Wading Through Energetic Trash
As I woke up this morning, I found myself wandering the streets of Varanasi in India making my way down to the ghats where the ceremonial cremations are to take place. Dawn has not yet broken and the air is heavy with humidity with grey melancholic streaks stretching above the buildings. A large palette of smells hits the nose from the reeking whiffs coming off the open sewers, the musty smell of cow dung mixed with rotting vegetables, occasionally alleviated by the chains of sweet-smelling flowers hanging outside the shops and drifting in the morning breeze. The streets are narrow, bustling with people going towards the Ganges, an uncanny mixture of locals purposefully moving towards their devotional practices and snooping tourists hugging their over-sized cameras in the hope of snatching an illicit photo. The streets are getting narrower as I approach the river banks. I slink past grimy walls with layers of paint peeling off, sticking valiantly to the surface through slime and dirt. The ground is strewn with litter which the stray dogs rummage through in the hope of finding some food. The beggars are sprawled along the dirty walls ready to grimace and moan, with extraordinary alertness and vivacity, when a tourist passes by.
I am dressed in the shalwar kameez I had made, a few weeks earlier in Pakistan, and my husband is in front of me, excitedly, almost too eagerly, pushing his way through the crowd towards the stairs leading down to the water and tourist boats. My disquiet is growing, inexorably. I can feel anxiety cloaking me, almost choking me. I don’t want to be here. I feel conspicuously disrespectful of this sacred city, as if I am about to commit a sacrilege by joining the voracious crowds wanting to see the dawn cremations. The energies of voyeurism and morbid curiosity are swirling around us and my vision goes blurry as I watch the buildings swaying, mirroring my inner shakiness and trembling.
I went to Varanasi in 1986, on my honeymoon. In the early hours of an April morning emerging from sleep, I now return to sense into, and feel fully, all that I was not able to absorb and integrate at the time. What parts of me have I left on the ghats of Varanasi, and are now ready to come home? A lot seems to be available to presence now, many layers congealed in time and in the sludge of my first visit to India and the challenging dynamics with my husband that were unfolding on this journey. As I witness myself, thirty-five years later, walking around Varanasi, more becomes perceptible and I can begin to clear away the sludge. The most noticeable thing is my high level of anxiety, breaking out in heavy sweat and shortening my breath. The angst is opaque and draws a heavy curtain over everything. It is letting me know that, underneath that thick crust, I am feeling threatened and, unfortunately, the person who feels the most threatening to me, in that moment, is my husband, not the beggar who smiles at me generously catching my attention and offering me a few moments of respite, pure contentment that instantaneously dissolves the grim to reveal brilliant sanity.
India, a shattered dream
Here we are on our honeymoon taking us from Islamabad in Pakistan, across Northern India to Patna before a last stretch in Nepal, a seven-week trip where I travel, for the first time, with a Swiss passport and under a new name, having acquired Swiss citizenship when we married. The two of us have different aspirations and reasons for wanting to undertake this trip. I was ten-years old when I felt called to go to India to see the Taj Mahal, something that rapidly evolved into the dream-to-be of my life, hence my wish to go to India for our honeymoon. Roberto’s plans were of a different orientation. He was going for the cheap drugs, the hippy lifestyle that was still thriving in the 80s, and he was intending on get stoned as quickly and as often as possible. It was on this trip that I became aware of the extent to which he was in the grips of multiple addictions – alcohol, cigarette, sex, recreational drugs and more harmful substances – and that he was prepared to do anything to satisfy his cravings, regardless of the consequences, least of all my safety.
We were placed under high security by the Swiss embassy during our stay in Pakistan. We were visiting an old friend of Roberto’s who was working in the embassy, otherwise we would never have been admitted into the country that was a quasi-war zone. There had been a bomb attack in Karachi airport a few weeks before we flew out and, at the time, the Soviets were occupying Afghanistan, with refugees pouring over the border into Pakistan, not to mention the ongoing conflict between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. The circumstances were volatile and uncertain with a sense that anything could explode at any moment. I now realise that I entered India, having spent some time in the precarious land of Pakistan, with a feeling of never being safe and needing to be on my guards permanently, all summed up in a thick layer of compacted fear that was sticking to me.
