Why do we do this?: Starving Ourselves to Live. By Michelle Katz
As this posts, I will be into the first night of my annual Quest. I write this in my preparation, which often brings up various questions, from what to pack and what is my intent, to why do I do this again?
I’ll be spending time on the land, having intentionally severed from an old way of being and in the liminal space before beginning a new. I sit with no company, no food, and no shelter, being midwifed by the earth. Uncomfortable, waiting, hungry, scared, and amazed, peaceful, accepting and open. Trusting in the process.
As I pack and anticipate what’s coming, I wonder why the hell I do this and why would I ask others to do it too? Why would I ever want this to be such a significant part of my life?
The short answer is to become better at dying and living.
When I taught The Psychology of Death and Dying, I spoke to my students about all the little “D” deaths in their lives and how they can live those in preparation for the big “D” Death to come. In doing this, we can deeply know our human nature as we live our lives. The little “D” deaths are present throughout our lives and reveal to us who we are in an ordeal, in the transition places, in the struggle out of the cocoon or through the vaginal canal, or into and through the tunnel, out to the unknown other side, so that we can fully step into our one precious life. What if breaking up with someone was easier each time? What if losing a loved one was met with acceptance? What if changing careers created excitement rather than anxiety?
This ceremony is big. Marking a transition is not a new year’s resolution, which we live and break. This marking of the end of one way into another way of life, requires all of us to show up, required that we experience the ordeal and find a way through, requires that we grow, we listen, we respond, we learn about the unknown and know within each of us. And it challenges us to live into what we mark, for years to come, this is no stopping the way this ceremony reverberates into our souls.
Another reason why, is the daily headlines. I look at the rates of suicide and suicidal ideation, the use of drugs and alcohol and other additions, the alarming number of depression and anxiety diagnosis. We are more anxious because we have lost the ability to connect to our playfulness and spirit. We are more depressed because we cannot see we have gifts to offer this world or we do not know how to offer these gifts. We use drugs and alcohol because we are deeply seeking spiritual and higher spirit experiences but don’t know how to know this place inside of us (it is no coincidence that these things are often referred to as “spirits” and getting “high”). We use other addictions because we fear going deeper into dark uncomfortable places, so we turn to distractions. And we want to kill ourselves and actually do so because something in us needs to die, there is wisdom in this process of letting go, the trouble is that we do this literally because yet we have forgotten that what is truly needed is a metaphoric death, not an actual one. I shudder at the knowing of how many lives we lose because this practice of dying into life, because rites-of-passage, is lost.
I also do this because I want to know what moves me. I can best know this, by dropping into where I currently am and by looking out into the natural world in order to see what is inside of me. Then I can notice how I move around the wheel: Is it the rock digging into my back that has me shift my perspective? Is it the rain that has me seek shelter? Is it the sun that burns my skin begging me to find a tree for shade? Is it the wind that blows my tarp in ways that make me wrestle with it and myself? Is it all those things? And can I live into the metaphor of nature mirroring my experience of life? Can I sit with myself as I am ushered into the world anew, in all the discomfort and with a greater knowing of my human nature, humbly, respectfully and with strength and understanding? The answer when I return to base camp, withmy first deep breath and warm greetings of joy and hugs from my community, is always, “Yes, now I am ready to live again.” And that is why I do this, starving myself to grow hungry to live!