It occurs every year around this time; yet, I still stagger with its unexpected and edgy arrival. A throbbing magnetism pulls me closer to the core, closer to Earth: I feel gravity keeping me; and, in synchrony, I sense my soul untethered by fast-paced pressures of the external world, spacious with the liminal muse. Like now, I am leaning in to listen and the vibration of sound is propelling me to feel the pulse of the river to the east: it is steady and seasonably fluid--the vibration of flow ushering the confluence of seasons which feed eternal waters of the visible and invisible worlds. Here, in the northern hemisphere, Earth is arcing toward womb-time—the fertile ground, the compost, the dark nights that keep me close to the womb before starlight is reflected with the bright snow. I experience her depth--the vast still-moonlit sky to the south of home beckons me to step outside the confines of perceived walls and thermostats to feel her, to pulse with her as we transition deeper into these edges of autumn. Autumn beckons me to experience being a hollow bone with Earth--the creative muse of soul and psyche: Something is ready to die and something wants to be born, and we don’t know what it is. Expanding and condensing, I exhale into the great mystery.
A Muse For Autumn > > reflections < < yield first... and wait for the words to come to you....
Something wants to be born and we don’t know what it is. Giving Permission to the Edges—The Prima Materia
I have been trying to find reasons that invalidate feeling resistance. In a way, I am seeking a posture to hold onto that disengages me from feeling the edges; however, forcing movement before it’s maturation and invalidating resistance carries a translation of not-belonging through my body and psyche—conveying the false story that resistance is not included in wholeness. By trying to contextualize resistance at the edges, I put a box around it—the same posturing that blocks the flow to begin with. I have been quietly invalidating resistance by trying to understand it with the hopes that it will dissolve so I can produce something creative, productive. But, something happens at the edges—some secret work. There are moments along the way when I can slip beneath the ocean’s urgent surface to a quiet rhythm of depth where I feel the aliveness of space and the transcendence of time—a portal for the transformation of soul. Surface time is fast-paced, tight, unyielding. Geologic time is yielding, open, regenerative, gradual. I experience resistance to unpack my inner world and float in the liminal, the unknown, uncertainty. The perceived absence of solid structure feels akin to swimming in a vast ocean and needing to echolocate a buoy, some inner buoyancy—yet, not being able to see it. I contemplate beginning. I hear one of my teachers Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen ask, ‘How do we not waste the suffering?’ I wonder, How do I not waste the resistance? For me, like self-doubt, resistance--when I yield toward it as a necessary mentor--further engenders tenderness, vulnerability, humility, magic, and wonder. To resist means to stand still, to endure. When I attune to the rhythm of resistance, without trying to force it out or close its door, I meet a stillness that captures an underlying movement of endurance. At the same time, I sense a vibration underneath my skin—a cellular quiver to merge with warmth, light, water, flow. But something is happening at the edge. Can I stay in the unknown and listen--trusting the cadence of emergence to guide me when the time is ripe? Yes. This is the prima materia--the alchemy of prana (i.e., life-force). This is the essential and necessary ingredient for making the unseen seen. Incorporation in Rites of Passage
When life passages are not attended to in meaningful ways, the individual psyche or body cannot experientially or symbolically pass thru, grasp, or complete the transition—thereby remaining stuck in the previous stage, space in-between, or prematurely applauded for passing through unscathed. The incompleteness that follows often remains an abyss that depletes one’s energy, engenders social confusion, and alters the trajectory of what is to come. The final phase when moving through a life transition or rite of passage is incorporation. Preceding incorporation is the threshold phase--the space between what once was and the not yet known. Incorporation invites us to carry the gift, the prima materia, back through the threshold and into our body, our communities. It is an essential part of any life transition or rite of passage--without it, we remain in the liminal phase of the threshold--which in some life transitions it could feel blissful and dreamy; where as in others, such as being at war, it can feel disorganized and chaotic. Whatever the experience may be, the threshold is equally necessary. However, when incorporation is bypassed, unattended, or forgotten, we may experience an abyss that feels incomplete, imperceptible, ungrounded, and beyond this world and perceive great difficultly to integrate back into this living world. On the Fall Vision Quest this September we encountered a physical teaching of the potential danger of leaving the gift, the food, the prima materia on the land. While backpacking deep into the wilderness, we unknowingly set up our basecamp for the fasting days near two hunters' tents. After hiking for 4 days, coupled with our longest trek of 8 miles that day carrying 60-75 lbs. and a thunderstorm upon us—our weary eyes and near-soaked bodies failed to notice their tents nearby