During our time in Pakistan, Roberto’s friend had been supplying them both with all the drugs they needed: happy times. Once we had landed in New Delhi, he needed to sort himself out and that is when the constant search for drugs, meeting shady boys in sleezy alleys, began. He kept raving about the price and the ease with which he could get ‘good stuff’ and he started talking about buying some in bulk to take back home. Images of Midnight Express, the epic film of 1978 describing the ordeal of an American caught precisely trying to smuggle drugs out of Turkey, started to swirl in front of my eyes as my guts wrenched in dread at his mindless plan. Roberto was very dismissive of my concerns and I found it difficult to ask him to pay attention to my needs. Another layer of sheer terror was adhering to the layer of fear picked up in Pakistan.
In my recent morning explorations, back in Varanasi, beneath the layer of disquiet I initially presenced, I discovered this compacted terror, which had sedimented over the weeks of our travels across India. Much of this had been generated by Roberto’s compulsive behaviours towards drugs and his total disregard, and oblivion, of what I could be experiencing. All my boundaries were being constantly trampled over and my sense of security jeopardised. There had even been several occasions when we had run into trouble with corrupt policemen only to eager to collect money off careless tourists. I felt my space was being trespassed and violated, worst still, that I had become invisible, unseen and unheard, as my partner followed his cravings. Any comments or remarks on my part were immediately dismissed and discredited as nonsense and neurotic anxiety. I was told to get over it and to learn to put up with this and not get in the way. There were no efforts nor suggestions to alleviate my anxiety: I was bullied into resignation and repeatedly told that I was a misfit and that I ought to be grateful that he had consented to marry me such, according to him, was my degree of social inadequacy.
Here I was, in a strange country, travelling under a new identity that did not feel me, at all, with a manipulative partner who was regularly chastising me and demanding that I did things where my gut instinct was screeching a NO, that even I could barely hear. Needless to add that I was often plagued with diarrhoea which had probably less to do with the food, but more with my incapacity to absorb and digest so much energetic trash strewn around me and being almost thrown at and over me.
As I revisit this shocking experience, slowly and painfully, I begin to discern the many layers of compacted denser vibrational forms and energies arising within me, where anxiety culminates into deep fear and, later, morphs into terror as the movements of angst swell and break within my body. Between the shock waves, all these layers are threaded with shame and shot with disgust, barely discernible such is the intensity of the horror and the sense of being engulfed by the nightmare that has highjacked our honeymoon, supposedly, the celebration of our union. At the time, none of this, or little of this, is available to my consciousness as I attempt to regulate myself and kick into survival mode. Much later, and as a result of my training in higher frequencies of consciousness, I am taken back for a walk through the narrow streets of Varanasi to welcome and embrace all that had not been possible to host, consciously, then, heralding movements of integration of the unnameable and unspeakable.
A Deeper Calling
Returning to Varanasi, in such a way, was to reveal a crucial choice-point that had ensued there. I had been the one to chart the first part of our honeymoon following the traces of the Moghuls and their imperial cities stretching from Lahore in Pakistan into Rajasthan and then Agra in Uttar Pradesh, followed by the Hindu and Jain temples of Khajuraho. Varanasi was to be a tipping point where Roberto was to take over. None of this had been explicitly decided and it is only now, with hindsight, that I can decipher the pattern and our conflicting agendas. My part of the trip was powered by my ravenous appetite for history and art, and my curiosity to experience a former colony of Great-Britain that held a significant place in my inheritance.
