By Shannon Crossman WAKING WILD

Burn It All Down & Rise: The Magic Of An Awakening Woman

By Shannon Crossman

I am aflame. No one set the fire. This is self-immolation.

I don’t think I knew what I was signing on for when this all started. But there’s no stopping the fires of transformation, once they’ve begun lapping at your skin. I climbed up here on this pyre. Said I wanted to be awake. Declared the intention to set free all the structures that tie me down. Hold me back. Stop me from becoming. I think I had very romantic notions of what that would look like. Imagined I could rise without the burning. Envisioned grace descending in a peaceful, quiet hush.

I forgot how this whole phoenix business works.

Now I am here. Screaming in the heat. Clawing at my own skin. Desperate to get out. You cannot un-know these kinds of things. There is no reverse apple. Once Truth-with-a-capital-T is tasted, it stains your lips, tongue, teeth for life. Still, I resist. Wriggle and strain against it. Refuse to surrender. Run from myself. Go numb. Howl in agony. Plead with God, with my spouse, with myself. Try to reason my way out of this. None of it does a damn bit of good.

No one tells you the truth about being a phoenix. How this kind of burning – the kind that strips you of everything you are so you can be made new – hurts like hell. You feel it. All. Every tiny, bright tendril consuming all you have ever been. Resistance is as useless to you as a pair of shoes you wore when you were six. Once ignited no amount of water will put out this cleansing. Anything short of complete surrender only prolongs the burn.

Inside the flames, I am learning the hard way how to let go. It is the most fucking painful thing. Goes against all my internal programming. Every line of code ever input into my system hinges on endurance, holding on, dissociating at times, but never letting go.

Sounds so simple.

Unclasp fingers from object. Drop it. Disentangle mind from obsessive worries. Free it. Easy to say, but execution is a bitch. So I suffer. Tell myself I am losing my mind. Going mad. Breaking myself. May never recover. Grapple with the impossibility of the situation. Make everything so much harder than it has to be…

I tell you, the greatest game of ‘come here, go away’ I’ve ever played is with my Self.

I long for the next iteration, and cannot seem to release the current one. Something inside screams, “I am not disposable!” I don’t know what to do with her. She is an ever tightening noose round my neck. I cannot breathe inside her framework for being. Know she must die off. Be freed so I can renew. Yet up to now, she formed a core piece of my identity. Together. In control. Strong, no matter what. Reliable. Competent beyond reason. Productive. Problem is, all those structures eventually become cages. Trap a person in ways so subtle, it’s hard to notice. I think that’s what drove me up here on top of this pyre. It got so bad, I started to notice.

Now I am attached to this aspect of my personality and I want it to be gone. That fact alone is crazy-making. So I lie here on the pyre playing tug-of-war with my consciousness.

If I could get my head in the game, this might go more quickly. But my mind doesn’t seem capable of getting it. Cannot connect the burning to the rising. No matter how hard I try to convince myself, the little lizard curled up at the base of my skull refuses to budge. Screams, “We are dying!” Sounds all the alarms. So my brain dumps cortisol and adrenaline into my system like candy flying out of a freshly busted piñata. Forcing my body to respond as if I am in grave danger.

Flight. Fight. Freeze. I grow weary of this infernal suffering. Know there has to be another way.

On an existential level, I know what I am doing. Understand the need for smouldering to ash. An essential piece of my operating system is being overwritten. I will not emerge the same. That was the intention. I have to trust that I meant it when I lit the first match. Stop second guessing myself. Start surrendering. Otherwise, I could get stuck here. Perpetually on fire. Never make it to the rising. I think it’s why some of us go slowly mad. There aren’t instructions on how to manage this process – it’s too personal. We’re all just winging it. And it’s so  easy to get lost in the fear. To forget that things are not worse now, they’re just visible. Unveiled. Brought to the surface so they can be transformed.

Grace finally comes. Not in a peaceful, quiet hush. But in the arms of panic attacks and the inability to pretend to have it together for one more fucking second. Who knew grace would show up like that? It’s a wise move with someone like me. Overpower me to the point that I can no longer employ my enduring strategies. Until I must admit defeat. Recognise the futility of fighting. Let go of my end of the rope in this tug-of-war.

Lean into the flames. Pray. Sometimes change is just brutal.

I pass the last bits of time imagining what it will be like on the other side of the flames. How I will disintegrate into a pile of ash and dust until no remnant of selfhood remains. Break down all the cages. Free at last from the myriad ways I’ve bound myself up in this life. Certain, because I am human, I will create new ties. Fashion a whole different set of cages. I’d be kidding myself if I thought otherwise. But for now, it is enough to pray for the wisdom to spring the traps sooner next time. To not let it come to the fires and the burning again – at least not for some time.

When it is done and I am burned to the ground, there is peace. Inside that peace, deep down in the ashes new life stirs. What she becomes is not for me to know or project. Only to witness. An awe-struck observer watching how this magic of being human works.

