One thing we can be sure of is that the old structures we were taught were reliable in the past few thousand years- those based in Empire, in Patriarchy- are and will be, falling around us. At the same time, so much of what’s truly good – what’s ancient and indigenous in us - has also been eroding fast against the hard tide of modernity and progress. My journey back to India last year was evidence of a decimation that will not be abated…held unforgettably in the memories of black waters, of plastic choked streams and marshes, of the literal and metaphoric “refuse” of human civilization at large, exposed everywhere for the eyes to see, and for the willing heart to feel.
Yet, perhaps what’s most imperiled, even as species continue to dwindle and our own indigenous cultures disappear, is the integrity of the human heart itself. Its the ability to feel, to empathize- to care enough to surrender one’s own ego of separateness. The entirety of the structure we live in- call it Empire, call it the Patriarchy, call it Capitalism, call it White Supremacy, (its all one thing) - hinges on the isolation of each from the Whole. Its this isolation that numbs and eventually chokes the heart- our ability to feel, and therefore to identify with more than the individual “me”. And besides accepted cults of nationalism, national and religious holidays, and cheap thrills of “entertainment”, there is so little real connecting most of us. We don’t live lives of commons, or of ritual, or of collective remembering. Instead we live systematically isolated lives where each human life is fit into a contrived capsule from whose obliqueness only technology- whether Facebook, Twitter, You Tube or Instagram- promises to save us.
Meanwhile, as larger things fall apart, our smaller individual lives do as well. Each person I speak with is undergoing in some way, a massive shift in their lives- deaths of various kinds. And despite whatever forms of community many of us have managed to create for ourselves, it can still feel incredibly lonely. Still, my loss is not only my own, and my grief if anchored in a larger grief, becomes a healing force. Our collective heartbreaks need to be grieved as well, they need to be held, mourned and honored collectively. Otherwise they remain as traumas to cope with, just as our own personal struggles often do.
This is where, for hundreds or thousands of years before almost all of us became a colonized people displaced from a place and people and soul, we had ritual. Ritual serves to mend together that which has been torn apart through human ignorance and arrogance. It is a collective remembrance and offering from the small heart to the larger Heart.
All this falling apart- this death, decay, and suffering- can also serve to point our awareness to what matters, to what’s most precious in life on planet earth. If we’re willing to feel our deepest pain, we also begin to feel both awe and responsibility to serve and protect all that’s beautiful and sacred in Life, in our own daily life, and in our world. The other commonality we share as human beings besides grief and pain, is an innate, intrinsic ability to be part of life, to re-join life and to remember ourselves as part of a greater Whole. And from this place where the political and personal are recognized as one, we can begin to take other “actions”. These will no longer be partial, scizzored actions for isolated causes, but whole- systems, multi-layered approaches that weave healing justice and ecology with radical ways of reorienting human values to respect and serve Nature and the human heart.
The one thing we can no longer afford is to numb out. As Martin Pretchel so eloquently describes, the only thing that will effectively change the course of humanity to one of healing and health, is the genuine willingness of more and more human beings to truly feel their own personal grief and that of the collective. Its this tender, dedicated process of unwinding our grief that allows us to appreciate the real beauty and unprocessed sweetness of life. Many of us who have lost a loved one in some way and have gone through the tunnel of loss, have also experienced the sudden crispness and luminosity that dawns when we re-enter life. That same aliveness is always present; we just aren’t so tuned to it because we’re too busy being busy and coping with our underlying fears, anxieties, sadness, and trying to be “somebody”. I don’t believe all this numbing out is our “fault” because we’ve inherited it- for generations upon generations- and we’ve been taught all through that its dangerous and unproductive to feel too much. So most human beings end up hooked- whether that’s to cigarettes, sugar, alcohol, pot, TV, sex, or a smart phone- few among us aren’t addicted to some distraction that eases the bite of our aloneness. (I myself am not immune.)
And yet, we have a choice. Every human being has this essential choice: to remember, to feel - to literally rebel against the numbing structures of our oppression - by truly waking up. And its so much more supportive, more beautiful, more vital- when we can also wake up together, as our long-ago forgotten ancestors knew so well. Change and healing can begin with something as simple as looking into another’s eyes - that of a friend or stranger – witnessing and being witnessed that they share the same broken-and-yearning-for-healing-and-glorious-beauty Heart as you do. Being in a group where many are doing this with each other at the same time, creates a larger, fertile field for tapping into true connection and remembering. Without this willingness to feel, to look and to honor, our resistance/ our revolution will not be soul-full. And the true re-orienting of our humanity needs to be fueled and nurtured by shared soul, vulnerability and depth.
This Friday the 20th of April at 7pm, I’ll be offering a community ritual of remembering of our Shared Heart. Using the breath and sound, we’ll honor grief, compassion, and the ability to hold both the dissolution of the old and the tender budding of the new. To know that life is both hard and still very beautiful, and to claim that beauty as though our lives depended on it (because it does).
It’ll be at Sruti Yoga Center, 33 Railroad St in Great Barrington. Sliding scale $10-25