Roberto’s share of the trip was driven by his desire to experiment with all forms of drugs available by simply holding his hand out. Once we arrived in Varanasi, he had no plans other than to ramble around the city, soaking up the vibes as suggested by local hippy culture, until it was time to catch our plane to Kathmandu. The absence of frame for our time there, other than drugs and gawping at the cremations from the boats, was a terrifying prospect for me. I spent most of the time reclused in the compound of the hotel, not daring to crawl from under my tenuous comfort blanket and, certainly, not wanting to be exposed to such filth after my exhilarating experiences roaming the archaeological sites that I had delighted in. By the time we arrived in Nepal, his drug consummation went to another level with opium laced hashish which rekindled his plans to take some back to Europe. Understandably, I literally collapsed physically and became very seriously ill with high fever and unable to keep anything down, to the point that a sanitary evacuation was suggested. It did not come to that, but at least it stopped Roberto’s plans of smuggling drugs back to Switzerland.
Back to our extended stay in Varanasi. Was I beginning to lose myself in the labyrinth of the streets, hopelessly seeking a way out? When I realised what the programme was to be and that I did not want to join the crowds of voracious photographers boasting about the illegal pictures taken of the cremations, I began to read all the small print in my travel guide book. What was there to see around Varanasi other than the Ganges? I then discovered the existence of Sarnath, a village just ten kilometres out of Varanasi where Gautama Buddha first taught the Darma, and where the first Buddhist sangha came into existence. I was magnetically drawn to go there and the call was well beyond my need to do something purposeful, or to get out of the squalor of Varanasi. I knew that I was meant to go there and wondered why it had not come up on my radar previously. I had no affirmed interest in Buddhism at the time, nor was I fascinated by Hinduism that felt very complex with the cohort of Gods and Goddesses. Not surprisingly, due to the circumstances, the only figure I could relate to was Ganesha, the elephant God, who provides protection and guidance. I had felt more attracted to Sufism and Islam practiced by the Moghuls which had been my primary driving force for visiting India. I convinced Roberto to take me to Sarnath.
I have no memory of how we got there, and all I can remember is the serenity and calm pervading in this quiet and peaceful village that, somehow, was not flagged down on the main tourist paths. Again, I felt magnetically drawn there by something that I could not name. As I return, now, to this event in my past, I perceive a delightful mixture of qualities of peacefulness, tranquillity and equanimity, such a contrast from the hustle and bustle of Varanasi and my soaring heights of anxiety. There is hardly any story attached to my experience, nor are there any explanations as to what is happening or what my experience might be about. I simple attune to the energies emanating from this place, timelessly and for eternity. Thirty-five years later, as I recount my chaotic trip to India and the terrifying experience in Varanasi, I plug into those coordinates and am blasted upon by frequencies. I become a conscious emanation of love.
I do remember feeling that I was meant to be there, and that all the other aspects of our trip were meaningless. The only thing that mattered was my presence in Sarnath, if only for a few hours. In a way, I experienced some form of awakening, of which I was, at the time, totally oblivious. Nonetheless, a seed was planted as I wandered around the beautiful grounds, a seed that would germinate over the years and is now flourishing. At the end of our visit, I did not want to return to Varanasi and did so with a heavy heart full of dread and terror for what was to come. I have often thought of those few hours of respite and the extraordinary peacefulness that had overcome me. Why had I not stayed there? Why had I returned to the path with Roberto? Had I missed some unique opportunity? Had I denied myself my calling and deepest longing?
For a long time, I did believe that I had taken the wrong path when approaching that choice-point. At that time in my life, it had felt like an either/or choice where I would have to choose between a life made of marriage and family, conforming to social norms and cultural expectations, versus a much more uncertain life following a spiritual path. I had chosen marriage and was not yet ready to splash out into pioneer waters. For many reasons, I was seeking protection and stability, which, paradoxically, was not happening in this marriage as I was painfully discovering.
