Sitting here on this Friday early morn, I look back at my living of six years ago and think of how much has changed. Or a decade ago, and how I'm barely the same person any more.
The radical shift began in 2004, when I walked away from everything and everyone I knew, to go live in a cabin on a mountain, where I began writing posts for this blog most every day. Then going back to school, getting a BA then an MPH. And how that radically altered me. There was no more holistic healer life. It was replaced with the whole scholastic living thing, sitting for three years and reading and researching and typing papers and taking exams. But it was the thing that happened in 2005, at the tail end of the BA that radically altered the landscape. Or rather began the deep internal explosions that began to tear down the house I'd lived in for so long.
It was a book. You know the one. It was a moment of arriving. Of finally finding someone who identified the process I was in. Who left messages on signposts. Signposts that dotted the path behind me, making sense of the rubble of the past. Lots of signposts up ahead, with only the one closest to me in sharp relief.
It was a signpost that allowed a radical kind of seeing. That the things squished up against the edge of an abyss were meant to go over the cliff. And that all I had to do was let them go, let go of all of it, that it was more painful to try and hold onto them, and utterly pointless to try and process any of it. The signpost showed that something would remain after all of the things were gone, gone, not whistling as they fell away, but simply going over the cliff and then, poof, disappearing.
That letting go was hard work, and it took the better part of three years. In that time, the MPH was finished, I moved back to the Carolina coast to stay with my sister for a few months, got an apartment, got a job, quit it within six weeks, began doing shamanic work full-time.
And then the big event happened. The event that changed this living forever, in a way that there was no retuning back from. It cored me, ripping out what felt like viscera, but turned out to be just the essence of who Katherine thought she was. While it was going on, it felt like I was dying. So painful that I prayed for death. And so I died.
Not that I had any real choice. Because it was an event that was a test. One of those places where the rubber meets the road. One of those once in a lifetime opportunities to see what you're really made of, who you really are, what you are willing to do.
You say you love? This is your chance to prove it. You say you're willing to sacrifice anything for this being that you love? Prove it. If you don't do it, you show that you never loved them at all, only used them for the comfort and safety that their love gave you. If you do it, you die.
While I was dying, there were a thousand chances to turn back. And I did. Many times. But each time I'd see the effect it had on the being I loved. He was dying too. And each time I turned back, he descended into a suffering that was truly horrific, much more horrific than dying myself. And so I let go, let the tide of death keep taking me. Because when I let death have me, when I turned my energy away from living and opened instead to the love inside of me, the love for him, the absolute release of anything other than love for him opened some channel for him, and his suffering vanished. In the flow of my love for him, his own dying process became pain free, easy, gentle.
Until the end. The last two days before his physical death, he was disoriented. He became almost unrecognizable. The flow of love between us disappeared. When he was able, he wandered around the apartment as if searching for some place he couldn't find. When he lay down, it was into a quiet place inside of himself that I couldn't go. Nothing I did had any effect on him. Not to comfort him, love him, care for him. And then he died.
The last memory I have of him is of his open eyes, vacant, unseeing. During his death process, the apartment became infested with fleas. And as I lay there with him, his lifeless body, a flea crawled across his open eye, disappearing into his hair. Any belief that this was a death that could be returned from, that he might still yet live, evaporated, replaced by the image of an insect on his unseeing eye.
For a couple of days, there were practicalities to deal with. Cremation. Cleaning the apartment of the things death leaves behind. It was done mechanically, as if I were operating in a vacuum, outside of sensory experience. The only thought was: where has he gone? The only feeling, a kind of mute anguish that he was nowhere to be found.
It was during this time that I began to see that I'd changed. That entire swaths of behaviors, coping mechanisms, scripts for interacting with other people, methods of acquiring money, exchanging them for things, were gone. What it was all replaced with was a clear seeing, an ability to see love from not love. And not love was all around me.
Where the process of the last ten days of his life had been a total opening to loving him, the next ten days was about this clear seeing, with that one thought and one emotion somehow powering me, the ferocity of its sound echoing into all corners of my living. In the wake of his physical death, the only thing left was a flow of love, the love that he'd opened up in me that couldn't be stopped. It poured into the only two things that remained of him: the one thought, the one emotion. The pointed, singular focus of the ten days of loving him turned its beam into my living, beginning to scour it clean of anything not love.
Just as the beam of love had caused me to die when with him those ten days, it began destroying my life, my living. Before those ten days, I would have said that they were two separate things: me, and my life. Who I was, and then the life I was trying to create, always seeking to adjust it into something that was better, more "me". But I began to see that they were the same. There was me, and out of it came the expression of me, me made manifest in the world. They weren't separate things, but a flow between inner and outer. Whatever was in my living was there because of me, and since I had died, the living began to shift to reflect the fact of my death, the fact that there was now no one there to live it.
