am starting to really come into accepting my true, dual nature. To embrace all aspects of myself, the caring life-nourisher, soothing with my gentle touch….and the  cackling witch who appreciates the beauty of the ruined and decayed. I can feel twin currents inside me, a unicorn of purity and clear magic, white and calm; and the dark beast with claws and teeth, eyes that flash with truth and fierceness …they are both powerful and they no longer are at war – they come together, protecting, healing, guiding.

At some stage I feel humanity has to collectively and individually embrace our paradoxical nature, that we can have both the most noble intent and base desire. We cannot end wars or death or disease. Purpose can not be about fixing problems, battling against the darkness in ourselves, it will never go away, only be repressed or hidden. We take it in turn to play the bad guys or the saviours. The victim-rescuer-abuser cycle wastes so much of our potency and there is no way to fix or change it from the inside. Now there is the chance to create a new aeon, which is birthed through conscious humanity and loving acceptence of all – we claim our power back by being willing to seek our full truth, to find the places it is stuck and circling. we welcome all that we are inside no matter how dispicable. The more we see in our natures, the more we claim — the more choice we have over what we act out or express. From awareness comes the chance to create something new. Humans are mad, strange monkey creatures, but we do have creativitiy and it is this that is our saviour.

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on a more personal/indivudal level —

In my new world I have conquered my deepest fear of being alone leading to destruction. I made a choice to live.

For a long time I ran my life as a reaction to my deepest fear. The first time I named my life strategy clearly it went something like “I need people to like me. If they don’t like me they will leave. If they leave, then I will be alone. And something terrible will happen.” Even though this seems ludicrous to my rational mind, I still somehow found it hard to be alone, filling my life with people or noise, or a million projects and plans to show my importance and validity.

As it turned out, it wasn’t a groundless fear – I discovered my draw to self destruction, my lack of care for self, finding that if was alone with people or clear purpose, I’d start a spiral of destruction or distraction. I wonder if this is common for others.

in my new world i can see the sanctity of life and cherish it’s’beauty. I hold the mystery of the feminine in this body and i am more than mere flesh I am asked to protect and nourish the magic/goddess/life here, it is through my body and life that i do this, and its my responsibility to care and protect this body/vessel In fact its my sacred duty. Part of being a priestess is to take this responsibility on fully.

In my new world – i am focused on Care for life, not just experience. i enjoy caring for what i love, and that starts with myself

In my new world – asking for help is allowed and part of self-care. I am allowed to ask for support as long as i am holding responsibility. Because – in my new world – i am together with life and others. To see myself on a solitary journey led to lack of care

In summary –

So – for my path right now, I chose life and care over death and obliteration

– i accept responsibility for my choice and life i create

– it is my duty to care for my own body and life

– trying to do this all alone is NOT caring to self or life as it leads to isolation, falseness, danger

– so i am allowed to ask for help and support in caring for my self just as i offer it, as long as it is through Love not selfish manipulation, and as long as im not passing off responsibility or taking responsibility on/for others.

– in my new world i am not one person alone. The respect I show others is an echo of the respect i feel for self.

– I will be honest about the relationships and people that i care about and wish to nuture : these are the ones I will avoid using.

– i will accept that in other instances I do use people and situations. For now i want the clarity to see when i do this. And look for ways to act this out in the highest manner? (e.g. in the kink scence are those who enjoy being used/serving, this can be done consciously, enjoyed, and loved….look for ways our patterns of use/misuse can be expressed consciously/lovingly)

– Ultimately i want my life to be one where everything is an act of care between people who love each other. Not where i am just using/being used for individual games, including my own. This may require the world to change or at least the people and situations I invite/allow into my world.