Inside the chrysalis
I’m a planner and I like to know what is coming. I’m now having to learn to live without this certainty, making decisions week by week rather than have my whole year scheduled out in front of me. Here in the UK it’s an unsettled time with chaos erupting around us every day. It’s a difficult time for many people with their jobs uncertain, families having to live, work and study in the same house, and our usual methods of escape from the day to day closed of from us. Even if things are OK with our personal circumstances, I believe each of us are being affected unconsciously at some level with what’s going on.
It is an unsettling place to be. Our country now finds itself in a state of limbo. We are collectively in what Charles Eisenstein calls the space in-between stories, as one story falls away and another one is yet to form.
I liken this phase we are in as the pupa stage of the lifecycle of a butterfly.
The story of the caterpillar is clear to see. It eats and eats, grows bigger and bigger until it can no longer eat or grow any more. The story of the butterfly is clear too, as it emerges with wings and flies away in all its beauty, to add grace to the world wherever it chooses to fly. But what happens in the in-between phase between caterpillar and butterfly, inside the chrysalis, in the darkness that is hidden from the eye?
Well, the caterpillar forms the chrysalis right after it has gorged itself, and inside the hard casing it dissolves into a gooey liquid mess. It has no form; the caterpillar is a soup of its former self. This sounds like our current situation doesn’t it? A gooey liquid mess and soup of its former self?
From the outside looking in it might look like that the game is over for the caterpillar. However, what is actually happening inside that chrysalis is an incredible process of transformation taking place. Within this caterpillar liquid there are what are called imaginal cells. These cells have ideas on what can come next, and they inform the other cells around them. Through this process, new cells form in the shape of a butterfly, they move through the goo to where they need to be, and over time eventually something new and far more beautiful is created. It can be a quick process taking a few weeks, and it can be a long process, up to two years in the case of some species.
I like to think of people on the shamanic path as being those imaginal cells. We take our guidance from the non-ordinary and the extraordinary. We listen to the natural flow of the earth and bend our ear to the wind to hear messages from the quiet ones as to where we need to be, just as our distant ancestors would have done. We look up towards the sky and call in the old ones looking down from above, just as our distant ancestors would have done. We recognise that in times of turbulence and change our conscious minds only serve as limiting us to thinking of what is possible. We recognise that we need to stop thinking and start imagining.
When I worked as a sustainability manager within the corporations, we would do a lot of visioning, or dreaming, as part of our business planning. I would give out colouring pens and pencils and A3 pieces of paper and ask the managers to draw what they saw as a sustainable world where we were kind to the earth and each other. I would then ask them to speak out what they had drawn, and we would build a picture in our minds together. It was a great exercise and yet what I have come to realise over recent years is that we were limiting our ideas to what our conscious minds could see.
When we drop into the unconscious we are tuning in with the infinite. Anything is possible. Our way of shifting consciousness in The Way of the Buzzard is through journeying on the drum. The role of the shaman is to go to the other realties and bring back the energies and wisdoms most needed at the time, and we can do this by shifting our consciousness through journeying. This has been carried out for tens of thousands of years by our ancestors. So how can it help us now?
Well we can literally journey to the Otherworlds to dream a new world into being.
Alberto Villoldo speaks all about this in his book Courageous Dreaming, it’s one of my favourite shamanic books. I came upon it early in my spiritual explorations and have read many times. Here is what Villoldo says about courageously dreaming in the first few pages of his book:
“The nature of the cosmos is such that whatever vision you have about yourself and the world will become reality. As soon as you awaken to the power you have, you begin to flex the muscles of your courage.
You can then dream bravely: letting go of your limiting beliefs and pushing past your fear. You can start to come up with a truly original dream that germinates in your soul and bears fruit in your life.”
Through shamanic journeying, when we act out in our lives the advice we receive in the Otherworld, we are those imaginal cells inside the chrysalis.
The view from above
Courageous dreaming is the process of taking the view of an eagle. Although there are birds that can fly higher than the eagle, these are migratory birds who fly up into the jet stream. The eagle is the bird who can fly the highest and look down on the landscape from a high perspective.
From this perspective the eagle can see the big picture. It can scan the horizon, and yet it can also zoom in and see the detail down below. It is a gift to be able to see things from both these viewpoints.
Taking an eagle’s eye view, we can see we are divided as a nation over the Covid-19 pandemic in so many ways, and this has been brought on by poor leadership. I believe it serves our government to have us divided so we point the finger and fight with each other. To counter this, I try to occupy both views around the pandemic. I am of the view that this is a contagious virus which puts the vulnerable at risk, and as I have family members in the vulnerable group as well as a large part of our The Way of the Buzzard community, I will continue to err on the side of caution with actions and decisions I make.
As the government releases lockdown measures, in my opinion ahead of time, I will not change my behaviour around coming into close contact with people. But I sympathise with people who are in a very different situation than me and understand why they may feel differently. Grandparents who have grandchildren they desperately want to see. Parents with children who need to go back to school. Families who are struggling to live in close confinement together. People who own businesses that are on the brink of going into administration.
