A lovely, hacky, critical look at the Burning Man “celebration.”
Whole evenings turn into tiny moments,
that is adulthood.
Whole books turn into one sentence,
that is wisdom.
If there be righteousness in the heart,
there will be beauty in the character.
If there be beauty in the character,
there will be harmony in the home.
If there be harmony in the home,
there will be order in the nation.
If there be order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.
~Confucius, “The Great Learning”
As a thirty year old woman on the path towards wholeness, images, words, sounds, dreams, symbols, and archetypes of the process of individuation (including initiation) have found little pockets, settling in to my psyche. I’ve often used my own indignation towards family as entrance points in my own initiation process, catalyzing the continuous unfolding of my psychic development.
In Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves:Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, a diverse bundle of cross-cultural stories are revealed and unpacked using academic rigor. Embedded with healing potential, these stories are nothing short of inspiring. Chapter three, “Vasalisa the Wise,” is the story of the archetypal initiation into womanhood: the initiation of intuition.
I’ve often wondered why modern contemporary adults do not seem interested in initiation, change and/or transformation and appear all too capable of shrugging this deeper part of human experience off, pushing it out of their lives as it it were unimportant, not a natural and necessary part of human existence. I’ve become aware that adults in contemporary society falsely enter adulthood as adult bodies, but not adult souls. Dr. Estes states, “The arresting of a woman’s initiation process occurs for various reasons, such as when there has been too much psychological hardship early in one’s life–especially when there has been no consistent ‘good-enough’ mother in the early years. The initiation may also be stalled or uncompleted because there is not enough tension in the psyche.” (p. 85). The latter claim proves my intuitive concern.
About two years ago, my brother climbed the Tetons in Wyoming. He went with a guide, a few friends, and a bit of training ahead of time. After his climb, he passionately relayed the event to me: the fear at the beginning, the pain in the middle, and the rush at the end. I thought it would change him. To me it sounded like a genuine initiation experience–the threefold process of separation, initiation, return. However, almost two years later, from my perspective it didn’t seem to change him very much, nor affect him deeply. He would say it did (affect him deeply), but I’ve seen no behavior changes, signs of greater empowerment, practical steps taken to integrate his peak experience into his daily life, or even simply–being kinder to those around.
Dr. Estes states, “Sometimes a woman is so bound up in being the too-good mother to other adults that they have latched onto her tetas, teats, and are not about to let her leave them.” (p. 87). I couldn’t help but notice the etymological similarity of Tetons and tetas, as well as visual structure of the two–two mounds.
In translation, one can fake their own psyche into believing they’ve achieved something, crossed a mark of initiation. But this initiation into adulthood is as old as time and will never be fooled.
“..[S]ince the dreaming psyche compensates for, among other things, that which the ego will not or cannot acknowledge, a woman’s dreams during such a struggle will be filled, compensatorily, with chases, dead ends, cars that will not start, incomplete pregnancies, and other symbols which image life not going forward.” (p.87). My own dream life is punctuated with these images for some time now. I’ve been questioning my family structure and dynamics, my past, and back at the “woman” I used to be. I’ve been holding on, pleading to myself that for me the path is different. These rules do not apply and I do not have to sever ties or jump. I do not know how to look ahead, to look to the unknown and jump into the Woman I am becoming.
I’ve tried to latch onto these images–my brother was an idol who has reached initiated adulthood even though deep down I know that my own initiation involves something completely different–a severance, something that involves jumping into the unknown when it is truly unknown and learn to stand not knowing what happens next. The psyche can trick the psyche’s psyche. But there is nothing that can fool the Psyche.
I recently discovered mold in my apartment. I suppose that’s where this all began—my hunt to deep clean, organize all that which has laid stagnant in my apartment for who knows how long. Too long.
Sifting through old graduate work, I found a letter written by a colleague in response to a presentation I gave on dualisms and the split between humans and nature, connecting it to my own personal story.
He wrote (sometimes in broken English as he is a native Asian):
“I really really appreciate all the trouble you’ve gone to, to tell the truth, your presentation sounds like a ‘tricky.’ You have experienced a lot of things. You have interested in many cultures. As you said, Eastern culture including Buddhism. You told us about farming. You touched a lot of materials. That’s you.
