Illness or Initiation?
I was listening to one of my current inspiritors, Michael Meade, and he said something that plunged into my depths and re- affirmed this very present conversation I am having with my healing around what is really underlying my pain and trauma.
In summary he says:
“when you experience a life event that shapes the way you view and act in the world, that takes a piece of you- like severe illness or injury, death of someone so close to you, or some external disaster that rips apart a prior foundation on which you based your life- your Soul views that threshold as a signal that an initiation is about to begin”.
Let’s say this is so- which in my lived experience it is. This opens the door to potentially allowing a new view of the painful events in your life. To see the underlying beauty below the disaster trying to tear down the prior built constructs that have been supported in a delusion that you are separate from Source.
One year ago, I was suddenly forced to shut down a thriving practice in Seattle. Slowly, around the time of the eclipse, I watched identities crumble from me that were decayed and dried out, but I could not shed or see them until this moment happened to me. I had an injury- or I should say another injury- that altered my life, my work and my body. I was empty, depleted and I cried out for help.
My cries were to a few handful of people who know me deeply. But the deeper, louder cries were to the forces of Life that I know brought upon this initiation into surrender. I found myself on the Earth in a place on the Northwest Peninsula that I had no relationship with- yet. – (I tell my clients repeatedly “don’t say prayers you are not ready to hear the answers to”.) I was praying for reasons, for healing and for mercy- and all under a full eclipse.
I turned on a deep listening to my dangling and broken right shoulder. Why? Why- did you take the…. Oh, I see- “the hand I give with.” I sat and listened, and the messages of pain and imbalance and sabotage surfaced.
I was giving myself away. I was not taking my own medicine. I was saying prayers asking for guidance and strength to see all the ways I sabotage my soul contract. And day after day I was given guidance and not taking action- so the Spirits rang an alarm bell through my body.
Most who don’t know this path well said “surgery” and get back to it. That felt like a worse death and disservice to the Voice underneath it all that told me “this is the answer to your prayer and you’re not supposed to ‘fix’ it”. I elected not to have surgery. I chose to listen. I choose to listen. And what has happened in this last year is a mystery still.
The land I prayed upon- this little slice of Northwest wonder and beauty- I now call home. I left all that I owned and owned me in the city and I followed that deeper listening to the voice that was coming through the new cracks in my broken heart. I now live in a community of support and song and simplicity. I live with the Earth at my doorstep. I live closer to me.
And- it’s far from over. My shoulder is an antenna for when I am out of balance. It will heal, in the ways and timeline I am surrendering to. I am now emerging in a new trust that I am being asked to share my gifts through other avenues. That the breaking of the hand I serve with is guiding me more towards the original medicine in my soul ready to come through.
Maybe you have heard of the myth and lore of the Shamanic initiation. And, maybe when you hear of such mythical procession, your first go to impulse is a separatist view of yourself and you contract away from the possibility that you will ever feel the mystery of divine recognition. That you are excluded- that you could not possibly carry that level of service to Life within you.
We are all shamanic simply by force and being a part of Nature. And, although not separate from this truth, it is also true that not everyone’s soul in this lifetime carries the contract of becoming a visionary Shamanic leader and teacher- in the sense that we have culturally defined that gift. Life does not play favorites or build its bounty of creation on hierarchy. Life simply requires biodiversity of gifts to bring a unified harmony of co-created existence and all gifts are equal.
Allowing yourself to view your illness and pain as a shamanic initiation, in the sense that it is trying to bring from within you a beauty that is needed at this time in the world, can open a path that has been long hidden from your life and our culture. Initiation is a birth right. It is a map that guides your unique soul in how to belong, where you belong and with what you belong.
Viewing pain and suffering as initiation requires the vulnerability of the tender and freshly turned soil of the broken parts of the heart to be an invitation to plant something new. And, new life, under natural order, can only be birthed from the wheel of life opposite of, and by being intimately connected to, decay and death.
What you resist persists and death cannot be ignored no matter what walls have been built to keep it away. Everything that sustains your human form to continue on comes from death. What if illness is the resort Life must take to bring you intimately connected with death so that authentic gratitude for all that nourishes you can touch and transform you; maybe even heal you?
Death and surrender to your process of life are the giving back and the reciprocity of thanks; it is your service to others. Surrender to this cycle is also a great service to the Earth. The constant consuming of things that you feel you need to heal, be maintained by and “fixed” through is quite depleting of resources. How much do you really need to sustain you?
Deep heart- breaking gratitude is something felt at a cellular level. A forgotten pathway into a love tunnel of mystery that will break your heart open. That is when you know you have surrendered a part of your separatist self and that it is not all about you. That view alone may apprentice you into a mystery waiting to be lived. And, then you could have a greater holistic acceptance of your pain and illness and allow yourself to listen to the deeper meaning before running for the “death defying”, med tech ways society has created to in hopes of bypassing your inevitable passing of your life into death.