Now, as I receive the fullness of my experience in Sarnath, I appreciate its wholeness that is not bound in time and space. Of course, in my life-trajectory and according to a larger purpose laid down in my lifetime, I was to pursue the journey with Roberto. Only, I was given a taste of those qualities which would accompany and guide me along the troublesome journey. During those few hours, I had felt held and supported in ways that I had hardly known in my incarnate life. It was like receiving an inoculation against the hardships of the human experience, a special upgrade customised to support me on my incarnational journey and, also, on my journey to the wholeness of myself. Whatever it was that I received then has never left me and, with my capacities to bring more awareness to this divine gift, it is growing relentlessly, letting me know that this was not an either/or choice where I had taken the wrong turning, but rather a recognition of my life-purpose and a blessing on all that I am here to fulfil. This was all the more effective because there was no story, there were no explanations, there were no expectations and there were no conditionalities. It was all about me receiving in a simple and unadorned way.
Remembering the blessing received at Sarnath has blasted away the sludge overshadowing my first marriage. I now understand how the energetic trash I was wading in made it difficult for me to apprehend the compacted layers beneath my feet and, then, to loosen the inner barricades I raised to protect myself from chaos and abuse. Since my recent promenades back in Varanasi, several pockets have burst through the muck revealing glistening gems waiting to diffuse more light. Two themes feel ripe for further explorations, the first being on sexual awakening, and the second touching into an imprinted structure around protecting and providing.
At the time of my explorations back in India, retrieving material long buried in the swamplands, an online mini-retreat was being held in which John, my husband, was taking part. I knew little about the configuration: how many were gathered for this experience; who were the participants; and what world work they had invoked. I trusted that the work was serving the greater purpose and I, as all others, would feel the rippling effects within short. Soon, some tasty morsels appeared on the group page of our container speaking of sexual realisation. The words were luscious, describing volcanic explosions of erotic aliveness throwing off the layers of accumulated numbness. A genuine awakening experience through Eros.
At first, I rejoiced in this explosion of life-force seeking colourful and unrestricted expression, voiced by women shooting through conventions and bringing down barriers. Then, unexpectedly, I began to feel shaky and almost frozen. I stood in front of the large window overlooking the fields and allowed my sense of feeling under threat by such powerful life-forces to also detonate within, unrestrainedly. John was in this gathering. What if he was to experience such an explosive sexual energy? I had visions of him rushing up the stairs to where I was standing and raping me in the name of his sexual awakening that I was not allowed to deny or curb. Rather than dismiss what I could have assumed were fantasy with no foundation, I decided to embrace my feelings and to allow their full expression, receiving the layers as they surfaced in my terror-stricken body.
At first, I could sense a younger part in me who equates sexual awakening with a display of compulsive behaviours. I could then get in touch with beliefs around fiery sexual appetite and the consequences, for me, such as abandonment, abuse, and manipulation all bundled up in being coerced into doing something that I know is not right, nor respectful of who I am. In my representations, sexual appetite is uncontrolled and comes with grabbing and forceful movements, possessive and dismissive of the other. Sexual imprinting was definitely playing out on my first trip to India with Roberto’s compulsive behaviours in order to assuage his cravings, which had thrown us into the mêlée of intimidation and coercion, from which I had then needed two decades to extract myself from.
From there, I shifted into a different space, one where I have given up on my sexuality because I believe that I cannot escape from sexual imprinting and compulsive behaviours. I have chosen celibacy rather than handle the messiness of sexuality in my life. I could feel resentment at someone suggesting that I need to reclaim my sexuality, as if I am a lesser person because I have consciously decided to step away. I could feel the dictate of displaying a healthy and fulfilling sex life, another strong cultural imprinting I have often clashed with. As a married woman, supposedly on a path of enlightenment, I am expected to flourish in my sexuality. Hence, probably, this image of John claiming his due. The more I presence these movements, the bigger my anger and rage, culminating in explosive life-forces. Paradoxically, this, too, is erotic aliveness, finally coming home.