until after we pitched our tent. Their tents were not occupied, but within a few minutes, the thunder and lightning beckoned them too to return to their camp. We gently approached them and apologized for setting up so close by, and we asked if they were okay with us being there; they reassured us that it was okay and were grateful for our neighborly company. We conversed about the terrain and shared similar understanding of the difficulty of the hike and the misleading nature of a map. That night, I drank some tulsi rose tea with a quote that read: "Your neighbors are your teachers." Later in the afternoon, Thompson asked if they saw any elk-movement. They remarked that they had not, but they were out since before dawn. They were new and young hunters who traveled halfway across the country to navigate this terrain of life and death. Thompson remarked that the once they downed the elk, the real work begins. They partially agreed. While we do not necessarily endorse hunting, that night Thompson and I reflected on what a significant rite of passage it is for these two young hunters--going out into the unknown terrain of wilderness to bring back food to feed life for the winter. One night, after the questers were out on their solos, Thompson, Gaia (puppy), and myself hiked two miles down the trail to fill our reservoirs of water. It was dark as we were nearing our approach to basecamp on our return back up the mountain, and Gaia stopped to smell every inch of the trail. Naively, I asked tbird, "I think Gaia is telling us that the hunters' real work begins now; do you think the hunter-neighbors killed an animal?" Tbird remarked, "No, I don't think so, it's kind of late in the day now." Back at basecamp we started filtering the water when our neighbor-hunters approached us with their backpacks. "Sorry to bother you this late at night, but do you know of a good burger place nearby?" "Umm... well, we don't eat meat, but I imagine that there is something in Crested Butte... hmmm... although restaurants might be closed by the time you got back to the trailhead", I said. "Oh, we probably won't go until tomorrow night anyway. I got an elk.... so yah, like you said, the real work begins now, I guess... we will be up all night taking it out...we are hoping to be back to our truck by 2 AM.” They proposed an inquiry about hiking out from an area without a trail and asked if we knew the terrain. Fortunately, we did, and we advised them that there is a sheer 100’ cliff to the north before the river, so we conversed about some options for the safest way out from where they shot the elk and directions to the nearby towns. They thanked us for our helpful guidance and walked on toward the appearing edge of incorporation—carrying the gift back home. The following afternoon the questers returned from their solo fast, and we assumed that the hunters had been on their way. We spoke prayers into our own threshold circle for them and the animal beings and initiated the process of incorporation by shouldering our packs and hiking onward. About a mile from camp, we encountered the hunger-neighbors again. They were filling water from a ditch off the side of the trail. They appeared distressed, exhausted, confused, altered. We inquired about their night—have you rested? What was your journey like? They expressed distress in the reality that they could not find the elk, and they had been searching all night and all day. They expressed significant grief to leave an animal in the wilderness like that. We don’t know what happened from there; they seemed devoted to continue tracking their path and to carry the food of their hunt back home, but it illuminated the necessary work of incorporation. I felt their grief and the grief of the wild. The real image occurred to me of a goddess Elk out there wandering in the liminal unknown of the wild with an arrow in her heart coupled with the image of two hunters wandering in the wilderness of psyche with something untouched and stuck around their heart. I had to resist the compassionate urge to invite the grieving hunters—who had no idea we were guiding a wilderness rite of passage—to join us in a ceremonial process of incorporation. Instead, I channeled my grief for them and the wild into these words, this prayer: Beginning with an ending; Ending with a beginning, the process of incorporation— Is where the real work begins So as not to linger in the liminal— Wandering around the wilderness of psyche and earth with an arrow stuck in the heart But to carry the gift, the medicine, the food and return through a threshold— To embody and enact the vision—the clear seeing— a healing prayer with Earth. Emergency and Emergence: Unrequited Questions What would homo sapiens and other animals be like if we stopped grieving? If we stopped feeling? If we numbed our hearts, perpetually blocking the transitional seasons of living on this planet with sensitive nervous systems, bodies, and emotionality? Grief cracks us open, but what if there are no sanctuaries available to process the emergence? Will humanity be perpetually stuck in an emergency? Such unrequited questions yield me closer to touch the pulse and vitality of vulnerability and the essence to stay open to life. For me, feeling and inhabiting my living-body is a gateway of connection and aliveness. Wishing you all meaningful transitions, open doorways, + graceful landings into this season of your life---whatever it may be.
With deep love, Colleen Bishop co-founder, guide, + co-director, Alchemy of Prana
Copyright © 2023 by Colleen Bishop, Alchemy of Prana