I also have concerns about the legislation which has been passed quickly which removed our rights to freedom and am worried about the proposed methods of tracking our movements, not necessarily for now but the precedent this might set for the future as our government finds more and more ways of controlling us.
Pause and emergence
With all that said however, my belief is that this prolonged pause is giving us the opportunity to consider that there is something different awaiting us on the other side. I can see hope of this in the actions of other countries, and New Zealand in particular continues to be a source of inspiration for me. In New Zealand they are considering a four-day working week to help stimulate the economy as more time off will mean people will spend more money on leisure. In Spain they are considering a universal basic income, and Netherlands are moving towards what is called an economic doughnut model.
Now I am not too well read up on any of these alternative approaches; I used to be when I had a career in sustainability, but I don’t get involved too much in this now and leave this to the economists. However, I am aware that there are other economic models out there. What is clear is the current one doesn’t work, so it is encouraging to hear that there are other models that are going to be tried by other countries. Our government is hell bent on keeping with the old, as it is a system which serves the few, and has proven to serve the few for a long time. But I wonder if its time has come and we will finally see the old way fall away? I hope so.
During lockdown I have been writing my first book which I started at the beginning of the year. I have been immersed in 19th century Victorian London these past few months and seeing the atrocities a right-wing government inflicted upon the people during the land grabs, when millions flocked to the cities for a life of misery, and where the following six generations have been impacted.
The oppression and control systems which were in operation then are still here now, and we can see it so clearly in how our government is choosing to act through these early months of the pandemic, continually putting the economy before the people, leading us to have the second highest death rate in the world. I was inspired by the president of Ghana when he said, .
“We know how to bring the economy back to life. What we do not know is how to bring people back to life”
Our countries preference of economy over people is having a hard light shone upon it. Last week saw the three-year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, and yet still there are thousands of people living in shoddily clad tower blocks exposed to the same risk as those people who paid the ultimate price of landlords not investing in improving accommodation. Putting profits over people is a topic close to my heart as my ancestors suffered terribly because of this exact same rhetoric. And these past few weeks we have seen the eruption of the protests about how coloured people are treated, going right back to the atrocities of the slave trade. It is a difficult time to be alive, watching all of this happening, but it’s throwing it up into the light where it needs to be seen. When it is pushed down it won’t change.
These are going to be continually rocky times and I have noticed how I am being affected. I am going out less even though many of the lockdown restrictions have been lifted. I am struggling as I’m missing those things I would normally be doing now to relax: camping and adventurous holidays around the British Isles. Those doors are largely closed off to me now, and it can be tempting to just sit in limbo and wait it out. But what if that is going to be a couple of years, rather than the couple of months that our governments seem to be leading us into thinking? Would we sit in limbo like this if we knew this was going to be our life for the next year or so, perhaps more?
Finding new ways
It has been a strange time not being able to get together in person, and yet what we have found through our work in The Way of the Buzzard community is that lockdown hasn’t meant being locked down. We have stretched our imagination and found new ways of connecting in with each other through the online world, and the results I have found to be extraordinary.
When we meet online together, the connection is in many ways as powerful as being in the same room. My mind forgets that there are many miles between us, in some cases many thousands of miles as we have people joining in from countries all around the world, from Australia and New Zealand to Canada and the United States. We are able to get a sense of community in a way I didn’t think was possible a few years ago.
This reminds me of something the Kogi people said which is captured in the book The Elder Brothers’ Warning. The Kogi people are an ancient tribal community who still exist, largely cut off from the modern world, in South America, in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. They consider themselves the Guardians of the heart of the earth and elder brothers to the non-indigenous outsiders, us, whom they call the younger brothers, and to whom they have said these words:
“We are now living outside of the laws of nature where nature is now turning against man and becoming the enemy. Climate change is the consequence of the fact that man is operating outside the laws of life and laws of nature, law of the balance of the world. And doing so will destroy the balance.”
They are an extraordinary culture who have extraordinary ways of communicating between each other and with the Otherworlds. They say that telepathy is one of the lowest forms of communication. This tells me that there are many ways to communicate with each other, with physical contact being just one on them. Our mind is an incredibly powerful and clever thing, and what lockdown has taught me is that other ways of connecting in with each other are not only possible, they are powerful.
Something special does happen when we are together online. On paper it doesn’t look like it will, but it does.
We asked our Space to Emerge online community how they felt before and after our Beltane online retreat weekend. Many people who came along said that before the weekend they felt lost, disconnected, down, confused, anxious, emotional, stuck, low and flat. Afterwards they felt lighter, joyful, uplifted, energised, fulfilled, elated, inspired, hopeful, rejuvenated, confident, reconnected, enlightened, focused, whole, balanced, peaceful, restored, stronger, nurtured and exhilarated. This is the power of coming together in adverse times.
I see our government putting out false hopes, opening up the country before it is time. I have read headlines earlier this spring saying we will be death free by the 4th August and that there might be 30 million vaccines for COVID-19 by September. This is what we want to hear, that things are going to go back to normal, and quickly. Today as I write this the shops are being opened back up again and people are queuing for hours to get a slice of what they see as normal back in their lives.
