I have spent, what feels like forever, the past two months in just pure processing. Processing my daughter getting ready for a big milestone of starting kindergarten which was both exciting and painful for me... letting go... it forces one to look at fear in a way you sometimes deny, and I had been in denial for a few months leading up to this big shift in our lives. Yes, in the end it's great for her, even for me, but it was painful, and I felt alone in the process.
I know other mothers had gone through the same thing, letting their own children go in this manner, but when you've gone through it, the wisdom of the generations becomes less "yes, I hear your pain, cry if you need to, I am here" and more "eh, you will be fine, don't cry in front of her", because gods forbid I have an emotion, or worse, that my daughter sees my human side at all. Let's deny Self in favor of programming the next generation to deny themselves as well... brilliant.
To say I felt annoyed is an understatement. I haven't really spoken about those moments, nor do I intend to go in depth here. It's personal. Raw. Painful and beautiful and awakening, rolled up with various sharp edges. Still... the timing... letting go... a week before I was to begin distilling the shadow... it was divinely cosmic, I still can't stop shaking my head in awe...
Christopher describes the distillation as a "ritualistic and psychological method of inducing a crisis that can result in a form of shamanic awareness and potential initiation."
I opted to do seven weeks -- which is to say that I am still in the process of my distillation and have the rest of the month to go.
The week leading up to the official start had begun the process. I could feel it in my core, beginning to slowly rattle, and my body's response began to tighten up in fear, in dread, in hope, in excitement, in pain... it was this rollercoaster where up wasn't defined as "good" and down didn't have recognition as "bad"... up was up, down was down... it was just this ride, this indescribable ride where you are acutely aware that there is life going on around you while you can't help but move through this muck that is being rattled through the ride, and you paid for consecutive ride after ride... there is no getting off... even if you begged... and yet you're almost glad for this, to have "rules", to have structure, to have something that is YOU saying this is what you NEED to do, and when the shadow self faces the unease, it must abide, because the aligned you is the one in charge...
"Truth is a failure I cannot accept
Truth would derail you as you wistfully slept
I can't find the answers to the questions unasked
I can't find the strength to reply as you sit there so goddamned relaxed
But you won't be denied... cowardly implied."
I've been listening and singing this song in my head repeatedly since beginning the distillation process. The very first time I heard this song several years ago... I can remember how many points of fear it hit, how many times I caught my breath; how I had to pull over on the side of the road so I could bawl, because this was how I was feeling, so lost in my own personal Truth being a failure I couldn't accept. I still choke up when I hear this song, and I feel my bones begin to shatter slowly because my Truth isn't as aligned as I know it could be.
My friend Jon wrote this song -- I have no idea what his interpretation means, and I'd almost rather not know, my version is what I am battling with... against. It's a battle between Self, between Light and Dark... one aspect of me not being denied, yet which aspect of that Self was in denial was so interchangeable, I couldn't decipher it in the open, and I sometimes denied myself [the truth] asking the questions that I knew would move it... would rattle it...
I saw Christopher the next day after starting the distillation. Committed to teaching a workshop at the Southern New Hampshire Pagan Pride Day, I couldn't back out, despite how much I wanted to. The drive over was excruciating. I was in emotional and spiritual pain... I didn't want to be seen, let alone see anyone. I didn't want to socialize, I didn't want to be anything but in this process, as raw as it was, as ugly as it began, without needing to fulfill commitments. But I did. I went, committed to my commitment, though I attempted to stay fairly hidden, hoping to not talk to anyone, yet Christopher saw me within 2 minutes of being there. The one consolation I told myself to going was that I wouldn't be seeing Christopher, because he would be busy packing for an event. I didn't want to see him because he knows me well -- he knows when I am in my shit, when I am deep in my cave, when it's oblivious to everyone else, he knows, and I didn't want anyone to know.
We had a lovely walk, time spent alone together just talking and being. It was precisely what I needed, and even though we both know how well aware of this process I am, it doesn't make it easy when IN the process. Nor is it supposed to be. I didn't step into this with any notion of it being either difficult or easy... I was stepping into it with open awareness. Was I concerned? Yes. Why?
Because the last time I did some deep distillation... that was the last time I tried to kill myself. That image, that feeling, none of it was far from my mind. It was there, not in front of me, but following me. It wouldn't directly stare me in the face until the second week, where the memories came flooding back, where the air no longer tasted current, but tasted of that air, of that time, during that painful process where life was too much, where everything was too much. I could taste it again, and it scared me... it scared me... it angered me... it shamed me... I was in the boxing ring with no gloves, no bell to tell me when it would be over, and getting my ass kicked, while the sub-personalities around me did nothing but watch, wondering who would emerge victorious, without alliance to either aspect of Self.
