“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24
It turns out that dying takes a very long time, is extremely unpleasant, and darned inconvenient. I don’t recommend it. Physical dying seems to be all over the place, in terms of how long it takes, and how apparently painful it is…. But psychic/emotional/spiritual deaths seem generally to take a while and to be quite painful, according to the literature. That has been my experience too.
It has been a really nasty couple of years. During the final acute phase late this winter, after I had articulated to myself that indeed, what it felt like was that I was dying, I tried to find comfort in the verse above. It helped a little, because I was able to tell myself that dying would be the beginning of a new phase of change and growth and possibly even beauty and betterness. But I had to admit to myself that probably the grain of wheat didn’t look forward to becoming a green and beautiful plant much. Probably the grain of wheat was scared and lonely and hurting, and really truly actually liked being a grain…. All smooth and clean and brown and small….. why change that? What is all this suffering about anyway? What’s to like about getting torn apart?
Inexplicably (which in my opinion means God did it), I discovered and was drawn to a book about shamanism at just about that time. In it, I discovered the traditional expectation of the experience of death/rebirth that tends to be considered a prerequisite for acceptance as a shaman in most of the shamanic cultures. Sometimes, it was induced through various vision quests, sometimes it just happened… but there was almost always some sort of disintegration/re-integration that was often dramatic and generally painful for the shaman experiencing it. In a shamanic culture, Jesus’ story would have been understood as the story of a powerful Shaman. This let me put a little perspective on my own experience…
And then, late this spring, I realized that I was Gone. Gone. Empty. Ended. “Ah, I am dead now,” I thought. I had completed the disintegration process, but I didn't immediately begin the re-integration process. I hesitated to start on that stage…. I didn’t want to just start out re-integtrating myself in the same way I was before, for fear that I would eventually have to go through the dying process yet again, and dying kind of sucks. So, I have been “in the womb” for a while now, thinking about what I want to be when I am born again.
I made a rule for myself that I wouldn’t even consider any goals that began with “I should”. This is no list of New Year’s resolutions… no “self-improvements” allowed. These are promises I am making to myself, not tasks. It’s a long list so far. If I end up even half the person I have been imaging, I’ll be pretty cool.
Here’s a partial list:I will be a child of Light, and I will walk in the Light.
I will have a garden.
I will write.
I will have wild birds in my life.
I will have my hounds.
I will walk in the Spirit, as sensitive to the ever-present Spirit world as to the visible material world.
I will understand what the trees whisper.
I will find meaningful and rejuvenating solitude.
When I’m tired, I will rest.
I will write. And so I am here again.