How we can be reborn again and again in the same lifetime. How in spite of – or maybe even because of – the fear, the death throes, and the pain of it all, we rise. Indomitably. Eternally. We rise.

For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends Women Who Run with the Wolves.



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Shannon Crossman

Shannon Crossman learned the hard way that untapped creative energy casts a helluva shadow, so she crafts her sanity with her hands daily. Nothing excites (or frustrates) her more than a blank page, fresh ball of yarn, or pile of foodstuffs - all waiting to be transformed into bits of deliciousness. Words are, and have always been, her way back home. She is a writer, artist, technical wizard, public speaker, witch, priestess, gluten free baker, time-bender, and COO who happens to possess a degree in Transpersonal & Somatic Psychology. She's a mama and grandma to a gaggle of wild girls who make her heart happy. When she's out in the business world she's figuring out how to make things faster, more efficient, and automating the hell out of sh*t. Shannon still believes in magic, craves the ocean like a land-locked mermaid, and dreams of a life without shoes.

  1. Tanya Markul

    You are AMAZING! Woman on FIRE! Burning with you, sister! XOXO

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  3. This is so damn good. Now I am here. Screaming in the heat. Clawing at my own skin. Desperate to get out. You cannot un-know these kinds of things. There is no reverse apple. Once Truth-with-a-capital-T is tasted, it stains your lips, tongue, teeth for life. Still, I resist. Wriggle and strain against it. Refuse to surrender. Run from myself. Go numb. Howl in agony. Plead with God, with my spouse, with myself. Try to reason my way out of this. None of it does a damn bit of good.
    I read this and was amazed, it resonated deeply and it gave me insight and hope. It is me trying to crawl out of the barrier and into the light.
    I neede this to continue my journey, not to give up.

    • Shannon Crossman

      Oh, Patrizia. Yes!! Continue your journey. Do not give up. I know it can feel impossible. Like the hard part will never stop. Goddess, I’ve lived that truth more times than I’d like to count. I am so glad the piece resonates with you and gives you hope. So many women are going through this right now…letting something burn off so the new can emerge. You are not alone, Sister <3

      • Thank you Shannon, my search for like minded people continues to go on, I feel alone at times but I know that there are many women out there going through the same thing. Time will come when I will speak my mind, feel at peace and forgive and forget so I can move forward. 🙂

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  5. Wow! This! I love your description of the burning. Articulates so well what this process is like! I’m burning with you! I forgot about the Phoenix process, but your reference here has brought it back to me very vividly and makes so much sense. Thank you for sharing this!

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  7. Carol Nickerson

    I read this twice, once when I first received the link in my email box. I read it from the place in me so distressed by the recent election and it spoke right to me, because if I don’t seize this time as an opportunity to make a difference, I will surely shrivel up. I read it the second time, all quiet with my hot cup of coffee, and it spoke to a much more private place in me. When I read your quote about grace I had memories of moments I felt this kind of grace and could feel how it felt…a kind of knowing and quite a surprise. Keep on writing, Shannon!

    • Carol, thank you! Yes, there are both the inner and the outer halves of this burning business. Shedding layers to reveal what dwells within, and the emergence into the world with the soft new skin. So much to be with. Huge hugs to you <3

  8. This is one of the most powerful poems I have ever read. You speak to me and my fears of making it thru to the other side. Thank you for the words.

  9. I am stunned. It’s as if you were describing everything I have been experiencing for the last 2 years. The song, “killing me softly” comes to mind. You write exquisitely.

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  11. May I ask who the artist is who did the painting of the woman with gold and green patterns that shows up on the link of the article (not the picture at the top)?

  12. Elizabeth Black

    Yes, this is how it is. Exactly like this.

  13. I know so many people, women especially, going through this now. Myself included. Thank you for voicing it so beautifully. I just wrote a blog post about the cost of transformation and how that cost is the best reason to always be prepared. Good, brave work and I personally have felt like the recent political and cultural landscape has helped me understand why it was so necessary for me to make and embrace all of the changes I’ve gone through in the past few years. These experiences of transformation make warriors of us. Glad to know there are so many good women on the path with me!

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  15. Bravo. Beautifully expressed. Soul-altering words. Thank you. Sending love.

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  23. Michelle

    Wildly Brilliant. Hope you don’t mind my share on my FB page. Goddess Bless!

  24. Shannon Crossman

    Thank you, Michelle! Love the shares <3 Blessed be!

  25. Leslie Harding

    A friend of mine just posted this on her FB page. Wow! It is even more relevant in these times, than when you wrote it over a year ago. It is also exactly how I felt when I finally fought all the battles and emerged from the ashes a new and awesome being. Thank you for putting it into words. I do feel like a Phoenix rising from the ashes of my former self.

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  27. So fucking brilliant.

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