ABRÁÇANA (en)
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ABRÁÇANA (en)

MUST READ: SOULCRAFT — CROSSING INTO THE MYSTERIES OF NATURE AND THE PSYCHE

LEARNINGS ABOUT THE SIMULTANEITY OF OPENING UP TO NATURE AND FACING MY SHADOWS

One of the gifts my Vision Quest brought me was getting to know Chris, an amazing dude who was also traveling for a while in search for meeting his shadows and learning about the world.

We connected.

Amidst talks and findings of similarities between our paths, he told me about a book he thought I’d love. A few weeks later I received an e-mail with an e-book as a gift — it was Chris giving me the book as a present.

I couldn’t access it because of corporate bureaucracy.

A few months later, I asked a friend to bring me the book from the US and, when he arrives, he says he wanted to give it to me as a gift.

I found it at least curious that the book found a way to get to me without me having to pay for it. Since I’m already attuned to such synchronicities, I went on to reading it very quickly and it couldn’t be different: Chris hit it on the spot.

SOULCRAFT

The book I’m talking about is called Soulcraft — Crossing into the Mysteris of Nature and Psyche.

Soulcraft is something so uncommon in out culture that it took me a while to figure out how to translate it to Portuguese

My best bet was to translate is as The Revelation of Soul, but advising that the name wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t consider that this revelation happens through a crafting process, in which each person is their own crafter, responsible for polishing their soul so I can be revealed and manifested wholly in the world.

Bill Plotkin’s aim with the book is to talk about a search in which so many of us, specially in the Western world, find ourselves. A search for meaning, realization, happiness, in a context that is disconnected from nature, that tends to diminish our humanness and that drains our vital energy.

THE REALMS OF SPIRITUALITY

Bill talks about a perception that seems extremely revolutionary to me — that there are two realms that are distinct and complementary in spirituality.

On of them is ascendant, a path toward light, toward “heaven”, which helps us transcend ego in search for quietness, peace and integrity in relation to our deepest nature. This is relatively well known in the West, specially in the past century, when we’ve started to have a lot of access to many spiritual practices from the East such as Yoga, Buddhism, Taoism.

The other, with which the Western society is not so familiar, is descendant, a path toward shadow, toward earth, which, according to Bill, “leads not upward toward God but downward toward the dark center of our individual selves and into the fruitful mysteries of nature”. This is a path that does straight into the depths of our longing.

There’s a correlation between delving into our shadows and being deeply in touch with nature. The Western society model has developed further and further away from nature — physically and metaphorically: while we’ve built urban centers in which wild life has no room and we’re destroying the ecosystems that sustain us alive, we’ve also grown further and further from our own shadows and depths and, without realting to them, we end up moving towards the current reality of physiological, psychological and psychosomatic diseases that we’re facing — an immense range from depression to cancer.

This perception seems very pertinent and I had an insight while reading it because for a while I was feeling like Yoga, by itself, was fulfilling my quest.

Yoga brought me and brings me many internal reflections and revolutions about my (our) essence, about the subtler levels of my (our) existence, but up until a while ago I felt like some of the materialization of it was missing, which made me go looking for ways to ground these ideas and get closer to earth and ecology. So when I read this description and saw the complementarity of both things, my eyes popped and I celebrated a lot:

“WOOOW, THAT’S IT! THAT’S WHAT I FEEL AND LIVE AND HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO ORGANIZE AND SHARE!”

SPIRIT AND SOUL

Are these interchangeable terms?
I never thought a lot about it, but I thought they were.

The book brings clear and distinct definitions for them.

“Spirit is the manifestation of the universe that unifies all of us and everything that exists.”

It’s what proves that I, human being, am made of the same creating energy that is manifested in the seed of a pear. It’s the single origin of everything, which makes all and any existence be connected and interdependent.

Spirit is what we search for in the ascendant path, in the path of light.

“Soul is the manifestation of the universe that individualizes each one of us.”

It’s what makes the seed of a pear know how to look for nutrients, how to create its roots, grow a trunk, produce leaves of a pear tree and, ultimately, offer pears ad a gift to the world.

In the same way, our soul is what carries our original instructions and, ultimately, the information for us to materialize in the world the gifts we came here to offer.

It turns out that we have a consciousness that, at the same time, is our biggest blessing, for it allows us to recognize how spectacular life is, and also our biggest curse, for it doesn’t let us easily access this information our soul carries.

The search for accessing our soul is what Bill calls Soulcraft. This process will invariably go through deep crossings into wild nature and into our own psyche. To help in this process, there are a lot of people resorting to ancestral knowledge from traditional peoples, who have been for a long time and are in deep touch with nature.

“Soul shows us how we, as individuals, are different (in a community-affirming way) from everybody else. Spirit shows us how we are no different from anything else, how we are one with all that exists.” — Bill Plotkin em Soulcraft

THE TWO COCOONS OF OUR LIFE

In the Soulcraft process, Bill says that we (may) go through two different cocoons throughout our lives. The cocoon is a metaphor for an environment, a context, in which we go through transformations and metamorphosis, like a butterfly.

The first cocoon is constituted by our family and by the social context in which we’re born and grow up.

It’s in this reality that we transform from baby to child, teenager and young adult. This is a cocoon we don’t consciously pick. We simply arrive and end up being deeply influenced by all that it offers, embodying a lot of its habits, beliefs, life goals and culture in general.

Now the second cocoon is one that, if we want to experiment, we have to build ourselves.

And this is something crucial for us to become integral adult human beings, in connection to our essence and to the wider reality that encompasses us.

It’s in this second cocoon that we’ll go through the metamorphosis that will make us go from psychological and emotional adolescence to adulthood (Bill also speaks of it as going from the first to the second adulthood, for this usually occurs in adult ages, even though we’re not psychological and emotionally adult).