We are a bypass culture. We don’t sit and listen much. And if we do hear a deeper message we are so under attuned to the language of subtle life around us – and our bodies – that we bypass a true sense as some figment of imagination. We instead turn to a voice- externally derived and likely designed to maintain a fear based, yet comfortable aporia, for governance. When listened to and given half a chance, Life will always turn out in favor of more Life.
I hear a question in you. One I have dissected within myself…
“If my illness and pain are an initiation towards something greater, why with all of the plants and prayers and healers and helpers I continue the same spiral into the same patterns?”
Well, here is what my journey has humbly shown me… Even the most “self-aware” of us are still programmed with a self- centered healing model. We can easily become hyper focused on fixing ourselves and constant self -improvement. The hyper scrutiny is a safe place to be as it distracts from the voice that is calling you forward into initiation that will likely dismantle parts of your life. It is safe until you keep meeting the same pain and holding on to a thread that weaves into meaninglessness.
Real and honest transformation by the initiation processes requires a letting go of how we define “healed”. We live in a sick society on an ever-ailing planet. Again, and always worth repeating, we are connected to all living things. The rest of creation knows this. Yet part of our culturally desensitized ego operates from some delusion that we are immune from the damage we have done, and that we deserve to be preserved. This perpetuates further damage- firstly within ourselves. Separation is a disease and the belief that our illness is an isolated event and all about us seems self-indulgent. I know I have lapped in the pools of self-indulgence for years.
This is not a guilt trip- this is an invitation into recognizing that your body suffers what the Earth suffers. Feel deep into that connection- I mean really feel that- and you will open the gateway for grief and gratitude to flow in and wash the love bundle upon the vast shore line of your ebb and flow life. And maybe for the first time since your soul chose this incredible journey long ago you will feel as though you belong to something and everything- the greatest gift.
Another thought is that the persistent and ever more prevalence of the mystery diseases and chronic pain in our society are in part due to initiation trauma. Or lack of initiation trauma.
When thresholds in our life are not honored in the way of ritual, release and renewal, they can become trapped in limbo within the psyche as a perceived trauma. The psyche will then attempt to find ways to initiate an initiation in hopes of releasing the stuck trauma. Since the body is the mechanism of communication for this, an illness and/or life imbalance can be created as the catalyst for equanimity.
Thus, I sit with the idea that the prevalence of “un-healable” mystery disease may have some roots in a “lack of initiation and rites of passage” trauma. And the disease is a large blinking arrow towards an unclaimed initiatory path that is not only needed by you but by all of Life- yet imprinted by only your footsteps.
Life is not a human condition~ Stephen Jenkinson
Again, it is not all about us. If we are lucky we will wake up one day to this humbling and healing realization. In that moment, real, authentic assistance from all that is waiting for you to join the mystery can come to your aid. Under sacred law- the realm that upholds and honors the order of Life- there is a Universal truth that understands that “when one is down- we are all down”.
And- the caveat is that it is all about us. There is a unique code within each one of us that has never before now been organized. And Life invited that code- embodied as each unique being- in at this time with clear intention. Yet the code remains indecipherable by most because the key to translation comes through the language of initiation and ceremony. When a culture and individual is void of the rituals to revive the codes, then Life will find any way it can to bring the gift that was meant to come through you- out from hiding.
Is all illness an initiation? Illness is a part of humanity. The common cold and escalating flu epidemics are viruses and bacteria from a mechanistic point of view. And, they also point to a deeper imbalance personally and societally. That imbalance is trying to medicine speak through the body to reorganize the holistic structure and synergy of all living things. Maybe the initiation from such a seemingly common and small illness isn’t of great turning tides but it is an invitation to listen all the same.
These are simply my considerations as I navigate my own illness and witness the suffering around me. Yet one conclusion I embody as truth, is that in my life and my cosmology I choose to entertain the mystery and wonder within all things before giving my senses away to a story of continued pain. I have a short life in this time around and would rather turn towards a medicine that still sees a magic in it all. Anyway, it feeds my heart.
How to know initiation is calling you forward.
It will break your heart open to something not yet ready to be named and identified but touches within you a place long forgotten.
You will feel fear, but a different fear. Like the kind of fear you had when being plunged into the deep end of the pool learning to swim. An exhilarated fear that you will come to identify as excitement. This fear is a good sign.
Your external life will begin to change just by energetically shifting your focus. You are being listened to- even the quietest deepest prayers and curiosities are heard.
It may get more challenging before it gets better. Chaos precedes all creation.
You will attract people and events towards you to help break down the walls of separation. Teachers, healers, friends, lovers. And, you will likely meet random people who have a story that sounds to be stolen from your mouth. Encouragement is there.
You will have a more vital and intuitive connection with nature. Maybe sensations and messages return. Again, encouragement is there.
You are guided. Life is an initiation. Let your altar grow. Trust your heart and your Original Medicine will again flow.