By Amanda Fiorino
Two summers ago while living on the island of Maui, after a series of tumultuous events, I found myself biking down from her high and steep country hills. Following the ocean line, my gaze jetted out along the waves crashing against cliffs, coral reefs, and sandy banks. I was riding a bike that was too small for my body, and carrying a story that no longer fit the curves and contours of my life. The sun was high, the trade winds were mighty, and I could feel my body breaking free of its dead and crusty skin. Salty sweat was like a diffuse pumice stone exfoliating the decay from scabs, and cleansing the age-old wounds of adolescence.
My heart beat against the tissue of my lungs, drumming up rivers of blood. My breath slowed, sipping the medicinal tea of each tree’s exhale. My eyes widened, dilating like a black hole devouring the light of stars. My senses expanded, infusing a storm cloud of lighting, with soft, soundless pulsations of light. My cells percolated, brewing wonder and awe deep within the caverns of my heart.
Moments such as this, where I am both present with and connected to my deepest aches and the wild, more-than-human world, are the moments that I feel my own belonging. These are the moments where I hear with my body the sharp cries of my Soul, starved and thirsty for a life guided once more by the position of planets and mysterious paw prints left in the sand. The sheath of conventionality slips back, exposing the vulnerable edge of authenticity. This is the edge one walks in search of Soul. It is the periphery, the outskirts of society and culture a teacher of mine once spoke of through myth and metaphor. She compared a finely sharpened blade with golden honey dripping along the knife edge to that of Kali, Goddess of the fertile dark and keeper of the flames that wait to lick at our flesh.
Gestating in the pregnant moment of now, encircled by a lingering past and a possible future, I found myself thinking, “Why can’t I just stay here along the winding roads with the wind, the sun and the sea? I want to burst into a million little pieces and rock along the currents that give birth to waves, and dance upon the billowing elephant grasses that make love to the wind.”
Life is ravenous and unpredictable!
The adventure of living promises an encounter with merciless beauty and unbiased benevolence, as well as debilitating grief and hideous betrayals. Swimming through vast currents of potentiality, we often find ourselves unexpectedly riding between two shorelines of intensity inside the belly of Life. In this wildly enigmatic ocean of ebb and flow, we discover what we’re made of as we buoy from high points to low points. Upperworld to Underworld, and back again.
As the ocean of existence draws a breath in, its watery diaphragm lifts us towards the skyline. Upon its exhale, a necessary undertow pulls us down beyond the darkest of lightless sea floors. In our journey to the depths, we begin to cultivate one of our more formidable tools in the resurrection of Soul: resilience.
Resilience is defined as “the ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune.”
The word “quickly” is fettered with relativity. Yet, it touches on something significant – our ability to evolve and transform which can only be recognised by the stretch of space our mind refers to as “time.”
These liminal dimensions of paradox usher us back and forth between intense highs and intense lows. Like a pendulum, we eventually come to a still point at the center of our being. The amount of time that it takes to do so is dependent upon the momentum of our swing. Relative. A relative that challenges our endurance; challenges if and how we succumb and surrender to the tides of change. And change comes through an infinite expanse of births, deaths, and rebirths.
Life experiences carry within them the genetics of previous experiences. As we move through the cyclic patterns of existence, we come into deeper relationship with that which we struggle with most. Angels and demons of the abyss that hopefully defeat us at every turn. Rising from the imaginal spheres of the unknown, these forces grip us and work us like the pearl, once sand, inside a clam’s shell. Tiny, fragmented pieces of chaotic subjectivity, once strewn about, that are drawn together and polished whole. Divinely excruciating and devilishly pleasurable, our very being-ness, in its unraveling, is reconstituted in the upward swing of the wave that pulls the Soul of us through tensioned waters of change.
Life is devastating!
Devastating, as defined by most dictionaries, refers to something that is highly destructive. Destruction, neither inherently evil nor inherently beautiful, carries with it an imperishable and hideous dismantling of life. A dismantling that compels me to break the very word, itself, down in a way that it may not have been, before: deva – stating.
Deva, by itself, is a Sanskrit word that, when translated, means “shining ones.” Stating quite simply refers to the ability to express, clearly. In this way, we could redefine devastating to mean giving birth to a living organism that is marked by its shining clarity. More to the point, it is my belief that we cannot birth this shining clarity, a mark of the Soul, without our lives, first, enduring the spaces between destruction and creation. The space between both is where life becomes devastating.
Life is beautiful!
It’s painful for me to write those words, sometimes, because life doesn’t always feel beautiful. It feels hard and agonising. And yet, I can’t help but feel an urgency to know, deep within my skin, blood and bones, that pain and joy are but one and the same.
So, if you feel yourself buoying between waves, or swinging from one end to the other, know that you’re being strengthened by that unending rock and sway. And strength isn’t about becoming solid, immovable, and static. Strength is about becoming resilient. And resilience does not mean you will not break, crumble, cry, scream, denounce this life and then love it again in the very next second. Resilience means you can descend to the heart of your existence. Resilience means you can journey to the center of your Soul, and discover what it means to be.