I recently came back from a Vision Quest and I have not necessarily found the words to express what has happened yet. Something in me doesn’t even want to. It just wants to stay, just stay… in the great silence, waiting, feeling, and letting the process enfold on its own terms. Of course, everybody wants to know and I imagine that it may be frustrating at times to hear the same answer: “I don’t have the words.”
This has lead me to reflect about our relationship with words and other forms of communication, and how we allow (or not) Mystery and protect our inner privacy in our lives. What if the way we speak (and write and read!) was a big way we were often giving our spiritual power away?
Rediscovering the power – and sacredness – of our words
We live and breathe words. And yet, how careful are we in the way we choose them? I wrote my PhD (several life times ago!) at a time when computers were still relatively new and most of my professors and fellow researchers were still writing their books… by hand! I remember our professor of epistemology lamenting this time as quickly going away: writing by hand meant spending time choosing each word very carefully. If you have ever seen an old manuscript of one of those great authors in classic literature, you may have marveled at the extreme attention they clearly gave to each word. Nowadays, we even need to be careful when typing on our phones, as so many applications are prompt to choose the words, in advance, for us…
When he was very young and still learning how to speak, my youngest nephew used to invent words all the time, making up his own vocabulary. And when an adult pointed to him that a particular word did not exist, he would proudly admit that he had just invented it, at times explaining what it meant, but not always. He is now five, and has (unfortunately) learned to refrain his creativity in this department, even though his passion for words, symbols and all sorts of mythologies ensure that he often speaks of things that his adult interlocutors have no clue about…
In many countries in which I have worked and lived, in particular in cultures where the majority of people have a long history of oppression, local languages are so imaginative and rich in their subversive ways that our idioms seem comparatively really unsophisticated. As a political scientist, I have always been fascinated by those different ways people would resist, re-write the stories and exert their political agency, often “just” by reinventing a word.
As a Shaman, my respect for words – whatever the language – has only been growing. As many of you know, I am always extremely reluctant to “explain” or “comment” on the words that are given to me in the journey space. I so respect their power and sacredness that I prefer to let them reveal themselves in time. They are the doorways to endless paths. Each of them has often more layers than any human brain could ever plant in advance. They often unveil their essence in unfathomable ways, over time, which is why I always take the time to send a proper report and recommend going back to the notes over and over. And yet, I also know that the real power of the journey is beyond the words and even the images it contains.
In our daily lives, re-learning how we choose and use the words we speak, write and read, is a way to reclaim language as one of the most powerful technologies humanity has ever created. Our words often have an important impact on others but also on our own lives, as they become our experiences. Developing an awareness of the words we use, taking the time to filter our thoughts, making a commitment to no negativity, are some of the ways we can reclaim the power and sacredness of the words we use. What are your own ways of choosing your words (those you speak, write and read) wisely?
Resisting the urge to put words on what we experience
Then, sometimes, words as symbols just don’t work. They seem too small or just not born yet. Rumi is among those who have the most eloquently spoken of that “voice that does not use words,” the soul whispering things the mind does not understand or cannot even imagine. This space that no language seems able to encompass is pure absence, pure nothingness, meaninglessness. No word seems able to describe the unutterable nature of what is, even to ourselves. It is the place of Mystery. And it is literally vertiginous in its purity. When we encounter it, we generally just want to rush out of it as quickly as we can.
But what if… we would let Mystery have its place in us? Just for a day or two, or an hour or two. Imagine that you don’t know anything about yourself. Imagine that you are a mysterious character in a bedtime story, an unknown color in a painting, an unheard note, a new word in the dictionary…
Choose the medium that comes more naturally to you that day — including in the dream space. And take some time to let the mystery talk to you, and enfold, as wild and crazy and meaningless… as it may want to come to you.
Let your soul sing to you a song that you have not heard yet. Hear its tender whisper. Allow its loud laugh and its cries and its pain. Listen to a piece of music like you have never listened to it before. Don’t do anything else. Just listen. And look for the silence in between the notes.
Take a slow walk, and let everything and everyone in nature speak to you, in their own vocabulary.
Move your body like you have never moved it before.
Seat in front of a piece of art, an image or a sculpture, and allow your eyes to see beyond the appearances. Stay there as long as it takes.
The ways are infinite. Just practice. Let the mystery have its place in you. And don’t try to make sense of what happens. Don’t try to put words on your experience.
Rediscovering our “impenetrability”
And then treasure those moments without having to communicate them to anybody else, and without ruining them for yourself by analyzing them too much. In the age of social media, words like “friend” and “share” seem to have lost a good deal of their meaning. It often seems that, for something to exist, it has to be “shared” on Facebook.
So, am I being egoistic not having any picture (did not take any either) or even word to “share” about my recent Vision Quest? Maybe. But I also wonder: What has become of the treasure chests of our childhood? For different reasons, I could not keep a physical one when I was a child but I would use different strategies to protect my own treasures, including within me. Those treasure chests are a wonderful expression of that inner privacy that we all need. That sense that some of life’s mystery needs to be preserved from others’ eyes but also our own, without even needing to “explain” why each of our little treasures are that important to us.
By accepting, once more, that some things remain “impenetrable,” even to ourselves, we re-open a space outside of the appearances and details of our daily lives, a space to breathe once more, a space for Mystery to bring back the impossible into our lives.
Béatrice | Contemporary Shamanic Healer
Allowing The Light