by Rohini Walker/ Photo ‘Ripple/Emergence’ by Angela de la Agua
“Our histories never unfold in isolation. We cannot truly tell what we consider to be our own histories without knowing the other stories. And often we discover that those other stories are actually our own stories.”Angela Davis ‘Freedom is a Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement’
Just over a month ago, the Pain returned.
I could feel its clarion calls in my body, announcing its arrival but mostly I ignored them, save for some perfunctory preventative actions. In truth, this negligence was my unconscious calling in of it. Because the two other times in my life that this Pain has presented itself in such an extreme way has heralded a journey into the depths of it, emerging each time with a treasure, hard won and priceless.
When this has happened before, it’s been during intensely challenging periods, surreally nightmarish, even. And now here again, with looming, terrifying uncertainties both personally and globally, I went tumbling down into the Underworld, faithfully accompanied by my guide – chronic, physical Pain.
In my case, these particular south Asian foundations of Pain lie buried in generations past, unconsciously handed down each time from mother to daughter as trauma, violence and disrespect towards her when she’s very young, in a bid to keep the little one small and safe. I’d hazard that the familial genealogy of this Pain goes back a long way, becoming culturally normalized by the simple yet complicit acts of ignoring, not intervening and willing to step into the discomfort of its full acknowledgment and consequences.
“The woman I needed to call my mother was silenced before I was born.”Adrienne Rich
To be incarnated in this world as a dark woman is to be distastefully ‘too much’. And I, like so many others, developed complex ways to suppress my too-muchness in order to survive.
Inevitably: as within, so without.
The United States is currently in the throes of a deeply painful and necessary process of active acknowledgment of its own complicity – conscious and unconscious – in the violent legacies of slavery, racism, patriarchy/imperialism and white supremacy. To look away is no longer an option.
In my body, I’ve been mapping the topography of the Pain, and the present-day triggers that send me spiraling into the primal, reptilian freeze-response to this generational inheritance of trauma.
This then sets in motion inflammatory autoimmune reactions- usually tended to by certain diet and lifestyle practices – which dance wildly with the Pain, like fierce and terrifying shamans taking me into the depths of a journey of resolution. And until that resolution occurs, my psyche will keep plumbing these particular depths, and creating conditions in my present life that push me back down into them.
Because not to resolve now is not to resolve for my/our forebears, and for the future.
A foundational aspect of many indigenous shamanic and esoteric traditions rests on the wisdom that what is healed now – or made whole, resolved – affects, from the quantum perspective, seven generations prior, and simultaneously into the future. As none of us exist in a vacuum, this affects not just familial generations, but also the wider community and culture that we’re a part of.
The ripple effect. Which is a fractal, as observed everywhere in Nature, including in our somatic and cellular structures. A fractal is a pattern that propagates itself ad infinitum in an identical fashion from its inception, into bigger and more complex scales. The pattern however, remains the same.
Unless a pattern-interrupt occurs. This pandemic is one. So is the racist murder of George Floyd. Yet another Black man brutalized at the hands of ‘law enforcement’ agents, which has had the catalyzing effect of this global uprising of fierce outrage.
It‘s no coincidence that the Pain returned when we find ourselves on the precipice of a worldwide pattern interrupt. This time, I’ve come to know the Pain as an emissary of the Greek god of wild Nature, Pan (the root of the word pandemic, and, crucially, panic). When this Pain descends, it sends me, among other things, into a state of panic because my mobility becomes limited and there’s an intense sensation of being trapped in my body and being mercilessly beaten by the inner Law Enforcement Authority/Tyrant.
It’s the living portal into a terrifying past, still palpably present.
Through the Pain, we find ourselves in a state of panic and fear. And fertile rage.
This time, in my communion with the Pain as a messenger of Pan, and knowing well that shooting the messenger by suppressing the Pain instead of listening to it is foolish, I remembered the Greek myth of Psyche and Eros. The mortal Psyche, faced with one of the many impossible tasks set by the Goddess Aphrodite so that she may unite with her beloved Eros, dissolves into helpless tears and quiet panic on the banks of a river. The reeds on the river-bank speak to her, and help her with her trial; significant because reeds were symbols (or emissaries) of Pan.
And what the reed-like network of this wild, scary Pain is speaking to me of is a system deeply out of balance. Specifically, one that is the fractal-pattern of the narrative of surviving. Digging deeper still: the narrative of surviving by suppressing one’s innate life-force, one’s soul or too-muchness if that is deemed offensive or dangerous to the hegemony of the colonizer.
Throughout history, if you were dark-skinned you could- and plainly, still do- literally die or be incarcerated at the hands of the Authority for the sheer brazenness of being born dark. Unless you learned how to suppress the innate power that you were a living embodiment of, and blend in quietly and compliantly.
In order to survive, you had to negate your thriving.
The Pain is a pattern interrupt propelling us, whether we like it or not, into the beautiful, dark mystery of a new narrative of thriving. A defiant and unequivocal refusal to be meek about what makes us different.
Because the nature of survival is much like a virus feeding off its host. Until the host shifts into a pattern of healthful, audacious thriving, forcing the virus into dissolution, coagulation and transformation.
Listen: we’ve arrived at a critical state of imbalance and the pattern needs to evolve. In survival mode, we’re conditioned to believe that we’re separate from our environment, and each other – unsurprisingly, because of the prevailing culture of aggression birthed by the parasites of patriarchy and colonialism. This aggression, and subsequent survival strategies arising from it are underpinned in a corrosive fear.
These protests and uprisings are not a fight for survival, but the fight to thrive. The pattern is being interrupted. A new fractal is waiting to emerge.
When I -dangerously, like an insurgent- allow myself to audaciously entertain the idea of me thriving, dark and replete in my imperfect too-muchness, I simultaneously open up to a natural knowing of interdependence with the Earth, with the human race, and to them audaciously thriving along with me. I feel the fullness of nurturing relationships that support me, and recognize how I’ve been siphoning my lifeblood to those that want me small, controlled and compliant – so that they can survive.
And what happens when the mindset of survival is examined? We feel closed off, suspicious. Traumatized. Aggression bubbles and simmers, ready to erupt at a moment’s notice. Fears and prejudices are projected out onto the dark ones, the different ones; and if they do not obediently submit to these projections – and even when they do – they are beaten, murdered, tortured, incarcerated.
“Everyone is familiar with the slogan ‘The personal is political’ – not only that what we experience on a personal level has profound political implications, but that our interior lives, our emotional lives are very much informed by ideology. We oftentimes do the work of the state in and through our interior lives. What we often assume belongs most intimately to ourselves and to our emotional life has been produced elsewhere and has been recruited to do the work of racism and repression.”Angela Davis ‘Freedom is a Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement’
I too have been complicit in this decaying status quo. By complacently yet fearfully treading water with my worth, my work, my words and voice, in case I’m offensive, disagreeable, too much or ruffle too many feathers. I’m limping along, surviving, and allowing the virus of soul-colonization to survive.
And when our souls are colonized, we are nothing more than slaves.
Let us reject then the notion of survival as prerequisite for evolution, as bequeathed to us by Charles Darwin. His myopic observations, which paved the way for the eugenics so desired by the Nazis, are here summarized in their full and sinister glory in the front-matter to his celebrated and culture-informing The Origin of Species:
Instead, let us look at the Pain of our collective rage, grief and panic – the Psychopomp that is tenaciously guiding us towards the new pattern of something radical and true: towards that of thriving.