Reflecting on one year with this coronavirus in our midst, it seems we have embarked on a collective journey through fear and grief, cognitive dissonance and embracing paradox. Within this massive upheaval of society, we are all experiencing our own versions of the Hero’s Journey, characterized by three major stages: separation, initiation and return.
First comes separation. The hardships of isolation cause our gaze to turn inwards, which can be both triggering and healing, depending on the support we can bring to the process.
At times, this inward focus may unlock strength to heal old wounds. Other times, it can trigger uncertainty. Feeling fear, a common reaction is to look around at our broken world to see if someone else “has the answer.”
This might mean looking to government, doctors and politicians to supply that vision, if the leadership is right. Or we might find ourselves trapped by our search for an “authority salve.” In this trap, we risk giving our power away, relying on an external source to provide our sense of wellbeing. And what if we find good leadership lacking? We may lose hope, betrayed by institutions we perceive to be untrustworthy.
Both responses (external-dependence and betrayal) touch into collective wounds that run deep. What are these wounds and how might they open psychic doors to become more whole?
One core wound driving the current zeitgeist is the alienating feeling that Mother Earth can’t be trusted to nourish and sustain human life. This belies a deep distrust in the earth’s healing capabilities (and our own). The flip side of this trust wound is the crisis of faith in what some call Father Sky. Discord and alienation between ourselves and these two polarities makes everything feel like a series of existential crises in a random universe.
As many creation stories prophesize - the return of an enlightened being, or the reunion between divine masculine and feminine elements, restores justice and balance within Creation. Even if we aren’t living through such revelatory times, we can evolve towards this potential by tending to the wounds that block our collective reunification.
It is hard when wounds are deep and the stakes are high. In this painful place, the ego rises to defend our lost sense of normal. Triggered by fear, techno-solutions and controls become the primary hope for our salvation. But human innovations born from separation wounds and hubris may simply perpetuate old pains. In short, quick-fix solutions may distract us from the deeper call to heal divisiveness from within.
Answering this call often begins with a deeper bow to the unknowable mystery connecting all things. It is hard to surrender to Mother Earth and Father Sky - the yin and yang of creation - when all we want is certainty and security. And yet learning to dance with yin and yang within cultivates faith. This yin-yang dance is the foundation of our self-healing power.
One year into our global viral evolution, our humbling dance continues against a backdrop set to test the successes and limits of our human-engineered solutions.
Our collective initiation is here; step two of the hero’s journey. Whether we asked for it or not, it’s washing over us like a powerful tsunami. The divisive news cycle only heightens the wave, attempting to suck us into the rip tide of more consumption. Focusing on our self-care helps us ride the surf; too much information or material consumption drags us under. When we inevitably feel pulled down, we might experience a moment of calm beneath the waves and recall that peace and freedom are not for sale online. But this ‘aha’ moment is not enough. Now we must navigate our path through the storm, which can trigger our fight, flight and freeze response.
At times this past year, I have felt frozen by fear. I used to believe in Churchill’s battle cry that, “The only thing to fear is fear itself,” a linguistic predecessor to Red Bull’s, “No Fear.” And certainly, both calls to action played big roles in shaping generations. These days, I find them hollow, insofar as they create a lonely hole in the psyche where fear is not welcome. This divide and conquer approach to fear isolates us from our own power.
Hard as it is, the way back to wholeness is often through the re-experience of our frozen fears. Only then can we fully redress the ancestral and individual wounds that froze us in the first place.
To practice this healing alchemy, we must resource ourselves with support. It’s far too easy to reopen a wound only to project our pain onto circumstances around us. When we are able to lean into healing practices and supportive people, we can choose the road less travelled, thaw our frozen places and feel our way towards a more balanced sense of personal power. And that power is liberating.
The freedom to move. An end to all forms of slavery, including human trafficking, as well as war-driven and debt-driven economic enslavement systems. Celebrating diversity without censorship. Peace. These human rights will only truly become part of our lived experience (heaven on earth?) when we dare cultivate faith, kindness and peace from within.
Going back to “normal” doesn’t get us there; the unequal economies and power dynamics that helped create this mess will not rescue us. Our instant digital connectivity exposes abuses of power in real time, laying bare the polarities within current geo-political and scientific debates.
So cognitive dissonance is on the rise. Many pundits would have us believe this is a bad thing, that the “fake news” phenomenon (whichever side) is giving rise to a post-truth age. But what if the brain pain of cognitive dissonance opens the portal leading us beyond current controls and beliefs? Since forever, grappling with paradox has a known healing effect. It forces us to surrender our mental swords on the altar of deeper wisdom. In that light, maybe all this cognitive dissonance stirs a needed ingredient into our humble-heart soup.
So into the heart the journey descends, revealing another layer of raw emotion, perhaps anchored again by freeze. Thawing the ice in the well of intergenerational (and collective) trauma, we liberate more stuck shame, anger and, importantly, unprocessed grief. This initiation business can be hard work.
Hard work that is worth it. And hard work that is made easier when we remember to call on the light of gratitude. To pray for gentleness. For as we deepen our capacity to experience our real-life pains and grievances without judgment, something magical may happen. The river of grief might carry us beyond the familiar divisions of gender, race, politics and ideology. Our tears may feed Mother Earth and nourish the seedlings of faith in our bodies. This grief alchemy strengthens our forgiveness muscles, for self and other. It also focuses our heart-based discernment, buttressing the psychic boundaries and fences which help us stay in our lane on the road to unity and peace.
In 2021, we are all walking down our version of this healing road. Along the way, we may ponder many questions, such as:
1. Do we dare ‘feel-to-heal’ our old aches and pains?
2. Can we experience dark and light, yin and yang, as two forces arising from one creation?
3. Can we surrender our mental swords on the wise altar of this central paradox?
If we dare say yes, we answer the call to heal polarity within our own selves. I believe that this healing path honours our ancestors too, people who may have struggled through isolation and injustice, and held a dream of healing in their hearts.
Does healing through our pains serve as a strong enough legacy of all the suffering associated with this viral storm? Might our warrior-tears break the dam holding us in a world divided? Whatever our own initiation might look like through these times, may it be worthwhile.
The final stage of this global initiation awaits: returning to our communities bearing new gifts.
So I pray: May each of us keep watering the seeds of our gifts within sovereign, self-healing bodies. May our collective body (Earth) nourish these seed-gifts into a feast worthy of a great homecoming. And may we celebrate our communal coronation with a deeper embrace of each other and our shared home.