Spiritual types like myself speak of re-entry, which is that moment when the circle or retreat or ceremony is over, and you must return to your life. If you want to go off, out of town, into the woods to be sustained and nourished in a meaningful way, you must also come back. You must return. We “go off” so we can go inside of ourselves in a way that living in the day to day minutia does not allow (or, in the very least, does not always support). If you are spiritually inclined, then you tire easily of what a friend recently referred to as “top conversations”—a linguistic pretzel that keeps you locked into “safe” topics, ones which keep you playing nice, never really getting to the heart of the matter.
Creating sacred space and experiencing the Divine often means having Ceremony. Some ceremonies act as a psychic re-set; others work to re-align you with what is good and right for you, ie your truth. Sometimes, ceremony can act as an initiation. When you find yourself in a Ceremony-As-Initiation type of situation, re-entry is going to be especially difficult. You may wander around, unable to find words to express what you are feeling (and somehow the “feeling” is also a knowing, something along the lines of angels whispering private jokes into your ears). You might spend time trying to explain to those who weren’t there “what happened” while you were out in the woods, not engaging in top conversations. This too remains a struggle as it is impossible to put into words the flavors and spices of the spiritual feast others have not partaken of. Not their fault, and not yours for being unable to make them comprehend. In fact, it’s a good idea not to talk too much about Ceremony after the fact.
Internally, you try to reel in the moments of ecstasy, the pearls of wisdom, the soul-balm you received for showing up to “do the work.” There’s a part of you who wants to re-live it in your mind, if only for a few more days; there’s another part of you who knows that the power, the sheen is fading and you get irritated that you don’t live in a world where heart-opening behavior is common, widely accepted and enthusiastically encouraged.
At least there’s where I found myself on Monday November 25th, 2019, the day I woke up as a different person than the one who left for Ceremony. After witnessing the power of Ceremony, of coming together as a community with intention, of trusting that the safe container will do what it is supposed to do, I was transformed, as were many others, and so I could not return to my life because I was not the same person. “Re-entry” was a misnomer, an impossibility. I knew I couldn’t go back to the self I was before I left—which now feels like a “concept of self” more than anything. I was different, and the configurations of my life—habits, beliefs, relationships, triggers, goals—were going to have to adjust in order to make room for the new me.
So what really happened?
On August 22nd, when my friend Kat told me that the biopsy report from her lumpectomy was “not the news we were hoping for,” I naturally asked what everyone was asking: “What can I do?” She told me in no uncertain terms what she needed from me—a re-birthing ceremony which I would help design and execute. At the time, we weren’t sure exactly when this event would take place but as it turned out, it transpired on what astrologers called “the best week-end of 2019”: Nov 23, 24th: Jupiter and Venus having a cup of tea right dab in the middle of the Galactic Center—a whopper of joy vibes raining down on Earth, with an emphasis on the Divine Feminine. Naturally.
Now I could write an entire epistle on the wonders and wisdom of my friend Kat; the fact that she asked me to carry out such an important event in her honor touched me on many levels of my being. To say I was flattered would be the understatement of the century. As the chemo treatments kicked in, there were several conversations, emails, and phone calls. We asked to be shown in shamanic journeys how our helping spirits would like to be honored and what details and duties needed to go down. Was there something or someone we needed to honor or pay special attention to? Planning something of this scale is no easy feat, and required lots of moving parts. As I have learned from past experiences, for things to really “go off without a hitch” I needed help.
I made a list of the sacred tasks I needed others to take on. I sought people who were familiar with rite and ritual—folks I’d been in circles with before and who I knew were devoted in their spiritual practice. Many came forward and offered their help. There was a fire tender. There was someone who was in charge of getting permission from the ancestors and spirits of the land. Two people were in charge of setting up a space within the sacred space so that the Grandmother Spirits we called in had a place by the hearth to sit and witness. There were two people who smudged attendees with white sage; another person played the flute as people got smudged. Someone was in charge of bringing paintbrushes, another couple of people brought white flowers. And then there was the water bearer.
So many people came together for one unified cause: to celebrate Kat and the courage she exhibits for a journey few would embrace. We came together because we love her, and we came together because sometimes, life presents you with a big mountain to climb and you don’t want to go it alone. You might be unfamiliar with this territory or ill-prepared to ascend. Do you have the right boots? Enough water? Will this turn into a solo hike? Will you make it to the top? Will the view be worth it? She had commenced a journey many have commenced; not one of them knew how the journey would end, and neither does Kat. What she does know is that there is no initiation greater than the one of staring down your own mortality. “The way my cells are acting right now could possibly wipe me out, permanently” was a sentence she had to familiarize herself with. And what did she do? She splashed out with a birthday party for her new identity. She re-birthed herself. She sanctified her life by essentially stating, “Not me, not yet.”
