Full Catastrophe


Omega Institute used to offer a course called, if memory serves, Full Catastrophe Living.  The title fascinated me when I was a young adult, perhaps because I often felt as if I were always juggling way too much, living in the midst of one full catastrophe after another.  (Think of Adrienne Rich’s poem:  “we take on/everything at once before we’ve even begun/to read or mark time, we’re forced to begin/in the midst of the hardest movement,/the one already sounding as we are born.”)  But the course description made clear it was really “just” a course about living mindfully in order to deal with, for example, physical pain or illness, and, so, I never took the course.

But when I awake like a bolt, as I have every morning since our great national tragedy, at 3:00 am and stare into the future with dread, I keep remembering that course title and thinking:  “And, now, here we are.  And I could really use a course that would teach me how to live through a Full Catastrophe.”  How do you plan your life when an erratic, mentally unstable man-child has his finger on the nuclear button, the economy, angry and emboldened crowds of racist, anti-semetic fascist wannabes?  How do you live as every progressive program and win from the last century or so is undone?  How does a decent person live in these times?

I’ve also been remembering something that I once read in (what I think was) a magazine article about women who survived attacks by serial killers.  I think the focus was on what these women may have done that allowed them to escape when others didn’t.  And I remember one woman saying that although you may think that, in such a situation, fear will simply incapacitate you, might leave you like in those dreams where you are terrified and struggle to scream out and can’t even make a sound due to the terror, in fact, at the time, whatever is happening is “just what’s happening in your life right then” and you just deal with it.  You don’t have time to realize that you should be frozen in fear of this man.  And I wonder if what I’m doing to myself at 3:00 am is surrendering that ability, worrying so much ahead of time about how horrible it will be that I may incapacitate myself when the horror that is coming, in and of itself, should simply embolden me.  I want to be like the woman in the article who, when her attacker had raped her and told her to stay in bed while he went into her kitchen to get a knife, did not lie there in fear but simply waited until he left the room, wrapped a sheet around herself, and left the apartment, running away down twisting halls and alerting a nearby policeman.  Her chances were infinitely better outside the apartment than in and she had to envision that in order to escape.

Others are wondering the same thing.  In an email, Joanna Powell Colbert writes:  “Since the election, I have been sitting with the question of whether or not the work that I do — helping people become more deeply whole by guiding them into soul work — is even worth doing anymore.  Shall I set that work aside and instead become a full time, volunteer activist, as a retired friend of mine will be doing? I have been asking myself: What is my part in resisting the dominant paradigm, now to become even more dominant than ever? What is the best use of my time? How shall I now live? ”  She’s offering an online course that will focus on the coming season of darkness.

This post, which a friend shared with me, is a bit new-agey, but still makes important points about the end of Patriarchy.  I especially agree with these:

  1. Attend to the Shadow Feminine, who is also losing her shit.  The wounded feminine is just as freaked out right now as the wounded masculine.  Consider, though, that our shadow aspects are simply disenfranchised parts of our power—so where the feminine has been wounded, her powers of righteous anger and interdependence can easily devolve into self-righteous rage and co-dependence.  Be mindful of that delicate line. Creatively express and move the energy of righteous rage through body-work, dance, and sound.  Keep an eye on co-dependent tendencies by being vigilant to the agenda behind your words and actions, asking questions like: Is this really what I want?  Or am I just trying to please or keep the peace?  [I see the women who voted for Trump in this category.]
  2. Affirm the healing presence of the Sacred Masculine.    As it feels safe to do so, consider recognizing and inviting in Sacred Masculine presence—either physically in the form of people with a more pronounced masculinity, energetically through clear boundaries and a consistent daily schedule, or spiritually through prayer and meditation.  My recent experience with the Divine Masculine presence has been deeply spiritual—a felt sense of a tender, steady, holding presence, one that I can rest into and be held.

And, finally, I’ve been remembering my first boyfriend, who used to love to quote Crosby, Stills, and Nash: “Rejoice, rejoice.  We have no choice, but to carry on.”

Adrianne Rich thought about this problem, too:

From Contradictions

The problem, unstated till now, is how
to live in a damaged body
in a world where pain is meant to be gagged
uncured          ungrieved over          The problem is
to connect, without hysteria, the pain
of any one’s body with the pain of the body’s world
For it is the body’s world
they are trying to destroy for ever
The best world is the body’s world
filled with creatures          filled with dread
misshapen so          yet the best we have
our raft among the abstract worlds
and how I longed to live on this earth
walking her boundaries          never counting the cost

From an Atlas of the Difficult World

What are you remembering at 3:00 am?

Picture found here.


9 responses to “Full Catastrophe

  1. “Attend to the Shadow Feminine, who is also losing her shit. The wounded feminine is just as freaked out right now as the wounded masculine. Consider, though, that our shadow aspects are simply disenfranchised parts of our power—so where the feminine has been wounded, her powers of righteous anger and interdependence can easily devolve into self-righteous rage and co-dependence.” Yeah she is losing her shit because of regressive leftist agendas that is empowering Sharia demanding parasites invading Europe. Ironically it is PC milquetoast types like you who claim to be pagan who are giving your foes a free pass. You claim to fight the Patriarchy yet your agenda is emboldening those who would kill your LGBTQ friends and put feminist pals in burkas.

  2. I think you mean “leftist agendas that” ARE, not is. Is English your first language?

  3. Like Joanna Powell Colbert, I’ve also found myself asking the same question – should I give up my writing and spiritual journey to become an activist and confront climate change, nationalism, fascism in more practical ways? The answer I have reached is no – partly because I’m a fuzzy mystic and poet and bloody awful at doing anything practical. I can just about manage to sign a petition or stand in a protest but beyond that am useless at thinking or acting on a practical level and would just get in the way. I also think there are more ways of resisting than activism – poetry, working with myth, questioning our dominant narratives and finding deeper answers and new paradigms are just as important.

  4. lornasmithers, I agree. Have you seen Terri Wilding’s post on this topic today? She makes good points about how important art and beauty are in times such as ours.

  5. I have come to believe that the disintegration that has just occurred lies more deeply in the realm of the metaphysical than the political (which is a mask) and may therefore be more susceptible to metaphysical activism than it is to political or physical activism than many may think. This has been a long time a-building (and we-all have allowed it to do so) but even though it may seem overwhelming, I believe it represents a last-gasp attempt by a dying regime that feels its power slipping away. So, do your Work, whatever form it takes… I am.

  6. The last lines of “Natural Resources,” by Adrienne Rich (1977):

    My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
    so much has been destroyed

    I have to cast my lot with those
    who age after age, perversely,

    with no extraordinary power,
    reconstitute the world.

  7. I had a dream that the realm of good and the realm of evil lay side by side. It was so easy for me to move between these realms. Yet, right before I awoke, I felt in my heart, the magnetic pull of the good whisk my away from the evil. It was such a strong feeling in my heart that it woke me up. I realized that I know in my heart what is good and that I must live “in the good”. This has helped me in these difficult times. It keeps me from normalizing the fascist double-speak, the man-baby tweets, the youtube videos (why not address the nation live?) etc. Hillary won the popular vote. We are still good. My heart knows what’s “good” and I’ll act from there. I plan to read Hannah Arendt’s the “Origins of Totalitarianism” so I can get an historical perspective on what is happening now and what is to come. Be ever watchful.

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