Standing Stark: The Willingness to Engage by Carla Woody @CarlaWoody1

Chapter One:
Origins

And so we begin, as all human beings do, in space, expressed by a word, permeated by time. Time is a suggestion we swallowed to hold our world together—creating a kind of comfort, but also terror in the false knowing that what passes has a beginning, a middle and an end. We invented words as conductors for experience, but language is meaningless to the intricate nuances of existence. We collectively convinced ourselves that the ground where we stand is solid matter, when the only foundation we truly have we cannot physically touch.

At the soul level, we long to move beyond what is human-made to That which is not. We hope to know the deeper realms of a reality that the everyday eye may have experienced solely through fleeting glimpses—of what it cannot determine. We seek to be promised what we may only have scented wafting through the permeable walls from another dimension. We desire to be inspired by what has stirred our bodies in unknown places with hints of rapture. We ask for the sign when the gift has already been given.

There is an old Taoist story of parents watching their child as she sleeps next to them. In her sleeping state, the child moans and frets. She twists in discomfort. The parents cannot help their child no matter how much she hurts. If the child would awaken, she would see that the suffering is nothing but a dream.

The mind is the charioteer of experience, while the body is the vehicle that carries out the orders of its driver. The gift we have been given is the one called possibility, whose intent offers to tie all together, creating strands of a whole life rather than a disintegrated one. The gift we have been granted is what throws light into dark places. The gift held out to us has always been present. But accepting the gift has a price—courage. It is an undying courage that allows any of us to whip the dream horse and startle awakening.

The Larger Life

Once, during a retreat, I guided the participants through a meditation and afterwards asked each of them to write an archetypal narrative of their individual lives based upon the imagery they had experienced. Through this process, I was fortunate to witness in them shifts of consciousness, tears of release, the dawning of understanding, or even non-understanding, and yet still an opening. While I consider myself a great risk-taker, what I facilitate with others first comes out of my own experience. I knew that if these individuals could encounter themselves through mythological patterning and gain a higher perspective, it would touch something that dwells within us collectively.

Some time ago, I went on a backpacking trip into a beautiful canyon. While I had been “car camping” a number of times in the last years, that was my first backpacking experience. I had been cautioned by my companion to pack lightly for the trip since I would carry it all on my back. Every item that went into the pack, or hung from it, involved a mindful decision on my part toward my later comfort. Even so, when we arrived at the place where we finally left the car and I put the full weight of the pack on my back for the first time, I wondered how I would ever make it with the load. I nearly fell over backwards. It took many adjustments before I felt I could carry the weight of my baggage.

Descending the long and rocky, twisting trail, I found I had to be very focused on placing my feet to keep myself upright. After what seemed like an age, we finally reached relatively flat ground and trudged along a path. But it had been a couple of years since my companion had been in the area. Since that time, something natural, or not so natural, had caused the trail he knew so well to disappear. It had been rerouted. He wasn’t exactly sure where we were, although he thought we were going the right way. I had been blindly following him — trusting, if you will — while the majority of my attention was taken up with the increasingly uncomfortable burden on my back. I was becoming slightly on edge at the lack of clear direction. Then I became alarmed!

When we rounded what passed for the trail, I realized that if we were to go farther we would have to cross what looked to me like a river with nothing more than irregularly placed stones to step on to the other side. While my companion moved nimbly across as though his feet had wings and his back only held a feather, I stood paralyzed. I tried to calculate my path, one stone to the other. All looked perilous to me. I took a step and felt myself becoming even more unbalanced, the heaviness of my burden wanting me to fall backwards and be “swept” away. In the middle of the “river,” I couldn’t move. I felt terror.

My companion later told me that before his eyes he saw me turn into a frightened child. What I experienced had all the signs of a phobia, previously unrealized. I felt literally glued to the unsteady rock on which I was standing. Without a word and still with an air of respect, my companion came back across the stream and offered his hand to guide me, even putting himself in some danger by leaning far out so that I would feel safer.

This lesser traveled path being what it was, we actually had to cross waters like that two additional times before we came to the campsite he had in mind. Over a particularly dicey crossing, my companion took both of our packs with him at once so that I could make my way in slightly less fear. Needless to say, I felt enormous relief to reach our resting place of a few days, which interestingly enough required yet another stream crossing. In order to hike or photograph in some of the places we went, I still had to make a crossing. Having come over the worst of it, I found that without the heaviness of my pack I was almost able to leap across when I chose.

