I love the State of Emergence podcasts that draw me into research about the subject being discussed, and have spent many hours reading related books and articles, looking into websites and listening to other podcasts that connect to the topic.
In contrast, I have listened to the conversation between Terry Patten and Bayo Akomolafe, Getting Lost & Meeting the More-than-Human Vibrancy of the World, over and over without reaching for more information simply because it strikes me as being profoundly beautiful. The cadence alone arouses something unnamable; the flow of the words truly carries the poet’s gift. The depth of the conversation between these two men exposes my thirst for what springs from the well they drink from.
Bayo, who is an intellectual trained in psychology, is originally from Africa, now lives in India, and has lectured around the world. In this particular podcast he describes the practice of shaman-like individuals in Africa, whose healing ministrations involve cutting open cracks in the skin. The cracks embody openness to what is emergent. He uses this imagery to illustrate the need to purposefully engage the wisdom of discerning what is new and true, facing the challenges that wend their way into one’s life, and avoiding what does not accommodate insight.
Bayo’s word that stayed with me is repositioning; the need to deliberately disturb oneself from within to be able to recognize and embrace the larger life context that is available. The word repositioning has been nagging at me all this past year. Spiritually speaking, I used to think that I could reposition myself in a final sense and find my way utterly and absolutely. I now see repositioning myself as the pathway itself. I find that I become aware of something emerging and must physically reposition myself in order to consciously become aware of what is being offered.
Following is an account of a recent experience that involved acting on an idea that required initiating something I had never done before. I was completely aware that I was intentionally repositioning myself in the hope of recognizing what was being birthed.
Sunday, March 14th, was the International Day for Action for Rivers. A week beforehand, I invited a few friends, all seniors, to join me in caravanning to the edge of the Hudson River on the 14th to commemorate this day. Interestingly, everyone who was invited showed up even though it was a bitter cold and windy day here in New York, where we live. We met in the parking lot of the local supermarket and taped signs to our cars advertising the cause of our endeavor. Then we lined up with our emergency lights on and proceeded to drive slowly to the parking area near the river at the Oscawana Island Nature Preserve. Strangely, as I drove along, I had an unanticipated and overwhelming sense of ‘we space’, in total communion with my companions.
After we parked, we still had a bit of a hike before us along a narrow trail and across a small bridge to get to the island. All were in high spirits and made the short hike with enthusiasm. Once we located ourselves close to the water, we read poems, played a rain stick made from cactus and beat an African drum. We remembered all the great rivers of the Planet, the Amazon, the Nile, the Mississippi, the Yellow, the Tigris, the Ganges and many more. We prayed for peace among the civilizations that these great rivers had birthed. The highlight was returning to the river tiny pieces of ancient limestone as a sign of our commitment to the restoration of the rivers of the Earth.
Someone had brought coffee and donuts, which we gratefully devoured back in the parking lot. A journalist had joined us, adding to the energy and spirit of the occasion. In spite of the cold, we stayed a while longer enjoying each other’s company. We were universally glad to have already received the Covid vaccination and decided to connect again soon after our long isolation from each other, although gratefully indoors and out of the cold.
A few days later, these friends met at my apartment for a happy hour and conversation. I wondered how the gathering would flow, but we dipped right into good sharing about the future, and how we can be present to each other and do meaningful things together, widening our embrace to include otherss. I was deeply aware of this as initiating something new and promising. On the spot we planned another trip.
Finally, while I believe there is a place for the comfort of the known and the balm of tradition, there is a great need for freely opening the cracks to allow in the light, for repositioning ourselves in deliberate attentiveness to the emergent, exploring what is arising and bowing before the holy source that draws us forward.
Following is a beautiful poem by Rainer Maria Rilke that I found was in harmony with the yearning so eloquently captured in the conversation between Terry and Bayo in this podcast featuring cracks. It is one of the poems we read by the river.
All that has never yet been spoken
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.