written on Day 88 – June 21, 2013, Summer Solstice
I’ve been thinking lately about the traumatic brain injury Jess sustained 12 weeks ago and the way we are framing it in our family.
Our decision to view it as an initiation into a new life is a way of making good from something bad, kind of a “lemonade from lemons”. Our relationship to the injury is being supported by the stories we tell about us, our family mythos. It supports us and solidifies our capacity to serve others to tell our story in such a victorious way.
I feel that our part in the tribe of humanity is to provide inspiration. This became clear to us during our Family Vision Quest from 2003-2010 (I actually think we’re not done yet, but am closing the first cycle of our quest at 7 years for the purposes of the book I’m writing). We were guided by spirit to step out of the culture of consumerism and attainment in order to see it for what it was…illness. In order to see the blindness and unconsciousness that marks the “American Dream” culture, we had to drop out of it, inciting the ire of many who resented us (and some still do) for challenging the cultural myth.
On our journey, we surrendered to a different way of living. We made our relationship with spirit number one, and our family was the heart of that. We learned (or rather remembered) old ways of accessing a greater perspective, and acted on that information rather than discounting, poo-pooing or ridiculing it. We were given reflections over and over of how we affected people, through their expressions of emotion, gratitude, awe, and awareness. Our family was given an Eagle feather because we can bring healing to people’s concepts of family and the wounds that they sustained in their original families. We represent a different kind of family, one that is striving to be as conscious as possible in order to raise the level of consciousness in the human collective. It is our role. But really, this is a very old way of doing things.
The old medicine, the indigenous way of living, understood that things are as you see them. The Shuar, an indigenous people of Ecuador have a saying that life is as you dream it. This is NOT a call to ignore the tests and trials and challenges that have the potential to initiate us into a greater, wiser being…not by a long shot. It is about how we choose to SEE the tests and trials and challenges, how we craft our relationship to them, that makes the difference. One shaman’s story tells of a gringo who reached inside his crumpled shirt one morning and was bitten on the thumb by a scorpion. He sought healing from the local medicine woman, a shaman, whose very first question was, “How do you feel towards the scorpion?” His surprised response was, “How do I FEEL towards the scorpion?!” He then quieted through her facilitation and realized he did not see the scorpion as an enemy but as a messenger. Her comment was that this made all the difference in whether he would become very ill or even die from the bite, or whether he would heal quickly and assimilate the good medicine of the scorpion. She said that when he chose to see the scorpion as a carrier of a lesson or message rather than angry at him, he changed his reality.
Jess’s brain injury could be seen as a tragic interruption of a promising young man’s life, and believe me, there are plenty who ascribe to this dream. I can’t count the number of folks who look at me when I describe the journey we have been on these last months with pity in their eyes. And also the ones who, smug and comfortable in their judgment, think we are being punished in some bizarre way. But I don’t believe in that dream, and thankfully, neither does my son.
We are seeing this incident as a rebirth, one that invited us back to his birth from my womb 19 years ago…also a life-threatening experience that resulted in head trauma for him and a loss of power for me. In August, we are actually going to the southwest where he was born for vision quest and to reclaim energy that we left there during the splintering that occurs when we encounter trauma. We are choosing to see Jess’ injury as a demarcation point towards a new life, one of great wisdom and fulfillment that might not have otherwise occurred if Jess had tried to stay on the path that he was on. A course correction from a loving universe, not a punishment.
It is a wise human being that intentionally chooses to make the adversities in their life their teachers. This is the essence of shamanic truth. This is why shamanic medicine works. When we frame towards the positive, we are changing the dream. The stories we tell ourselves form our neural pathways in our brain, and our energetic structure follows the central nervous system’s directions. Our life unfolds from our energetic structure (this is why I teach people how to manage their energy mechanics in my PEMS course).
We have heard from wise people who have emerged in the consumerist culture that recognized the illness; they have urged us to look back to our indigenous ancestors to remember this magic, and from them I have received affirmation and confirmation of what I have felt to be true since I was a child. One person’s work who has kept me sane while I waited for those I love to catch on to this old medicine is Joseph Campbell, who understood that we all undertake the Hero’s Journey. Another is Carl Jung, who understood that everything is a symbol, and that all things that happen to us have a greater meaning in the mythos of our life story.
Our family had a ritual for the Solstice; we were blessed by a visit from my brother, who joined in our ceremony to release what no longer was needed in our lives and to replace it with something better, a new dream. Around the fire, each of us took turns stating our intention to release some old aspect of ourselves, whether a belief, an energy pattern, or an attachment, and threw papers we’d written them down on into the flames, a symbolic gesture of burning the old away and releasing it into the ethers for transformation (remember, energy never dies but is only transformed). And then, with immediate intention, we each stated what we wanted to replace that old part of self with. Nature abhors a void, and so it is important to “re-fill” that space with what we choose instead. We also offered those papers to the fire, this time to give them to the universe for manifestation. It was a powerful intentional action, and all of us felt the effects immediately. How grateful I am to know this medicine that is so loving and supportive to our lives.
We are surrounded by people every day who are spiritually bankrupt; in fact, the culture is built upon a lack of connection, lack of belief, and a lack of soul. We are living in a mass craziness that believes if you have money you are secure, that logic and reason are the highest ideals to ascribe to, that spirituality can be bought, that healing can only happen through western medicine, that hiding from the truth and walking around separate from yourself and others, with a closed heart and mind, protects you. No wonder there is a cultural fascination with zombies and vampires…we are the Undead.
From a shamanic point of view, this is rabid madness, mental illness, soul loss. From the shamanic point of view, which is whole-brained, we are connected to the intelligence that runs through all things, not separate from it. We are an expression of our ancestors and the longing of Life itself to express and unfold through us to resolution and evolution. We are an essential thread, each one of us, each molecule, in the tapestry of the fabric of the universe. And the hard things that happen to us are not doled out by a punishing God, but gifts and lessons offered by Life itself to bring us into balance, into our most authentic selves. Because we cannot be separated from the inherent balance of nature. Because Life cares about us. Because we are part of it. My heart and spirit knows this is true. This is my dream.