Eventually, we had to leave and head home. This time, though, the pack seemed lighter to me and somehow more stable. While the food we had carried in was indeed absent, there was something else that had not been present that made the pack seem more a part of me—confidence. So, on the way back when we mistakenly got off the track and ended up walking some distance in a dry riverbed of big rounded rocks, I was merely hot and a little frustrated. I did, however, have my eye peeled for rattlesnakes lurking. When the streams had to be crossed, I traversed them more confidently, only getting a little uneasy once. Even though my companion had warned me that the final hike up the canyon would be arduous, when it actually came it seemed more an act of focused attention.

After we returned to the car and shed our packs, he came to stand in front of me and said, “I wasn’t going to say anything while we were down there, but I’m proud of you.” Later, when we were driving homeward he asked me if I had gotten any stories for writing during our days out. I had mentioned to him previously that my travels usually brought me most of my writing ideas. I told him then that I wasn’t sure. It was only a few days later when it occurred to me that once again I had lived the age-old story and he had been a required part of it. It’s a story we all live to different degrees. The challenge we incur is to realize it.

At some time in our lives, we receive a signal to arouse from a deep sleep. If we answer the cue, we set out on a journey toward authenticity that takes us into the unknown. We begin to separate from the selves we thought we were and search for who we are. Along the way, we encounter demons that attempt to derail us. Most often, these demons come when we least expect it and from hidden places. But just when we think we will die in battle, a helping hand appears in the form of a guide. This partnership helps to give us strength. Somewhere along the way, we release something. We find that strength is the mufti that we can wear more and more easily, so that when an unexpected turn takes us deeper into the wilderness, our inner and outer alliances assist us in finding the way. Through this newfound valor, we initiate ourselves. Finally returning home from the journey, we find a community that applauds our courage. It is then this support, as well as inner guidance that allows us to take the next trek.

Re-membering

In Calling Our Spirits Home, I laid out the phases of the evolutionary process people tend to go through in their spiritual awakening and continuing travels, illustrating it with ordinary people’s stories as examples. It’s a model through which I now work with others and call The Re-membering Process. The hyphen in Re-membering is intended. My sense is that it’s the soul’s journey in this life to forget almost immediately who we are, become encrusted with society’s and our family’s of origin programming and then, at some point, to spend the rest of our lives rediscovering our own true nature. This is the universal way of the soul’s learning.

To explicitly recount the phases, we must first wake up, or experience a Sparking. This arousal state may take place because we realize that we’re feeling out of sorts. Something doesn’t quite fit. But more often, we’re so soundly asleep that the Universe pushes us into wakefulness through such crises as loss of various sorts, or health challenges.

Once we’re past the rubbing-our-eyes stage and can look around, we wonder how much of ourselves we had been giving away. In other words, what kind of false life had we been living while being untrue to who we are? We then go through Separation. This is a process of detaching from the old self, the one who had been lured into, or opted for, forgetting. At this point, if we are savvy enough, we will begin to question life beliefs we unconsciously ingested. If we truly make it through this stage, we will find ourselves making moves. These changes can be dramatic or subtle. They can cover the gamut from moving geographically to terminating jobs to severing relationships. At the same time, none of these things may happen. The Separation may possibly have little outward manifestation and go unnoticed by others. However, an intense discomfort may be experienced inside, enough so that a crack in consciousness begins to occur.

Separation is often a very challenging phase to transition through because everything within ourselves and around us is fighting to keep us where we have been. It’s the robust energy of the status quo.

If the core desire to be true to ourselves and live an authentic life is profound enough, it will override homeostasis and propel us into the Search. Here we are bent on discovering who we really are and what seems right. In the Search, we may move through communities of people and places, a plethora of spiritual traditions, sample various careers and partake of diverse healing modalities. It’s a sorting process that begins to give us grounding after the destabilization of Separation.

If we perform the tasking well, eventually we will find what rings true for who we are at a core level. When that happens the deepening process of Initiation occurs. This is a blessing that we unconsciously or consciously perform for ourselves, recognizing we have found home base. As who we are and what we are about in the world settles in, an integration transpires inside that gives us strength for the next part of the journey.

The Re-entry segment is often equally as challenging as Separation was. This is the point where we are ultimately aware that we have been through a deepening process, and to complete the circle we must return to the world with our new and more authentic identities. We have gifts to share with others, even if only indirectly through role modeling what is possible. Here we find that most people are too sleepy to notice, or actively turn their backs and refuse our gifts. But once in a while, someone gives a glimmer of interest and perhaps awareness. And we realize that we are sliding back into the world, even if only piecemeal, until we one day find ourselves firmly in place.

