“The soul is like a wild animal — tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.” ― Parker J. Palmer
I’ve sat in the fire of initiation in the last months.
I entered menopause prematurely — I am only forty-five years old — due to a chemotherapy treatment I had about a decade ago when I had cancer.
Often this process has not been fun or pleasurable at all. Sometimes it has been profoundly moving, uplifting and inspiring.
I experienced many extreme, unpredictable ups and downs. Mood swings. Hormones out of wack. Insomnia. Weight gain. As soon as I had the impression that I was getting better, I would suddenly wake up the following day in utter despair, not grasping why.
I danced with many paradoxes, polarites and contradictions, feeling I could simultaneously embrace joy, pleasure, fun, wounds, sadness and grief.
Sometimes I could not sleep through a whole night and would end up in vicious circles and loops in my head, feeling anxiety rising through my body. I often experienced a sheer terror of death, especially of my dad. My mind would race quickly in panic, creating all sorts of catastrophic scenarios.
As I lost my mum when I was a child, I could sense a very young part in me that is petrified at the idea of being alone and becoming an orphan.
When I tapped into the inner sensations of my body, I could recognise a feeling of falling, as if there was nothing underneath me to catch me. It was like a free fall. Sometimes I sensed a barren landscape where nothing could offer comfort or support inside me. A desert. Simultaneously, I could also feel a lot of energy rushing through my body.
Part of the midlife initiation is pausing and sitting with death as a teacher. It is an invitation to slow down, listen and remember. It is also about landing more fully in one’s body, so the mythical language of the soul can become more available to us.
One of my mentors, Colin Campbell, a sangoma and traditional African doctor, suggested that these night sensations are part of a spiritual transformation. He indicated that the mind needs to label, create explanations and put things in boxes when there is no reference for this kind of experience. The psyche recognises this energy as fear because it is unknown. We have no cultural and community context for it. In industrialised countries, we have lost rituals and our mythic nature. If there is a spiritual crisis, there is no map to navigate it. We lost community rituals. There is a gap in our psyche. Consequently, we need to rationalise things.
Night time is essential because we tap into the mythos inside ourselves. Fear comes at night. But sometimes, maybe it is not what we think. Fear needs to attach itself to things that it recognises. What if this is a much deeper process? What if our spiritual nature is calling us?
What if this is a threshold that amplifies a night?
What is causing the fear? Perhaps it has no name.
And what is this energy raising at night? Maybe it has no name.
I invite you to pose with the possibility that there is order in chaos, an intelligence and alchemical process in place. I am sitting with the possibility of de-labelling fear and understanding that what happens at night comes from the deepest regenerative part of ourselves.
I imagine that many of you are familiar with this kind of night experience. All sorts of thoughts can pop in, from bills to arguments with one’s partner, losing one’s income, or children leaving home.
How would it feel to decouple them from your life circumstances and re-locating them in the deepest part of your being?
In this way, we can remember and recenter.
There is no fixed script. However, there are gurus offering recipes for salvation and rampant ideas about ‘love and light only’, bypassing deeper issues and shaming people when they don’t feel well. Many people in New Age circles believe that we manifest what we deserve, and spiritual practice is always ‘easy’. In older times, initiation meant to face oneself and death at the deepest level. Sometimes that is an intense ride!!! Control is an illusion. We can kick and scream through these processes or let go of control and jump into the immense sea of the unknown. In this way, it is also possible to stay with uncomfortable feelings.
When thoughts spun in my head at night, I hugged myself and turned my attention to my body and my breath.
The only thing I could do was accept my state, befriend it, sending loving signals to my inner child and whole nervous system. In this way, I allowed myself to be more in a relationship with what was happening and establish a deeper bond and intimacy with myself and my process. Our bodies are always listening to our words.
Moreover, in the last few months, I learnt that my system was in overdrive as if a fire alarm was always on. I needed to rest, relax, slow down and do beautiful things that nurtured my soul and made me feel alive. The most important thing has been to focus on small steps and things I could control daily: good food, nourishing activities, time with friends, going to the gym, trips to the beach, journaling, listening to inspiring audios. I am also attending a course in trauma therapy and somatic stress release. Educating myself allows me to understand certain neuro-biological states, old unprocessed trauma and serve my clients more profoundly and safely.
I am also learning to play the guitar. There is something powerful about being a beginner at something. It supports our capacity to rebuild our brain and create new neural pathways. It is also a humbling and joyful process.
I am grateful for the enormous capacity of the body to heal and self-repair and the intelligence that lives inside of us. We can do many things to water good seeds that are crucial to our health. Our system is always striving for wholeness, and with the proper support, terrain, nutrients and love, we can thrive. Nervous system repair is also necessary to have a broader ‘base of tolerance’, so to speak. We can feel more, be in our bodies, be more present a less reactive, and allow the flow of big and powerful energies without being overwhelmed.
When we sit in the fire of initiation, there are very simple things we can do to support ourselves:
– spending good quality time with friends;
– spending time outdoors;
– playing an instrument;
– working with a coach or therapist;
– pampering ourselves and get a massage;
– creating an art project.
I recently took a medicine card to play and enquiry about the next steps. The porcupine came out, reversed. The message I got was to remember not to take life too seriously, even when I am in a profound process! The animal is in such an open and vulnerable position! Its invitation may be to surrender, laugh and trust sometimes; this is all we can do. Let go. Perhaps it is a way to welcome and unexpectedly receive from life and be carried by the Great Mystery.
I would love to hear your thoughts. I am curious about your process.
What have been your resources in the most challenging times?
What is your experience of sitting with the fire of initiation?
Thank you for taking the time to read. I hope you found it inspiring.
If you are interested in joining a group of courageous women, my waitlist for the Radical Wise Wild Women Circle is now open. This program offers a combination of movement, voice-work and embodied awareness. A beautiful circle is already forming.
With love and gratitude,