I have been waiting, anxiously it would seem, for something to shake me out of my internal deliberations about why I am here, what I am supposed to be doing. As someone who thrives on digger deeper, going beyond the surface exchanges, I looked forward to this particular challenge with which Kat charged me. Unlike other ceremonies that, say, celebrate a full moon, a milestone or a turn in the wheel, this ceremony involved a severance to the old and a welcoming of the new. In essence, a re-birthing ceremony is a resurrection. In the words of Freddie Silva, sometimes “we must die in order to live.”
Little did I know I would be dying to some part of me, too. Oh, I’ve had initiations before which were less disorienting; others that were induced by a variety of external frictions (domestic violence, alcohol, near-death experiences). I’ve had dreams that were initiations! If you’re paying real close attention to life, you can encounter frequent initiations (and often these are taps on the shoulder from Lord Karma). Initiation has its root in “initium” meaning “a beginning” which is exactly where I was on Monday Nov 25th:. I was a blank slate, wiped clean of the small stuff, re-forged in the new stuff. Only I didn’t exactly know what the new stuff was; I only knew it was no longer waiting patiently in the queue. It had cashed in its tokens, and we were about to hit every ride in the park.
Several elements were at play in order for my experience of ceremony-as-initiation to take place. As aforementioned, I asked for help, delegating tasks that needed to be done (and done with care-) and then I trusted that those people would carry out their tasks. I powered up, setting the space with intention (not to mention a lot of sacred objects!). I called the benevolent spirits of the land, both ancestral and nature spirits (and I didn’t do this alone either but rather with a few other practitioners who are dear friends to Kat). Everything we did before, during and after was done in reverence, intention, and love.
Is that the recipe for a powerful ceremony? Was that the recipe for my initiation? I’m not sure but the last prayer I uttered, right before people started to arrive, was this: “Spirit of All That Is, I ask you to please release me from any expectations I have around this ceremony.” What I realize now is that I was asking to be released from controlling the outcome. Wanting a certain outcome to unfold is a desire of ego; consciously desiring a release from control was an act of sovereignty with Source. This, more than anything, seems like the “secret ingredient.”
I am someone who, according to my astrologer, came into this life with a 12th House in Leo in South Node (ie, your past life). That story went something like this: I thrived on attention which was granted because I charmed, I may have healed, and I certainly did it in a big, charismatic and often flashy way. Think Snake Oil Salesman meets Holy-Roller Preacher Man. Yup, that was me. Now, it is my destiny in the 6th House of Aquarius in the North Node to awaken the sacred, devote myself to a spiritual path, be effective about it through social consciousness and—this is the most important part—not require ANY accolades, congratulations, or atta-boys from my adoring on-lookers. The 6th House North Node in Aquarius says I am here to move the dial on consciousness itself, I am in full agency of who I am and what I do. I am in full respect for the medicine I carry but I don’t need to convince anyone of that—it is my sacred service and its value is not dependent on anyone’s opinion of said service (or of me).
Realizing this last part imparted a sense of freedom, of agency, I have never in my life felt. When I finally realized the change that was taking place in my being, I wrote in my journal that, “I feel like I finally have a clean relationship with my soul.” In terms of releasing the need to accomplish a certain other-worldly experience for those in attendance (and especially for Kat), I also unhooked myself from the limiting beliefs and conditions ego operates from. Soul is capable of speaking both languages of Ego and Soul but Ego can only speak Ego’s language. I am unwilling to choose just one language for my life, and I refuse to only listen to the language of Ego in the day-to-day, topical conversations which seem to give structure to “our reality.” My initiation, which is continuing day after day, is about the re-conditioning of the ego in accordance to the needs of the soul; the power of this process depends on my compassion around that transformation. The 12th House Leo South Node is trying like hell to see how he figures into all of this; the 6th House Aquarian is holding the safety bar up, waiting for Preacher Man to settle down and settle in. It’s going to be an unforgettable ride—they both know that but only one is willing to admit it.
I wonder what Kat’s secret ingredients are. Is it a Christ-like compassion for herself, her life? Does she have a handle on her nodal stories? Maybe the first chemo treatment stripped her of the flimsy ego-control we all depend on and her awakening is thus amplified with each subsequent treatment. And maybe she too is training the soul and the ego to be in conversation with each other, learning the different expressions and nuances of a communication that, no doubt, decides our quality of life. It is normal and natural to want certain outcomes in this life. We have unspoken desires that rumble in our hearts, and we often expect the people in our lives to act in alignment with our needs. But it is important to create occasions when you can give yourself the freedom to be released from expectations, to consciously come together in love, reverence and strong intention. The power of Kat’s ceremony relied on many moving parts; for me, the extent of the transformation was reliant on our collective trust and willingness to be opened to Spirit’s guidance.
The question remains: How can I practice such trust in my daily life? The elements have now been identified. My exploration continues.