The challenge here is that we ourselves have to pick what will compose this cocoon.

I believe that throughout the past years I’ve been building my second cocoon and it’s been a tough task to me.

I now see that, even without knowing, while I experimented with Yoga, permaculture, community life, bioconstruction, NVC, peace culture, deep ecology, agroecology, my sexual energy in different ways, handcrafting, meditation, periods in silence and loneliness, trips to unknown places, I was actually figuring out what would be part of my second cocoon.

ANSWERING THE CALL TO ADVENTURE

Soulcraft doesn’t come effortlessly, without surrendering, nor by simply living our everyday lives. It happens over time and it brings tough challenges, ruptures and, therefore, a lot of fear.

According to Bill, this process starts with the Call to Adventure. We all receive this call once we’ve worked enough on our first personality, our manifestation from the first cocoon.

But we don’t always choose to listen.

Among those who choose to listen, some do it in experiences they’ve engaged in voluntarily — situations that provided them enough openness to identify and accept their lives weren’t going toward what they needed to be happy.
Others need drastic events to notice the call, such as near-death experiences, drastic relationship break ups, the loss of a loved one, terminal illness or the loss of a job.
Some will only notice it on their death beds.

It’s important to note that, even among those who do notice the call, not all respond to them, for it demands that we give up a lot of things that seem precious to us.

About this moment, Bill says the following:

“What you must surrender is nothing less than the summer house of your first personality, the world view you began formatting in the expansive growing season of adolescence and that carried you through your first adulthood. (…) Just as you are getting ready to enjoy the completed house, you hear a knock and the front door swings open. (…)
This knock on the door, the call to adventure, comes as soon as you have done enough work on your first personality that it is fully inhabitable. The greatest value to be derived from building that first house comes from the building of it — not from the living in it. (…) — Bill Plotkin

Again, my eyes popped while reading it.

When I found myself unhappy with a comfortable and well structured life, full of security, dear people and options, I felt deeply frustrated.

It was as if I had my summer house built, just by the sea, full of dear guests, decorated my own way, but I wanted to wander at the beach with a known destination, just to check if there was something different, something that would bring me more fulfilment, as I suspected.

How could I feel all that was not enough?
Was I ungrateful?

“Am I really the spoiled kid my mom says I am for wanting to abandon ‘all this’ I’ve ‘accomplished’ because I’m simply ‘unhappy’?”, I came to question.

MY PROCESS IS NOT ONLY MINE

The simple act of listening to the call to adventure is not an easy task.
But when we choose to do it, then the real challenge starts.

From this moment on, we start having the opportunity to access the adventure we’ve longed for, but this possibility doesn’t come in the shape we expected. Instead, it comes as a giant storm — then the Immense Loneliness start.

“Why immense loneliness? In surrendering the mainstays of your former worldview and separating yourself from everyday community life, your old anchors and familiar reference points disappear. You will have to rely on yourself more deeply and fully than ever before. You will have to surrender the cherished belief that someone is going to protect you, save you, do the work of growing for you, or show you the way. The descent necessarily begins with an immense loneliness and only someone who possesses the skills required to complete a first house of personalty — only that person is going to be ready to handle that degree of loneliness. Although the knock on the door does not require you to be alone per se, it does require you to go your own way.” — Bill Plotkin

“Holly shit, was this man inside my head or watching me over the past few years?”, I thought. “Or maybe that means I’m not the only one going through this process and it’s, in some level, a natural thing…”, I concluded.

Knowing this put me in a place of humbleness, for the questionings and searches I’ve been going through are not my merits, individually. They’re a natural process of a human being in search for developing his individuality.
It also brought me a certain level of relaxation for knowing I’m taking part in a process that strikes many people.

A WANDERER

By listening to the call and facing the immense loneliness that comes, we become wanderers. Wanderers in a cocoon that can be the size of the world. Wanderers that will, at some point, be birthed by the earth itself, in a more integral adult version.

But this wandering won’t be painless either, for, after all, the process requires us to let go of everything we know about ourselves and the world.

Here, Bill uses the beautiful metaphor of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

The caterpillar carries in itself butterfly cells, but it’s still a caterpillar. Once inside the cocoon, the butterfly cells start to manifest and the first reaction of the caterpillar’s imune system if to fight these cells — after all, they want to create something that is not caterpillar, unknown and uncomfortable. And this literally hurts the caterpillar. The same happens to the human ego, which very frequently tries to fight against its own destiny that is carried inside each one of us.

As well as the caterpillar tries to kill the butterfly cells, which are its destiny, my ego tries to kill the integral manifestation of myself in the world, for it doesn’t know it’s my destiny to become an agent for soul, for my own individuality.

Even though I’m back to the city I’ve called home for the past 10 years, I’m feeling more wanderer than ever.

Here I am, in a familiar geography, but reinventing my life.

With a routine I’ve never had, living in a way I’ve never lived, working with things I’ve never worked with, dreaming new things with a time, an attention and a consciousness I’ve never been able to dedicate before.

Of course I still fight my butterfly cells, but I see that, more and more, my caterpillar system if accepting my destiny and listening to what sits deep inside my soul.

Something tells me that it’s exploring the descendant realm of spirituality that I’ll find resolution for my longings of belonging, purpose and fulfilment.

I suspect that then I’ll find that I belong to myself and to earth, that I’ve always known my purpose and that fulfilment will come by diminishing my resistances instead of pushing hard for things to happen.

But, for now, all I’ve got is to keep walking.

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LEARNING HOW TO EMBRACE THE INVITATIONS OF LIFE

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Fê Chammas

Fê Chammas

Otimista por natureza // Optimistic by design

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