- We live, it seems, in the eclipsing of a world age. The older stabilities are disrupted more deeply month by month. Big tech openly plans to remake human nature with networked monopolies, wall to wall surveillance, and robotics. Their dorm-room vision is a new kind of planetary unity, but the motives are the same old profit and power. Government is gridlocked and cannot constrain the ravages of unquestioned, ever accelerating, deeply disruptive “progress.” And tribal dissension, fed by nuance-less tweets, grows daily stronger.
These and other challenges threaten our planet, really. So perhaps a couple of the big-world, fantasy epics are relevant. I think, of course, of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but also Christopher Paolini’s more recent Inheritance Cycle. In each of them, it all comes to a head in a final, apocalyptic battle for the survival of light in the face of darkness.
What Tips the Balance?
What might interest us here is an evolution, from one story to the next, in what wins the battle. There are warriors and wizards, courage and quests, and knowledge and weapons acquired and deployed on both sides. But what central element tilts the struggle in favor of light?
Between stories, it seems as if this central element and final weapon has actually evolved from the renunciation of power to simple empathy. What sense does that make for us in our own version of planetary Armageddon?
And what if I can lay this out for you in a few words?
At the age of 20, I read Siddhartha… more than once. Herman Hesse’s short novel retold the story of the Buddha so eloquently, I thought. Sitting in the back of buses, lonely and estranged from both family and my religious upbringing, criss-crossing Europe on art history tours during a junior year abroad--I dreamed of walking the path outlined so beautifully in the book.
Somehow, like the Buddha, I would leave the family for asceticism and training. Maybe I already had. But then would come immersion in business, passion, and wealth, followed finally by that enlightened epiphany in which I saw it all as “illusion”-- and realized my essential oneness with everything. It was the classic, heroic, individual quest for unity with a transcendent Divine. I drank it in like a starving child.
But What About the Planet?
Roughly four and a half decades later, that quest remains. But progress has not come in the ways I thought it would. The grand vision absorbed in my youth had some things totally backwards. In some respects, it started me (and many others) walking more or less in the wrong direction.
Take the idea, still evident in Christianity and in Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, for instance—that Mother Earth and this life on her are really just a platform for private spiritual evolution. She’s all maya—illusion—anyway. Or worse, sinful. Get on to nirvana, or heaven, as fast as you can. That’s all that matters.
While there’s some truth to this, still, with a whole planet it crisis, it can be irresponsible, escapist, and downright dangerous. Not too long ago, it was identified as “spiritual bypass.” It can foster the attitude that we may plunder and destroy the great, nurturing ecosystem that gives us all this chance to incarnate and evolve. Or ignore it at least. How can that not matter? The traditional message—“live for the afterlife, this one’s a mess”—has turned out to be a deadly half truth. In our world, it’s one of the memes that has created the worst of the damage.
And What About Families?
But more recently, into the awareness of many healers anyway, has come another kind of reversal. Not only must the transformational pilgrim be ultimately responsible to the Mother Earth and the rest of humanity, but even the “I”--the distinct, individual seeker--is a kind of reductionist fantasy. That lone “I” is far more bound up with collective families than we in the West have tended to think.
So what does that mean for getting and staying well?
What powers the body is a very slow fire. We take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide just like the flames you sit around camping out at night. Though "antioxidants" and "free radicals" have given it something of a bad name these days--combustion still powers our cells.
But if that's true, if we are fueled by internalized oxidation, perhaps we can learn something from the life-path of that simple campfire. What if what's healthy for fire, always, but especially in its late stages, is also what's healthy for us?
I've been sitting with small fires recently on Sunday afternoons. It tunes me in to the accelerating Earth Changes. So I've been thinking about this. Especially as it relates to chronic suffering, and mainstream health care's current fetish for extreme specialization.
Nurturing the Flame-Child
The tiniest flames, like you as an infant, need special care. They need lots to learn and grow on, but also shelter. Too much oxygen, as in a strong draft, will cool them below ignition temperature and—blow them out. Dampness also cools them, because water evaporating steals lots of heat in order to become a vapor. Dampness, we might say, is like trauma in the young family. Areas of learning and growth get shut down as parts of the tinder cannot ignite.
So you start a good fire by creating a cone or teepee-like structure with three layers. The inner core is tinder. It consists of flammable materials that are dry, lightweight, and present lots of surface area. Crumpled paper, bits of cardboard, and brittle twigs up to the size of pencils work well. You make a small pile with the twigs leaning against, and above the paper.
What a Good Firestart Looks Like
The next layer of the cone has no name in English—but I call it "bonewood." It's dry sticks about the thickness of the bones in your arms or legs just long enough to lean up against the core of tinder and touch at the top. As you surround it with these, you begin to see the form of the teepee more clearly. The final layer is branches or split logs more like the thickness of your whole arm.
Let's compare creating this foundation to the perinatal period in human life. Do it well and your child is off towards a good firestart. Now what?
Violent Weather Extremes are the New Normal
So How do YOU Stay Safe?
Global warming puts way more moisture in the air. That means a "normal" thundershower or cold front slamming through can dump 3, 4, 5 inches of rain in an hour or two. And, as the Weather Service says, Harvey's 40 to 50 inches in a few days is "unprecedented."
Well, it WAS unprecedented... It's very "precedented" now.
I could go on about drought, wildfires, terrorism, fascism, nuclear brinkmanship, and more--but you understand. So what does "safety" look like as these Earth-Changes accelerate?
Apprenticed to shamanic teachers in the 90's, I was taught one thing before all else. There's a real but limited amount you can do to prepare physically, but way more important is whether you prepare spiritually, emotionally, psychically.
Look, even animals know when Nature's emergencies are imminent--so why don't we also FEEL what to do when?