"These columns once so sure and sturdy now are crumbling around me
My foundation can't survive unharmed this time
These faced I believed, I mean, the true belief, they always would surround me
Convenient absence of the truth the only crime..."
That particular verse in the song... it felt so prevalent to now, and yet to then as well. In fact, I believe this song came out the month I tried to kill myself. I can't help but associate the two together at times.
My columns felt sure and sturdy, and as the distillation continued, it began to unravel and crumble around me. I didn't want to see anyone, I wanted desperately to withdraw from everyone. And I slowly started to. A habit and pattern I'm not proud of, but when fear arises I run to my cave and hide, until completely forgotten about, and then I emerge, wondering where everyone is.
I've had a lot of well-meaning advice during this process -- and each time I receive it, the angrier I become. Why? Even now I'm just shrugging my shoulders, not entirely sure why, but feeling like it's more for their benefit to say it, to make themselves feel better, than to actually be there, holding space for the dark and the raw and the ugly. I have held that space for another... it's uneasy, it's painful to watch, it's scary at times, but I've been there, because I know what it's like on the other end. You don't want well-meaning advice. You don't want someone to say "just get through this and it will be better later"... fortune cookies have better advice than that!
Ah... but that's my anger emerging. Part of the aspects we are to look at: Anger, Fear, Jealousy and Shame. I had thought Anger and Shame would be most prevalent, and yet I was surprised to see how quick and easy it was to bring up issues of Jealousy. Though it does shift as each day occurs, what floods is amazing, and what feels complete is equally astounding.
I have heard a lot of advice and guidance to look towards the completion of the process... look at how things will be "better" when it's "over"... am I the only person who sincerely thinks this is bullshit advice? However, I don't deny that some people need that thread to hold onto. I used to be one of those people. I needed to believe that things would get better, even recite the Buddhist mantra of "This too shall pass"... but then I started to uncover my need to look at the "better" and when it's "over" threads instead of being in whatever I was in, in that moment, as fully present as I could be, without making it "better", but understanding what it was.
That's how I am approaching this distillation. When it's ugly, it's ugly. I'm not looking at when it will be beautiful, when I will feel Whole... I'm just looking at the ugly. Equally so, when it's phenomenal, I am in that phenomenon. I had an amazing soul retrieval a couple of weeks ago that blew my world open, my foundation really wouldn't survive unharmed this time, because it was built on illusion. The truth absent? That I lied to myself. The bigger truth? That I knew I was lying to myself... and I enjoyed it. I wanted to lie, because I wanted to embrace the illusion, because it was what I told myself I needed at the time.
"We've been rising to a simmer and the smoke can be so thick
We're ever closer to the peak, the altitude can make you sick
The fear of heights is something you must overcome
This elevator won't be stopping 'til the roof
And when it does, nobody leaves, nobody else gets on it...
You won't be denied..."
That one line, "the fear of heights is something you must overcome", gets me every time. The floodgates open, and I see the ultimate Truth there...
Right now, if I had to classify what this distillation is, currently, I would say, comparative to the weeks prior, it's better. Will it finish "better". I don't know. I almost don't care. I don't want to look at the when, crossing off the dates in my calendar until I can say "good, it's done, let's burn the fucking book now"... no, I don't want to jump to that, because then I'm not here, I'm not present, I'm not honestly unveiling the pieces needing, and even asking, to be set free... to let go. The dysfunctional shadow pieces are ready to go... I know this... I'm the one holding them captive, eluding to myself that it's the other way around, even convincing everyone around me that it's them, the dysfunction, when I know it's me, holding and grasping, because letting go means facing who I am... as Marianne Williamson said, we are more frightened by our light than our darkness...
I'm frightened by my Light. I know others see it. They've pointed it out to me, some telling me they wish they could emulate my "wisdom" and "brilliance"... I'm not fully there yet. At least not today. If you had asked me the week following my soul retrieval I felt in the center of Light... I'm in the grey-between. Not good, not bad; not light, not dark; not wanted, not unwanted. Just... here.
Yet, despite, or perhaps in spite, of this distillation process, I am feeling much more attuned to the Mysteries. It's this odd combination of being both within and without. I'm walking a tightrope that doesn't actually exist, and so my perception is split, so I can filter the information slowly. I feel the dynamic of my cellular memory shift, and I feel it traveling through my blood, beyond the streams of my veins, and it's touching more around me than I realize... like everything else does.
Yesterday, in deep contemplation of this process, of these Mysteries, I stepped outside of my place and a butterfly flew within inches of me... in front of me, to the side, stopping a moment as I recognized its deep message, then flew to the ground, where I thanked it for its message and asked if I could take a picture. She fluttered her wings in response, and fluttered her wings when I left, flying closer to me as I left. She had been around for days... yesterday I was more "awake" to recognize her.