I'd spent a lifetime, many lifetimes, trying to turn not love into love. In the wake of his physical death, it wasn't that I finally discovered the folly of this, it's that there was nothing left inside of me that even wanted to try. The pointlessness of not love was utterly apparent, like an insect on an eyeball. Horrific to witness, but not a part of the love that flowed in a place out of its reach.
It took two years for the bulk of the scouring that came in the wake of the new seeing. Two years of dealing with lots of very angry people. When you see that the cornerstone of human personality is built on an exchange of resources, and that this exchange is dressed up to make not love appear as love, and you are no longer capable of interacting with not love, your relationships fall away. And not just the big ones - family, friends, clients - but all of the little ones too, the clerk in the store, the other people attending a meeting or party, the people you meet who might become friends.
When people give you things, and you don't give them anything back, even if you didn't ask for it, or want it, they get angry. There's a protocol of energy exchange, in the ways we interact with one another. And if you don't follow it, you're out of the game. And not with a "you have to sit this one out" but with a kick and a shove because they see you as just a loser on the playing field, the asshole who just stands there, refusing to catch the ball, or pass it to another player. It doesn't matter whether the immediate game is called family get together or meditation class or the purchase of an organic onion. It's all the same game and the exact same rules apply.
The tricky part of this, I discovered, is that the playing field is where all of human survival occurs now. Maybe it always has, but in the past, there was the possibility of going off into the woods, the desert, a mountain. All land is now owned by someone else, and if you want to be on their land, you have to pay rent, and to pay rent you have to work, and to work, you must be on the playing field.
I thought for a while about just going out onto the front lawn, laying down, not getting back up. I tried a lot of variations on this. But physical death wasn't appealing, at least not yet, and so I always got back up. Each time I got back up, though, I moved to a further and further corner of the field, away from the main play, into positions less and less essential to the game. People stopped caring that I wasn't doing much, stopped giving me things, and began to leave me alone. It helped that I learned a way to not accept things by pretending I didn't notice they were being offered, or by refusing to accept anything on any level, but complimenting them on their generosity before walking away.
My play pared down to a minimum of exchanges, a few simple tasks that could be exchanged for the things needed for pure survival. And in this tiny space on the field, way off at the very edge of the field, something shifted. Because there was so little energy being expended in the living, there was now enough quiet for a question to finally be heard.
"What do you want?"
And because there was so much energy freed up from not playing much of the game, there was now enough energy present to muster up a coherent answer.
Knowing that not love was no longer an option, and that for whatever reason, I still had to remain on the field, I answered, "Whatever is needed for this next part of the journey, whatever will show me the truth."
"You have to be a little more specific," it said.
I looked around at what was left of my living and said, "Less people. More quiet. A job that provides some basic service of living - something to do with clean food, air, water, connecting people with nature. A living that is supported by a stable base so that this next leap can be taken and the living flows with it."
I would have been happy with a hut in the woods and a job as a trail guide, but what was provided over the course of a few months was an effortless flow of radical changes that was easy, gentle, relaxed. A two bedroom home on a quarter acre in the outskirts of Durham, 90K, no money down, and at closing an extra free quarter acre valued at 18K added as a gift from the seller. A part time job with full benefits and generous salary as a wellness coordinator with tasks that require 95% of my time to be spent completely alone, producing health widgets for a needy population that provides access to clean food and exercise, education about healthy food and nutrition.
Once that was all in place, the new groove stabilized, a Thai shamanic mage found my outpost here on the net. Not a teacher who swoops in to say do this, do that. But some guy halfway around the world who said, hello, I know who you are. And for some reason, I wrote back, even though I hadn't written back to anyone like this in years. We exchanged a few emails before we realized why we were writing. He had a radical shamanic tool he could teach me how to use. And he did.
And so now this is my living. The next leap well underway. Everything that is needed is here. Everything not needed is gone. There is only going to a job for three and a half days a week, making widgets, handing them off, then spending the weekends working the new shamanic tool. Then going into the next week working with the new shifts the tool has created.
This new tool isn't a nice tool. It cuts deep. And because there is so little in the living, the tool saws away at the remnants of not love that are hidden deep inside a human. At the baseline software, sure, and the DNA, but also what lies beyond it.
Baby Wallace and the weaselly twins, Emmaline and Malcolm, roam the fenced in woody, wild half acre. A woolly, free-spirited garden produces herbs and vegetables for vitamixed smoothies. A few other humans, the only ones whose presence survived the culling, interact every few weeks or so via phone and net. A little light back and forth on face*book. Posting the novel I wrote a few years ago chapter by chapter for an online publisher. The occasional client met with in this home's healing room or via skype or phone.
It's very quiet now. So quiet.
And the real journey has just begun.