From death to rebirth – a cycle of how to change
I have just returned from being in the desert for nearly 2 weeks. What got me into the desert this time, was the courage of 10 individuals. They had participated on a collective yet personal journey, to consciously change. By embarking on a relationship with death and learning as a consequence, how to change. It does requires courage, to face death this way. To build a relationship with it, rather than just waiting for it happen or living with the fear of it. Aptly, the desert landscape that we all gathered in, was Death Valley California.
Three years ago I had been one of the participants, consciously encountering death, in order that I could change some aspects of how I was living. The effects of which are still reverberating today, which is good, was necessary and has brought adventure into my life. In this way, the experience is the art and practice of living and dying. This time, I was part of the guiding team of five, I was volunteering too. I am myself a guide, offering what is known as a Vision Fast or Vision Quest. This experience, is in fact a pan-cultural ceremony, often used as a rites of passage or as part of an initiation. Meaning, it is about changing times or how to change and bring those changes into our lives. It’s also about thresholds and choice.
It is an opportunity to experience a different type of time. To spend four days and nights alone, fasting with only water and with little or no shelter. With only nature and the inherent you getting yourself through. This isn’t normal time.
There are such experiences in our lives when we may well need to participate in such a difference experience of time itself. It may be that a mammoth shift has occurred, such as grief, redundancy, divorce or that change simply needs to happen. That doing life as you have done it, simply wont work anymore. In our modern lives we have lost touch with the way that death is part of the cycle of living. Often we have forgotten how to let go. If we don’t know how or it is challenging to let go, we cannot give in to truth and then move onto something different and new. We also forget how and when to pause.
For this is one of the messages of death, metaphorically speaking. That there is a necessity and an eventual sweetness, in the letting go that dying brings. When we finally say… I’m going to stop doing that now, it’s not working anymore, I’m making room for something new…
Holding on to past events or relationships, even grabbing life, does not really allow for this natural ebb and flow. Death shows us how to change. There are natural ‘deaths’, in life, like child to adolescent to adult to elder. Just as the summer dies to the autumn, as does the autumn to winter. This is a natural rhythm and cycle of birth, life, death and then rebirth, of which we are part.
The 10 courageous souls that went into Death Valley had each spent months preparing to die to the life that they had been living. They wanted to be as if, reborn. To consciously choose the life they had dreamt years before or that they dreamed when they were, ‘out there’. What happens when we are out there alone in nature and especially in the state of fasting, is that nature offers us a different perspective on how our worlds really are. We get an opportunity to dare to actively use our imagination too. In short, we simply get what we need when we go into the wilderness.
It doesn’t have to be so wild either, so extreme. Sitting alone in a circle of stones for 24 hours and fasting maybe all that is required, to receive a vision of what needs to be changed or what has changed.
The first time I fasted, I made three wooden beads, one a day. I whittled wood and gave myself blisters as I created holes from a piece of beech I found in my rucksack. I didn’t know I was going to do this until I was out there, making one bead for each child. I was celebrating 16 years of motherhood, something I had not acknowledged to myself with such significance.
How to change through ceremony
The power of the ceremony and the seeming magic of the land itself, continually has me awe struck as to how effective it can be to facilitate change or mark it. It mirrors clearly what is actually going on inside us. This ceremony in particular, allows us to mark significant times in our lives and create space for new adventures. In this specific fast, the group gathered to face death specifically, such a collective intention has phenomenal power. As one participant said “as I listen to your stories I also hear of part of my own that I needed to hear, thank you”.
For me it was a humbling and a life affirming experience to witness. I am grateful too, that I experienced the rebirth of Spring in the ways I did. My eyes got to see the majestic vastness of this intense, wild landscape and my spirit got to soar, just like the desert hawks.