Earth-changes Push Lightworkers--
Go Deeper Now, We Need You WELL!
I think it's fair to call most of us alternative healers "lightworkers" And many more of my readers here I know are lightworkers, regardless of profession.
So I ask you, have you felt it over the last few years?
That intense push to move through the layers of your personal and family trauma and get clear of it?
I know I've felt it big time, and so many I know have. That push is there because Earth needs us to be open, fluid, resilient, and compassionate. And it's much harder to do that carrying the scars of a heavy personal or ancestral wound system.
The Parallel Worlds Perspective on This
A couple of years ago I spent 5 hours under hypnosis with a very evolved Thai woman. As part of that, I saw Earth's futures splitting.
A patient named Karen was being interviewed after an operation that split off the right from the left hemisphere of her brain. It was done, as it has been for decades, to cure severe epilepsy. The corpus callosum, the thick bundle of fibers connecting the two halves of the brain, is severed.
“What are you doing?” asked the doctor, shocked to see Karen’s left hand unbuttoning her blouse. “Oh my goodness,” said Karen, and she fastened the buttons again with her right hand. But the left hand followed along and just unbuttoned them once more. The doctor called his colleagues and said, “Hey, we’ve got a problem here.”
Split Brain = Split Awareness
I heard this reported on NPR, but it goes back to Nobel Prize winning work done by Roger Sperry in the fifties. In most people, the left brain controls the right side of the body, and the right brain, the left side.
By studying people who had undergone this “split brain” operation, Sperry proved that the two hemispheres had distinct jobs and even quasi-distinct consciousnesses. Sever their connection, and you often get a “secret self” that can and does do things, but cannot speak about them.
So what’s that got to do with family constellations, with recovery from personal and/or ancestrally inherited trauma? Well, actually, quite a lot.
Music I make myself is a large part of what keeps me alive and well. Hear some of my performance songs on YouTube here. But participatory music, as opposed to consumption of it, is a human birthright and a huge help to real health. Here's a blog about why this is true.
WHO Earns Twice the Pay?!
Imagine you are part of an expedition 200 years ago, venturing into the Canadian Northwest. As a voyageur, you strain from dawn to dusk to help paddle a 40-foot canoe. Where there’s no water, you hump a 90-pound pack, and later the canoe itself.
Up and down wind the portages, across treacherous, rock-strewn ridges. Hernias, or bone-breaking falls are common. Either, in this wilderness, can end a life.
Still you only get paid half as much as the little guy sitting next to you with the prodigious memory and loud voice.
Who’s he? the boss? the guide? No, actually he’s the chanteur, the expedition’s singer.
He leads the different songs sung many times a day by your entire company. It’s his contribution that is worth twice yours. Shared music brings rhythm to your strokes, and keeps a smile on your face. In some fundamental way, the songs keep hope alive in your struggling heart.
OK. So our low-tech our ancestors placed a high value on sing-alongs. That’s nice, but surely not relevant to us, struggling with climate change (and its denial), health care uncertainty, and dysfunctional governments in the time of Trump. After all, most people, we know, can’t even carry a tune.
And who needs to, with CD’s and smart phones that play our favorite music perfectly on demand. Who cares if ragged bunches of backwoods grunts sang there way across the continent? Had iTunes or Spotify been available, wouldn’t those voyageurs have all plugged in to enjoy their separate favorites?
In group constellation workshops, the intake interview is a short one. It homes in quickly on the problem, guesses at ancestral blocks, and moves directly into setting up representatives. It’s in the nature of a workshop that it has to be this way. Four to six constellations happen in a day.
But what happens in one-on-one constellations? Or rather, what should or could happen in private versions?
Do We Just Copy the Workshop Approach?
Many facilitators I know do something similar. The constellation, whether remote or in person, happens in one sitting. Some exploration of the issue and creation of a shared set-up of representatives is followed by the client and constellator both “feeling into” being parts of the family system.
A dynamic is observed, and a resolution is achieved, more or less—and the interaction is over. It is, in many many cases, an isolated, one-time event.
Early on, I stopped doing and teaching private constellations this way. Too many things, starting with sufficient rapport with the client, and moving on all the way to subsequent follow-up—were left out in this approach.
So an initial private constellation with me, whether remote or in person, evolved quickly into three sessions. Here’s what happens in them.
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Let’s begin by suggesting that there are two sources of trauma: the threatening overwhelms that affect your nervous system personally, and those that affected a parent or ancestor’s but were never dealt with.
After-effects of the second kind do show up in you or your clients, even though they never actually happened to you. What are we coming to understand about these? How are they similar or different?
Consider five foundational facts about them. The whole trauma response, often referred to as “fight/flight/freeze,” actually has not just three, but five stages. Think of them as “friends, fight-or-flight, freeze, and forget.” Easy to remember as the “5 F’s.”
Remember also—trauma is highly individual. One person’s experience of overwhelm is another person’s “so what”--or even triumph.
Fight? or Flight?
The limbic midbrain, triggered by what Bessel van der Kolk calls the “smoke detector” amygdala, sets in motion an array of autonomic responses. They prepare, more or less as needed, our whole organism for possibly extreme efforts to recreate safety.
All processes not immediately relevant to that are slowed down or completely stopped. These include digestion, the immune system, more rationally oriented presence of mind, and more.
Threat level detection in the brain, blood and hormone flow to muscles, everything important to choosing and carrying out actions that will recreate safety--all these become primed and super coordinated for possibly lightning fast response.
In modern life, we most often experience “fight-or-flight” more as “resist-or-evade”. It’s slower, but just as real. And we can stay in milder forms of this stage for hours, days, or years. Too bad for digestion and the immune system.
But what if the “friends/” stage comes even before “fight or flight”?