You Are Not a Straight Line

“There is a void felt these days by women and men – who suspect that their feminine nature, like Persephone, has gone to hell. Wherever there is such a void, such a gap or a wound agape, healing must be sought in the blood of the wound itself. It is another of the old alchemical truths that, “no solution should be made except by its own blood.” So the female void cannot be cured by conjunction with the male, but an an internal conjunction, by integration of its own parts, by a remembering or a putting back together of the Self.” -Nor Hall, The Moon + The Virgin


It’s been remarked that there are no straight lines in nature. And in truth, even the straightest lines, as they appear to the human eye, are actually edges that dance and curve and sway when they are taken at a molecular level. Yet so many in our time are putting their own lives up to some sort of straight-edge yard stick, in an attempt to determine the worth of their days. I often hear from those with whom I sit in council, “I really thought I would have been ahead of where I am, by now,” or, “I’ve done all the right things, the things I wanted to do, the things I thought I should do. But what is it really for?” The moment we hold our lives up to this artificial yard stick of linear time, it’s the feminine wound, the void of self-abandonment, that becomes known. This is the void we’ve been trying to fill our whole lives. More screens, more lovers, more emails, more childrearing, more meetings. Yet the void of the feminine isn’t meant to be filled on a permanent basis. It’s meant to be tended, protected and held open as a personal sanctum of hallowed ground. For us women, we posses a physical expression of the feminine void-our wombs and our yonis. These sacred structures are places where time becomes known in its true, cyclical form. And in the age of the ancients, it was by women’s blood, women’s pregnancies and births that time was kept. In Western culture, though we would use a circular clock, time is perceived as linear and regimented. There’s no regard for the fact that time stretches and shrinks, moves forwards and backwards, up and down. All times are here and now. In Earth Medicine, we observe the rhythm of time as is undulates through our bodies, through the sun and moon, through the seasons and the cosmic cycles. This spiral of time is the origin of the Medicine Wheel. When we live in linear time we live with constant distress, because we feel that since time moves like an arrow, once it’s gone, it is gone. It slips away and we can’t get it back. And yet almost paradoxically we also rally resistance and dismay when we feel old wounds beginning to surface, be they ancestral, physical or emotional. “Didn’t I already heal that? Why is it coming back now?” This experience can rise to near PTSD levels as we grapple with our perceived ineptness, emptiness and grasping. We have a bipolar experience of wanting things to slow down and also for them to hurry up.


Earth Medicine and the Medicine Wheel itself point to something different. And what we find here is such a profound sense of relief, such a well of assurance, support and affirmation. What we find is that you don’t need better time management skills after all. And you didn’t come here as a straight line, because straight lines don’t exist and there’s no formulaic procedure to the wild and feral nature of human life. As we sit in the second half of July, it won’t be long before many where I live, in the upper Midwest, will be grieving the passing of summer. And of course, it’s right that we grieve what is dying. But behind the wistful words, there is also a sense of bracing, a sense of resisting. Many don’t want the winter to come. And though we may understand that distaste to be about the cold, the wind, the snow, it’s really not about that. Each season, like each and every moment of life, comes with a gift and a teaching. The winter months, that require us to become more internal and more intentional, create strength in our emotional body that is fundamental to our continued growth. It’s not the weather in winter that weighs so heavy on our hearts as much as it is the resistance itself, and all that we find mirrored back to us in those dark, short days. And here in the south of the Wheel, we find ourselves in a polar place. Dominated by the solar element this is the time for clear-seeing, for embodying who we truly are, for practicing non-attachment, for exchanging the vessel that birthed us for the one we’re growing into. Autumn brings a most precious opportunity. It is the time of release and regeneration. It is the river of shadows. It is the place where we can meet the wound, map the void and become the fearless dynama that we came here to be. Autumn is the time when all of life unravels, allowing us to renegotiate our sacred contracts and our own identities. And so to an Earth Medicine Keeper, the arrival or assertion of an old hurt or an ancient wound is no cause for alarm at all, but simply the natural order of things. It’s no cause for self-doubt. But just as we would always expect the sun to rise after night’s end, so too do certain wounds come for deeper cleansing and repair. Very likely, when you faced that pain before, you absolutely did all the healing and tending you could do, given the level you were at. The soul, sensing your readiness and energy, offers the wound once more, as a testament to your healing ability, not as a negation of it. Faced with the old wound now, you’re able to handle it more skillfully and compassionately.


The Medicine Wheel spins around and around. So this sense of ‘measuring’ ourselves against some impersonal standard of achievement as a way to know our value completely breaks down. The value of our life is measured by our willingness to engage with it, to let life in. And by letting life in, we let ourselves in too. The Wheel does not just spin a sun-wise direction. It moves in and out like a heart beat – contracting and expanding. And so, as Nor Hall so beautifully suggested, it’s by going inward, not forward, that we heal. And in the Q’ero lineage, as in all the matricentric systems of healing, it’s understood that the gifts of your healing only matter as much as you are able to then heal the community. There’s no ascetics in caves here. There’s no ‘waiting for the right time’ to do the healing work, to develop intimacy. And while pilgrimages and times of retreat are non-negotiables for those who are on a path of spiritual self-sufficiency, the time to begin is always now. …… Notice what happens when you open your heart to the knowing that past and future do indeed exist, but they only exist inside of right now. Notice what happens when you are held so warmly by the spiral that you never fear to let go of what you’ve been grasping, since you know the thing that you need most is on its way to arriving. Death is birth and birth is death, again and again and again. And so it is.

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