I pause on the word ‘celibacy’ to describe my current circumstances, reflecting on the reverberations within me as I take it in, fully. There seems to be a conscious choice to explore celibacy and, undoubtedly, there are also many streaks of ambivalence threaded in the fabric of life, here. Have I really given up on my sexuality? In truth, is this possible when I am necessarily woven of love and erotic aliveness? What am I protecting, within myself? I sense a deeper calling, of a spiritual nature, which is to dedicate my life to the field of higher consciousness, putting this work at the centre of my life. I then catch, deeply embedded in me, another belief whereby a radical choice is needed, implying a sacrifice. I am either to walk a path of awakening and expansion into the wholeness of myself, or I am to go down the road of consensual reality with all its trimmings and frills. Again, an either/or choice-point which is encroached in our cultures, whereby women, in particular, would need to choose between following their calling or being of service to others. And the price to pay for choosing to follow our call could be the loss of sexuality, and other forms of banishment for disobeying the law of ‘Protect and Provide’.
When I take all this in, I can feel the compelling call to follow my intuition and the degree of urgency that is enfolded in the word ‘compelling’, a sense of urgency which tastes of a fearless life-force. I then allow the energy of compelling-ness to swell in me taking me to the tipping point where I can no longer resist, and I leap forward into the unknowing-ness. I get very interested in the micro-moment before the tipping-point, the point of no return. What is happening here? What is holding me back? I then feel the presence of someone close by, his or her neediness coercing me into being of service to them, rather than becoming an instrument in service to the greater purpose. At this point the words ‘compelling’ and ‘compulsive’ rock and roll in my awareness, and I begin to discern and to feel the energetic signature behind the movements, their specific frequency, both powerful life-forces, but with different impacts and consequences: different frequencies, indeed.
In my life-trajectory it would seem that compulsive behaviours got in the way of my compelling impulses, or at least there was an ongoing battle between these two forces, a power game of manipulation and abuse, where there can only be a winner and a loser. This feels like a journey of separation and extreme isolation, far from the principles of wholeness and oneness that I hold, naturally, in my heart-space because they are of our innate and essential nature. In a certain sense, this is what had played out in Varanasi. I had found myself at a forking point with two paths in front of me. I had seen and tasted the proximity of a field that is supportive of the unfoldment of the wholeness of myself as woman. The other path was strewn with anxiety and fear, energetic litter discarded by generations of men and women, the disowned trash over which we, as humanity, are walking, unconsciously. From this perspective, there was a path of surviving or a path of thriving, and I had chosen the path of survival in my valiant attempts to overcome anxiety and fear.
This inquiry has freed me of such a representation and I now see that the two paths have been running in parallel, all the time, and that I have been hopping from one to the other. I can now choose to walk any path allowing flowers to blossom in my footsteps. I need no longer follow the footsteps of someone casting a dark shadow over my wholeness. I am now aware of the years I have spent apprehending reality through opaque lenses, clouded with denser-vibrational forms and energies, my own and also those of my intimate partner and of my larger context. A lot of clearing work has been accomplished in order to release all these energetic emanations from the past and, for me, to differentiate myself from the amorphous heap proclaiming to be a together-ness, which is not in service of the highest expression of life, but follows an individualistic agenda of domination and subjugation.
Provide and Protect
The second bubble of information that burst through the sludge invited me to have a good look at the relational patterning between spouses I had come across. It came through as I was watching a documentary series on intuitive intelligence. The particular episode I was viewing was on the intuitive gender trap, unpacking, amongst many topics, how we are locked in gender roles that define the way we are expected to behave and show up in intimate relationships. For instance, Charles Eisenstein points to the weight of the ‘Provide and Protect’ stance that has been heavily laid upon men. Indeed, for aeons, the man’s role has been to provide and to protect, and many fathers and husbands have diligently followed this culturally imposed assumption. Suffice, for me, to look at my own family to realise how deeply that runs in the family system and how it has affected women taking their place and showing up in times of disruptions such as the two world wars. Things are shifting, and that furrow is no longer as deeply incised, which does not necessarily mean that things are easier, both for men and for women, when such a clear-cut line of conduct becomes blurry. The more I listened, the more I became aware of this energetic tramline rooted in me, and the numerous times I have followed it believing it to be a valid representation of reality, something that was due to me as a woman.