Of course you’re young. You can make mistakes. And you can confuse between comfortable science and inconvenient sacrifice. I can feel that by seeing you. You can do everything. You have a innumerous possibility. So I hope you keep your purity even though you will experience a lot of frustration, failure.
Brian [our professor] said, ‘We can make mistakes. That will give us a future.’”
I imagine my 28 year-old self standing up there, stumbling upon the correct words, confused about myself, my path, and hurting from all of the mistakes I’ve made. I’m sure I was up there blaming the split between humans and nature while underneath it all I was actually causing unnecessary suffering unbeknownst to myself.
I feel humbled and comforted to have friends walking beside me.
My colleague ended with:
“I believe in you. Someday you will be a good leader in this society. I’ll pray for you.”
I’m reminded of Matthew 5:19-20—
Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of Heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven.
I pray that our mistakes become our greatest allies. Or maybe I should rephrase that. I pray that my mistakes become my greatest allies.
Well, I’ve officially discovered hell.
Trapped in my own home, city, body, mind, old habits, ways of being. Trapped in a holding pattern. Trapped in it, alive, in the world, in the now.
Well, the good news, I don’t have that to fear after death. That’s not necessarily true, but what is true is I see clearly with my own eyes how we Christians have misunderstood death, misinterpreted hell.
The sounds, the pounds, in my head and all around.
Welcome new world. Welcome.
I’m not sure if it is just me awakening to the complexities of the world, or if there really is something going on in the sky. This morning between the hours of 4:15 and 9:15a.m. PST (peaking at 6:15a.m.), the Penumbra Lunar Eclipse brushed the sky with an orange glow. Watch an amateur’s video of this eclipse here. The Lunar Eclipse occurs when the Earth is aligned between the sun and moon. The moon passes through the Earth’s shadow, causing a darkening effect, not a total black out. The Umbra causes a total black out and Antumbra has the outer ring effect.
I’d like to take things to a more personal level. This morning I awoke around 9:00a.m. and felt as though I was awakening from the deepest of slumbers. There was no connection to ‘myself,’ my body or mind. I felt a spacious distance that was uncomfortable and tried to shake out of it, as I prepared to drive my partner to work…9:15a.m. “What did I eat last night?,” I questioned, and blamed it on the 11p.m. yogurt snack from the night before. After dropping him off, I laid in bed for an hour, but the distance remained.
When I finally emerged from bed, I glanced at the calendar and thank you to Alex Grey who attends to these things, saw the eclipse event marked in my calendar…9:15a.m. Things made just a bit more sense and I felt a bit more clarity on how to work with these energies to not be bedridden for the rest of the day.
Although I know this type of inquiry is not accepted by mainstream culture, even I was offended by this Huffington Post article claiming that, “Despite popular myths, there’s not much evidence to back up the idea that the moon (or any other astronomical body) has much of an effect on human or animal behavior.” Ask any person working with developmentally disabled adults and they’ll tell you differently. A few months ago my bank teller stated, “I never believed in that full moon stuff until working at the bank. Some crazy things happen!” I’ve often heard this phrase repeated among non-believers, surprised that even they (accepting of dominant culture, not questioning the status quo) observed correlations between the full moon and erratic behavior.
Although, I’ve got to hand it to Huffington Post for phrasing their disregard as, “not much evidence,”… an ambiguous phrase, indeed, I’d like to take the opposing side for the remainder of this post: We’re made up of the same stuff as the moon and earth, of course we are affected by these forces! Evolutionary Cosmologist Brian Swimme states, “The awareness that bubbles up each moment that we identify as ourselves is rooted in the originating activity of the universe.” (The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, 1996) Even human consciousness is rooted in the original flaring forth 13 billion years ago. Where else do we think thought comes from? How selfish to think it is ‘ours.’ I love science and technology, but I also love my self, and cannot disregard that which arises in my world. “Things are real because we experience them,” states spiritual leader and yogic practitioner, Mariana Caplan. I have to believe this. Not doing so would be like turning my back on that awe-inspiring blood orange glow in the sky this morning at 9:15a.m., measured and accepted by mainstream science, human experience, and rooted in cosmological law.