The ultimate joke of the journey is that, after a while, we begin to yawn and slip once more into a kind of oblivion. However, the sleep this time isn’t so deep and we increasingly arouse from the slumber more easily. Having been over similar ground before, we now carry much more alertness and vigor for what lays ahead in the landscape.

The Re-membering Process is not necessarily linear, but within the confines of a model is most easily presented thus. In reality, there is little that is truly linear about human beings. Therefore, we may find ourselves going back and forth between two or three phases, usually only dealing with one or two contexts of life at a time, and we may unfortunately get stuck in the process. But as we are able to complete the journey, even in just one aspect of our lives, it creates an infusion to the Core Self. It transmits a strength and wisdom that allows the peeling away of the layers to become much more fluid than any previous stop/start irregularity. And deep down we know this is the path we are meant to take over and over again.

As we choose to plumb the depths of the layering, we sometimes enter an even darker forest. Just because it’s darker doesn’t mean it’s frightening, although it can sometimes be quite unsettling. It’s just that the ways through are more hidden, sometimes shrouded intentionally in mystery by the Universe, meant solely for those who persevere toward finding the guidance that will light the way. That’s part of the test identifying intent and durability.

We don’t meet as many fellow travelers who have opted for this little-worn path. Discernment toward the helping hands proffered may be confusing. Indeed, assistance may even seem invisible or nonexistent. We then know we are traveling the way that leads toward a mystic’s life. We must now learn an entirely new form of relating to find the signposts that have been there all along.

The Psyche’s Transmission

The impelling momentum of discoveries in the various fields of science in recent years is increasingly bringing that objective field closer and closer into alignment with the subjective realm of spirituality. From the documentation of energy fields and the permeability of all matter to the seemingly endless expanse of the Cosmos, such findings are blowing our tightly held worlds apart with a velocity that creates cognitive dissonance in many.

By focusing on a tiny spot in the far sky, present technology has allowed us to gaze into the further reaches of the Cosmos to countless other galaxies beyond our own. This awe-inspiring look at the vastness of existence can create a real elevation in awareness. It shows the wider mystery beyond religious dogma. It can allow us all to realize, in some ways, what a small part indeed we play in this universe. It can throw into question the very meaning of our individual presences on this plane. It can generate a wider perspective as to the importance that we each place on the mundane worries of our lives. It begs the question of how we may see ourselves as a microcosm of this vast macrocosm. It deals the anxiety: what can we cling to in this grand layering of consciousness?

The questions that come with this newfound awareness may undulate into our psyches and throw the meaning of our lives back in our faces. Within such a grand scheme, we may now taunt ourselves if we had grandiose ideas about making a difference in this world within countless other worlds. With so many possibilities and probable universes, the ultimate trick of our ego selves is to lend us navigation reins toward things we think we can somehow control when it’s the role of our higher consciousness to teach us what we cannot manipulate.

What a gift science is to us that it could continually squash all we thought we knew about the nature of reality. Rather than destroying us, it can create much freedom. It could allow freedom from the square inch of our daily lives, which we grasp tenaciously in our fists. It encourages a journey into the much larger existence.

If we set aside religious credos, but examine the common theme across all traditions, especially from ancient eras, we can become aware of the thread that holds strong across space and time. The essence of creation stories and mythologies is the same. These are aspects of human existence that remain unchanged, presented in such ways as Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey and discussed here through The Re-membering Process.

We all have the need to understand why and how we are here. In that effect, scientists are the proselytizers of this new religion called quantum physics. But the responsibility resides with each of us to make sense of it for our own lives. It isn’t the role of the quantum physicist to act as the intermediary for our souls any more than it is for any sanctioned holy person to do so. To place that offering at someone else’s feet is a cop-out. So, we are left with the question of how to find meaning in universes that are too expanded for the limited ways we use our minds and the dissolution of many centuries’ worth of theological indoctrination.

The answer lies with the Core Self and the mythological patterning hardwired into our very DNA. Mirrored time and again in nearly every tale we hear to which we resonate clearly, archetypal guidance is contained within stories and legends throughout time. It is this foundation that we can call upon to provide the valor to continue unflinchingly on life’s travels.

It is our own microcosmic journey that gives life meaning and weaves us into the macrocosm of existence. Life does begin with each of us. It then expands outward to touch others with how we live. The question then is no longer about purpose, but the quality of being and our authenticity within it.

StandingStark

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Genre – Nonfiction, Spirituality

Rating – PG

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