Of course, I expected my husband to provide and to protect for me! How could it be otherwise? The harsh circumstances that crashed on me during our honeymoon in India had thrown the spanner in the wheels, and I had been led to believe that, if this supposedly universal truth was not manifesting, then it was because of me. I was doing something wrong. I was wrong and this was reflective of the fact that I was undeserving of love and unworthy of protection and support. Such was the tacit narrative running the show of my relationship with my first husband, one that was to show up in all my intimate relationships, one that is silently running in the subterranean layers of humanity, my particular story being but one in a much vaster and wider collection of compelling stories.
From the onset of my relationship with Roberto, I did not feel protected, quite the opposite, I felt exposed and threatened by his choices. This became clear in India and increased over the years with me desperately trying to cover up the consequences, taking the blame and feeling the shame for his reckless actions. I was the one providing, too, and, over the twenty years of our relationship, there were more than one occasion when I had had to bail him out. This was not a marriage blessed by ‘Provide and Protect’, more likely an expression of ‘Despoil and Threaten’ which I now understand would have led me to often presence, and act out, energies of emasculation.
Looking back on my time in Varanasi, when I felt I was disintegrating from within, barely able to stand up in the face of so much anxiety and terror, I could sense my helpless collapse as a multitude of heavily imprinted energies swirled around and choked me, leaving me to feel powerless and defenceless. In the past months, I have been actively engaged in clearing energetic residues within, and I have been working with the nine-step practice for clearing lower-vibrational energies in Book Two of the Guidance for Life on Earth series. As part of the practice, I have been working, on a daily basis, with the affirmation (p. 152) supporting release of lower-vibrational energies and their alignment with higher frequencies of consciousness. Over the course of the past weeks, I have been learning, with others, to invoke and to hold higher-vibrational emanations of life and not to be thrown off balance when lower-vibrational energies discharge in the relational space. It has been a fascinating practice where I have learned to trust my capacities of staying aligned and centred, whilst, simultaneously, feeling the lower-vibrational energies within me galloping along their tramlines.
It has become clear to me that I no longer want to partake in intimate relationships imbued with denser energies, whereby I would need to protect myself from being thrown off balance, and to be constantly on my guards in case this should arise. I do not want to feel that I need to protect myself from life arising, and I no longer want to live in the shadow of a distorted ‘Provide and Protect’ agenda, even less to hand that power over to someone else. As a human being, I want to protect the sacredness of life, all life, and I want to contribute to the unfolding of consciousness, regardless of my gender and roles allocated by social conventions. This is why I am here. This is my purpose in life.
I then feel my deep longing for the quality of steadfastness to flourish in intimate relationships, where my intimate partner is in service to the fullest expression of myself as I would want to be in service to his expansion into the wholeness of himself. I want to be walking the path of thriving, all the time, and to shake off the belief that I would need to sharpen my survival skills in order to bear with circumstances where I feel either frustrated or withering. Here, I detect how often I have convinced myself to be content with second-best to deflect my sense of being a victim of circumstances, a subtle yet potent self-sabotaging mechanism within me which holds me back from daring to affirm my deepest longing and to follow my call in life.
The planetary acupuncture point that is located at Varanasi holds all qualities of life on Earth. There is the messiness of the human experience represented by the crowds assembled by the Ganges observing their devotional practices amongst the litter floating by and the polluted waters. There is also the stillness of an all-encompassing love and compassion pulsing from Sarnath. I have been blessed by both and I have been remembered in this through my writing. I feel more complete now, less divided by contrasted and contradictory experiences, torn by the desecration of life and shot with anxiety, aimlessly wandering in a place, seemingly, devoid of Love. I am of all this, both the sludge and the love. I am whole in my essential nature. I am blessed with inclusiveness. I know, within me, of the unfailing generosity of Love holding me in my terror. I am grateful to have been guided back there, thirty-five years later, to harvest the timeless gem of wisdom awaiting me, and that has always been with me.