I was recently asked to write about mental health and rising within ourselves during a dawn ecstatic dance event. Initially, I said no because the idea of writing in public save coffeeshops and school cafeterias and subways and bars was terrifying. Then I realized my concern was not writing in public, but the idea of writing in real time. The expectation was terrifying. Also, being up with a pen ready at 5:30am on a Sunday was not a thought I’d ever considered palatable. But after saying, “No, thank you,” the idea took root and soon I realized this was an opportunity. I write, that’s what I love and what I fear. As a child, it’s how I saw myself as an adult – as an imbedded war correspondent or moving through refugee camps or on the outreaches of the world in her most untouched places – I dreamed of telling our stories. So … I couldn’t very well turn down an invite to share thoughts about mental health as spurred on by a 5:30am Rising Sun ecstatic dance event.
What follows, isn’t a retelling of the event, but thoughts I had as I sat on a front porch of a warehouse reclaimed for community living space. People inside preparing fresh fruit and juices, colorful people smiling as they entered, whimsical flowing pants and long shirts tumbling around their sleepy limbs. Later, I would join in a cacao ceremony and watch from a makeshift stage as they danced. Those stories I may elaborate on another time, but now unedited thoughts on mental health that came to me as a reflection of the cycle of a life based in a day.
As is all of life and her conditions, mental health is a balance of energy. Mental health is dawn and darkness and all the moments of one life’s day. Birdsong and daybreak — possibilities are endless and bountiful energy pervades, but winds move in and storms can overtake — dropping a darkness of shadow on your soul.
In that darkness, rain hammering down, you can become lost and feel alone though people are close. Thunder of emotion rolls within and it feels as though the rain will never end, but it will pass. At times you must seek shelter in your day – regulate with food, water, rest, connection – in order to rise from the storms. After the respite – be it a day or a season – the storms end and the sun shines. It is your dawn and you will rise with the fierce beauty of desert sun. Nothing holding you back from your own energy. Nothing breaking the extension of your soul from earth to the farthest stars. It is your day and sun rise is imminent.
As eyes adjust to new light your place is revealed – the places that rested in shadow are reflected in light and opportunity. Energy shifts – night into day you can make your way. As you begin to see, you begin to stretch and those who have been there all along – those who watched you walk through the storm but couldn’t be heard for the rain and thunder within – as light glimmers – they are there – stretching back and creating space for you. Space you may have not known, but space that always existed. Space that had been waiting for your energy. Phoenix rising has begun.
You step forward into the light and can begin to see this new phoenix is you.
It is your dawn and you must rise.
Rise and reach
Rise and reach
Only darkness can hold you back and the storm is temporary. The fires of the sun are stored in each of us and in all of life. There is a chosen family waiting with a fire for you to join around and thrive.
People love plans.
Creatures of habit are we with expectations and visions of what is to be. When things don’t go as planned we feel a catch in our breath – a sense of disappointment – sadness – anger – fear that we didn’t do right or aggravation because someone didn’t measure up. The thing is, life is chaos. Plans never go without a hitch – even when all appears smooth there is someone, somewhere that knows something didn’t go “as planned.”
When I would daydream about future plans, my wasband used to say, “Stalin had a five-year-plan.” Our marriage didn’t go as planned, beginning with our wedding day, but I stubbornly held on and tried to shoehorn myself into part of a couple that could get through anything. And we could, but not as a shape that was good for my soul. I ignored intuition and abandoned self-care during those years. I lived with checklists and mental guides of how to keep him happy and what not to do to make him grumpy or angry. I turned a lovely friendship into a frothing cauldron by trying to create what I thought was the frame of a “good marriage.” I never felt heard, but realize it was, in part, because I was not listening to myself. I became a shadow of the woman he originally knew and didn’t recognize myself by the end of our union.
I don’t plan anymore. I listen, I move, I let myself be guided. I manifest, I watch, I share, I love, I keep momentum. I sit still.
For some, plans make them anxious. For others, no plan makes them anxious. However, in both of instances it is not “The Plan” that’s at issue. It’s a loss of control. At the core, control and our feelings of control are key to interactions with life and our mental health. In the idea of the phoenix and rising to your truth there is a loss of control. Fire is not something to control, unless it is to be extinguished. It can be guided, but it is a natural, earth shaping phenomenon that creates growth and change by first burning down to the ash. You must allow yourself to burn down, before you can rise again. We must let the sun’s power release in order to direct it within our spirit and journey. Mental health is energy health and that is balance.
Letting go – holding on
Listening – hearing
Dreaming – doing
Stillness – action
Watching adults dance and play in dawn’s light is somehow jarring. It is not what “should be done,” though you can’t help but envy their return to what appears a child-like innocence. Tantric playfulness is the language of adults who have reclaimed fearlessness and connection despite knowing there is pain in the world – perhaps for knowing their pain in the world. Those who embrace the play are outside the norm. There is a freshness to them – in watching them interact and play in the world – that may sit still behind the duty of adulting, but can be released and accessed in a moment. It is welcoming giggles – open arms – spirit of joy even if sadness of time may be known within.