The days of dwindling light are officially upon us here in the northern hemisphere. I write to you from a gusty Mojave high desert, where the cooling temperatures are greedily welcomed after another merciless and revelatory summer.
We have just exited the season of the ancient Egyptian goddess, Ma’at – symbolized by the scales of Libra, the constellation in which the sun was recently in residence – and are well on our way towards the renewal of death, the domain of winter.
Ma’at is consort and female counterpart to the scribe-god of magic, science, commerce and communication, Thoth or Tahuti.
As the deity of balance and justice – depicted in the scales of Libra – Ma’at represents an ordered type of beauty and symmetry.
Along with Thoth, Osiris – god-king of the Underworld – and other figures, Ma’at was present at the important mythic ritual of the weighing of the heart or soul.
When a person died, their soul – symbolized by the organ of the heart – was placed on one end of a set of scales. On the other end was placed the feather of Ma’at, an ostrich feather which adorned her head. If the heart was heavier than the feather, the person was not permitted to pass on to the afterlife, known as the Field of Reeds.
A heart not as light as the feather of Ma’at would be devoured by the ferocious-looking Amenti – a god with the face of a crocodile, the front of a leopard and the back of a rhinoceros – fittingly referred to as “the Gobbler”. There was no hellfire, damnation and suffering for the ancient Egyptians; simply a reabsorption of the soul back into the primordial state of undifferentiated non-beingness through the portal of Amenti’s jaws.
And what of this light-as-a-feather-heart-soul?
How might one achieve such a feat after the relentless grasping, aversion, complaining and controlling of human existence?
This poem by the much-loved Sufi mystic and poet, Rumi comes to mind when I ponder the feather-lightness which is the soul’s essence:
Out Beyond Ideas
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’doesn’t make any sense.
Have you ever allowed yourself to experience this? In your body, I mean. Not simply as an intellectual abstraction.
Is it too much to bear, the felt-sense truth of it? Do you close it down, shut it off as irrational, dangerous hogwash.
If your body were the great golden scales who housed your heart-soul, which had been colonized into abandoning itself through engaging with sin, suffering and demagogic mono-narratives of right and wrong beyond anything more than the play-dance of flirting, spiralling polarities, how heavy would your heart weigh when it looked across and remembered that its essence was light as a feather all along?
And would you not then welcome the fierce gobbler Amenti and his sharp teeth, and the return back into the depths of non-being.
The sensational lightness of being can truly be unbearable.
But – I hear you object – what about wrondoings like murder and torture and genocide and all of the horrific atrocities and injustices that we humans perpetrate on each other?
How can a heart be light as a feather after witnessing and experiencing all of that?
Yes, quite. The prospect of staying lighthearted seems undoubtedly impossible given the plethora of heavy suffering one has to endure in a given human life.
Here, a bold request.
For the sake of experimentation and play, I ask you to put aside for a few moments all your beliefs about being a good, right and morally upstanding person whom the world and other people have wronged in all manner of ways.
Also, momentarily put aside the self-righteous abhorrence you harbour towards all the bad and evil people, all the people who are not like you, who don’t make the same choices as you, or do good and worthy things in the world like you do.
Fear not. None of these precious things are going anywhere, you can pick them all back up when we’re done. They’re yours (until you decide that they’re not).
We’re just playing here.
Now: focus on your body as much as you can. This isn’t an easy thing to do if you’re unused to it, as many people are. That’s ok – there’s no perfection here, only play.
Drop your awareness into your body. Notice where it goes. You may be feeling uncomfortable or annoyed or numb or thinking that this is dumb.
Just feel whatever is going on as the physical sensation. Notice your mind giving you all the reasons and judgments about how you’re feeling.
Don’t judge yourself back for this; instead hold open a space of noticing.
Gently, without coercion, keep bringing your awareness back to your physical sensations – which also includes a lack of sensation, or numbness.
Can you allow them to be?
Instead of trying to fix them or get rid of them or make them into something different than they are, can you instead make space and afford them the dignity to exist in your body, just as they are, right now?
