I thought the work would be WORK. In some way, I’d fortified myself in preparation for the gathering, metaphysical pick axe in hand, because I know how diligently we cling to the stories that have supported us — and protect us, even, from the lives, and from the ease, we want to step into.
And yes, it happened; I heard the stories get retold because there were new ears to listen, and this is what we do when we introduce ourselves to the world (or a room full of women we’ve never met): we say who we’ve been, who we’ve known how to be, and what represents the space we’ve been occupying — because we almost (almost) don’t know who we are if we aren’t a character in the narrative we’ve learned how to create of our lives.
As I looked around at the women, and listened to their laughter from the next room, and watched them untangle themselves from the old stories, I asked (I am constantly asking):
What does it take to bring us home to ourselves?
What is required to soften into who we REALLY are?
How do we recognize ourselves for the first time, or again, when the returning is both the beginning and the homecoming?
It seems simple, but it’s not, really. Not when we consider how long the protection process has been reaffirming itself.
It actually takes quite a bit to step into the current of your readiness, which is why most of the time, it’s pain that does the opening — cataclysmic events, illness, violence and self-injury — and even though we despise that suffering, we’ve come to know it as the most common way to recognize what and who we are; in light of pain, we discover we’re resilient, life-seeking, and capable of healing. But so often, the pattern has been set, and we relent to understanding through suffering, and recreate it, and stay in the pattern of pain-bargaining because we’re “learning something.”
When you’re ready to know yourself, it begins.
I think this is what I saw in the women of Burn over the last few days: they were ready to know, and even armed with all their previous knowing, they were ready to un-know, too.
I don’t mean “know” in the familiar sense — it’s one thing to know our narrative, and how we fit into it, and another thing entirely to EXPERIENCE ourselves in true knowing, outside the narrative. It’s the space where the narrative starts to be questioned, released and rewritten.
This knowing confronts the limitations we’ve acquiesced to, and abided by. There is grieving, yes, but there is the acquisition of a completely different kind of power, and a newfound lightness of Being that empowers you with a sense of your innate worth, and all that lies in the possibility of being who you are and what you’re here to create — truly, finally, free.
So yeah, it was “work.” But not the work I thought it would be. I saw how much collective longing existed among the women of Burn — to be free, and to know the unequivocal Truth of themselves. My work, I realized, was to lay down my pick axe and instead position myself in the light:
Torch-bearer, protectoress of the flames, guardian of the embers, fanning them gently, persistently, with unrelenting clear-seeing.
Each woman holds both the embers and the breath necessary to fan them to life. The burning is not so much about pain, but about purity. It may take a few rounds (or decades) before the life in you starts to ache to be lived, and that’s okay. But the gnawing ache won’t relent — I’m telling you.
You will not be free until you decide to be, and dare to open to the exploration of all you might be behind the narrative.
The longing is the place where the whisper begins: the in-breath, the beginning of a sound just loud enough to be heard, and listened to, and spoken on the wind.