But are we? Are we going back to normal? What if that isn’t possible? And for many, those who are vulnerable, they aren’t able to risk going back to normal. What if this is our new normal for another year? At least through to the other side of winter. How long can we sit in this space of limbo? And what else might there be for us to hope for in the coming six months and beyond? And who was happy with normal anyway? Speaking with people these last few months there are many things that they hope to close the door on for good about our old normal.
Dreaming at the Solstice
So, what would we like our new world to look like? This is where our Summer Solstice online retreat weekend ame in. On the Saturday night at the time when the Solstice sun is setting, we courageously dreamt. Through shamanic journeying together we went to the field the great Sufi poet Rumi wrote about in the 13th century through this poem:
“Out beyond ideas of right and wrongdoing.
I’ll meet you there
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”
The Solstice is the time when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. It is a time of heightened energy, of celebration, of reclaiming our power, of drawing on our inner courage.
So, it was a time for us to think big: to occupy the place of those imaginal cells within the pupa and dream a new world into being. To go into our imaginations, into the Otherworld, and bring back a vision for the future. Then to set the intention that we are up for whatever role we are to have in bringing this into reality.
Can it work?
I have experienced this for myself, and so yes it can work. About ten years ago I went into crisis. Working in sustainability in corporations, if a person cares and feels, I think it is impossible not to go into crisis. It was my job to scan the horizon and tell the company I worked for what was in store: to predict where the environmental risks were that were coming up ahead that could affect the business.
I struggled because I could see climate change coming, and yet when I explained this the business wasn’t prepared to respond because the impacts weren’t going to be immediate. It might be ten years, even twenty years or more and there wasn’t the immediacy that they needed in order to respond to climate change straight away. My response to their lack of response was that I went into a panic; I felt the fear as if it were happening right there and then. It sent me into a depression and ultimately after several years to finding my way out of that job and that career.
I, like so many of you reading this, felt that the answers to the predicament humanity finds itself in is out in nature, and in the spiritual realms. In nature everything seems to make sense. I feel much calmer and have a different perspective of what is going on in the world.
I followed the shamanic path, connecting in with nature and deepening into my spirituality. On the other side, after a big shake-up in my life I found myself in a place where I felt a purpose once again and had complete control of my own time and how I chose to spend my days. It was through a process of imagining that I got to this place: imagining what world I wanted to live in and then working to create that world around me. I had direction, even though I didn’t know where the path was leading me exactly, or what was up ahead in the immediate future. I learnt that I just needed to see the next step ahead, and so long as I had trust in the process, in my spiritual connection, and my ability to hear my inner guidance and the messages from my spirit guides, I would get to where my soul wanted me to be.
When I left that professional career and the corporate world it looked from the outside that I was going crazy. It didn’t make any sense in my head, but it felt so right in my body. On paper it was madness, but inside me, in the depths of myself I felt I had no other option but to close that door and step out on ground where I could only see the next step in front of me.
Now, in a topsy-turvy world I have firm ground beneath my feet when the world is looking shaky. If I was still a sustainability manger I would mostly likely be up for redundancy soon. I have seen the pattern before. If I had my own consultancy, I would not be getting any more contracts. But I am neither. I followed my heart, my gut instinct, and the messages from nature and from my spirit guides through shamanic journeying, and I am in an unusual position where I carry on earning an income working from home through an online business Jason and I set up a few years ago. We fall through all the loopholes for government support during this pandemic, and so we are entirely on our own, but it’s working. It blows my mind that all of a sudden, what didn’t seem like a very good idea ten years ago is actually quite a brilliant one today.
Finding the power
The system in the UK is set up to make us believe that we do not have any power. It is a struggle between those with power, the minority, and those who are powerless. But are we powerless? I don’t feel powerless. I feel empowered every day, as long as I am careful how much I listen to the news. I feel empowered as long as I keep my focus on building something new rather than standing in amongst the tower of civilisation crumbling around me.
Now is the time to work at developing ways to feel more connected to the world, the real world. To learn ways to connect with nature, and to connect with the spirit realm. This is where the answers lie, for each and every one of us.
At the beginning of this blog I spoke of being in the space in-between stories. There are two worlds, two stories happening right now. There is the old world that is crumbling away around us, and the new world which is emerging. When I worked in the corporations it was exhausting. I was in the old world, and it was an incredibly difficult place for me to be, working within the old structures.
At the same time, I was starting our shamanic offering in the world with Jason, The Way of the Buzzard, and I seemed to have unlimited energy for this work, the building of the new. I see this now in two different approaches to coping with the pandemic. When I am in the old world, I am concerned for the future, for how we are going to operate as a business, how our lives and the lives of my friends and family are affected. When I am in the new world, I see opportunity and hope, as we have a chance now to build something new. Some might say blind optimism, but it is a place I am very happy to be in. It lifts my spirits through the day no end.
So, our work through The Way of the Buzzard is to offer a place for those imaginal cells to grow in the new world. We are delighted that you are part of this adventure with us.