Can you find it in yourself to relate to them, with compassion, curiosity and no small amount of courage?
What I mean is – can you be with yourself as you are, right now, without abandoning yourself and your experience with judgments of wrong and bad?
Stay with the sensations for as long as you are called to – there’s no need to suffer through this.
Take a few breaths and thank yourself for this radical gift of true attention that you’ve given yourself – without agenda or controlling or manipulating.
What did it feel like to open up some space – however imperfectly – for yourself, for your body’s neglected language?
Was there a lightness and an openness there?
Perhaps not. And that’s fine. This can take time – the practice of witnessing oneself is an art in this unforgiving age of distraction, numbing and fear-driven reactivity.
If you did experience the lightness of space opening up for yourself – however fleetingly – would you be open to entertaining the notion that this is the essence – the heart – of you, who has been witnessing you and loving you your whole life, unconditionally, through all of the wrongdoings and rightdoings?
Would you be open to considering that the thoughts, sensations, feelings, emotions that you experience are the passing phenomena of your life? The wild, sensational wealth of your lived experience? And that always, out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is this loving presence watching, witnessing, adoring the allness of you and your life?
Maybe you’re thinking that that was a pleasant little excursion – but what about all the actual bad people doing bad things?
This can be equated to physicist David Bohm’s implicate order – from which arises the explicate order of manifest reality.
In order for phenomena to arise from the (collective) unconscious/implicate order, consciousness needs to interact with it.
If the nature and quality of (collective) consciousness is founded on silencing and repressing what it has been colonized into fearing and judging as bad and wrong, then the unconscious becomes seeded with exactly that – the quality of bad and wrong. Bad and wrong is the DNA of the seed.
And that is the nature of what manifests in the explicate order/collective consciousness, which continues to judge and be judged bad and wrong, and on it goes.
As Jung famously and accurately observed:
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Murderers, rapists, racists and the countless shades of “bad” people that there are in the world were children once. What they were taught to shame, repress and silence in themselves and in the world took root in their bodies, in the rich soil of their unconscious.
And from that springs the plethora of pathologized behaviour.
If instead they – and the generations that came before them – had been taught to come into relationship with the diverse biodiversity of their inner worlds, perhaps the prospect of having feather-light hearts wouldn’t be such an outlandish notion.
Because when you can open up to relating – to yourself, to each other – free from fear, control and judgment – what needs to be resolved is given the space to resolve itself in its own authentic way.
As a beloved teacher of mine, Carolyn Elliott, observes with her trademark lightning clarity, if disapproving and judging worked, we would all have disapproved our way back to paradise a long time ago.
The Nazis were a shining example of what the apex of judging, disapproving and cancelling can look like.
It’s not too late though. We can start on ourselves where we are- which is always the only place there is to start anyway.
To be clear: this is not about approving of horrific acts.
Instead – it’s about recognizing that we are all not only fundamentally deserving and worthy of love, but that we are Love, playing as embodied points of consciousness, experiencing ourselves and each other.
“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”
– Mother Teresa
The frequency – or quality – of the energy that we plant and gestate in the implicate order of ourselves and the world is what is created. And although Mother Teresa was an imperfect human – like all of us – few can doubt the enduring worth and legacy of her work.
It comes down to this – the sensations and feelings that we cannot make space for and come into relationship with in our bodies, the parts of our experience that we are “anti” – the current of Life through us – become the very things we end up spewing out into the world.
Making space and coming into relationship does not mean acting out every impulse that moves through us. Quite the opposite. Acting out every impulse is also a way of abandoning ourselves – much like giving in to a child’s every tantrum and demand to avoid being present with them and their discomfort.
Instead: become a vast, open field of reeds for yourSelf, for your right-now experience. And allow the loving Mystery that you are to reveal themSelf from here.
If you’re drawn to engaging with this sort of alchemical play in a container and community dedicated to it, you’ll you might be interested in exploring my new offering: ROOT + RISE
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