One of my favorite books of all times is Women who Run with the Wolves by the spellbinding storyteller Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It was my alternative Bible and lay right next to me on my bedside table for many years while I was going through particularly intense changes and transformations. This gift of a book made that time bearable and gave me many juicy shifts and insights.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes acted as a type of wild woman mentor who activated the wild woman archetype inside of me that was busting to be released. Being an innocent, airy fairy, good young woman with no wild women to teach me the tools of life had led me into situations that could have benefited from wild teachings and wild women. Maybe you were lucky and blessed to have that in your life, I was not. Not then.
If you haven’t read the book, I say go do it! I still open it up now and then to get a bit of wild inspiration. Wild is not the crazy type of wild that might come to mind. The wildness is the untamed wisdom that lies inside each and every woman that is absolutely necessary to be in touch with if we want to live with good instincts among other wild qualities….
It was in this book that I learned about the life-death-life cycle. I remember it sounded strange at the time and I had to get my head around it. Now I love this cycle; it is so full of potential. Something begins and then ends, followed by a new beginning. You could be forgiven if you thought that something ends full stop. No more potential. And no more hope. The force of renewal and new beginnings however, are always there in waiting. Sometimes just like a seed in the dark until the time is ripe.
The seasons are a good example of this cycle, spring always brings life back to the land. Death will always be followed by life. There are many cycles in a life that reflect this cycle, a phase ends and another one begins. Like an in-breath followed by an out-breath. Expansion and contraction. Our lives are driven by this ever-cycling force that keeps life going, around us, in our lives and inside of us. The paradox is that there must be a death of sort in order for life to renew itself. In our culture we are often so out of sync with these cycles.
There are many symbols for the life-death-life cycle – The rising Phoenix (image Misticmedia), the floral deer skull, the triple spiral, and the serpent of eternal life (snake eating its own tail) to name a few.
When I forget that life is cyclical and expect my life to look like a forever abundant fruit tree or a constant, beautiful blooming flower, I separate myself from the life-death-life cycle. When I can look at the same imaginary fruit tree when the branches are bare, with no fruit in sight and understand that life is just dormant for a while, I can be more present in the moment and feel the subtle potency that is present even in a death cycle.
You can probably feel into where you are in the cycle right now in different areas of your life. You might have started a new job after ‘dying’ to your old one. Maybe the passion died in your relationship and suddenly it came to life again. Or, the relationship ended and you are right in the death part. The word death is a strong one. Better to think of it as the end of a cycle that will be followed by new and fresh life eventually, when the time is right and in ways that might look different to what you had in mind.
Lately I have had a renewed interest in the life-death-life cycle. There are many simultaneous cycles running through my life, as it is in yours, and I am happy to be in the life- and renewed life- cycle in so many areas. But, there are some aspects of me and my life that have come to an end, their life cycle is finished! Most of them are about dying to my old self. How exciting is that!
I feel we could be more creative with these cycles in our lives. We can create rituals or ceremonies around them. We can celebrate, grieve, and acknowledge. We can get creative in our own special way with song, poems and dance.
I drew this dragon recently to symbolize an old part of me that had come to the end of its life cycle.
You can ask yourself questions –
What can be brought back to life?
What is dying a slow death?
What areas of my life feels vibrant and full of life?
Can I feel the subtle vibrant life force in an area that seem dead or dull?
What is the cycle I am in asking of me?
What is ready to die?
What is ready to sprout?
I like to share a short and wonderful story. It perfectly illustrates the life-death-life cycle and that all is not lost… even if that is what it looks like.
Through an interview with Storyteller Jaya Penelope here on Devi Living website, I rekindled my relationship with story and discovered Michael Meade, an American mythologist, storyteller, and author.
I heard this Native American folk story through him. I will tell it in my own words, any potential mistake is mine!
In a dark cave in the wilderness, by the small flickering light from a fire that some people say is the oldest fire in the world, an old woman sits.
She is weaving a garment which will be the most beautiful garment the world has ever seen. She has been weaving this garment for a long, long time. Her eyes are weary from the strain of weaving in the flickering light in the cave.
She has almost finished the garment. She is working on the hem and because this is going to be the most beautiful garment that you could ever see, she is decorating the hem with porcupine quills.
To weave them into the hem she must bite on the quills and flatten them with her teeth. She has been doing it for so long that her teeth are worn down from biting and flattening the quills.
Behind the woman, further into the cave, there hangs a large cauldron over the fire that some say is older than life itself.
Inside the cauldron is a brew with every seed, every plant, every herb and with every grain there is.
If someone doesn’t stir the brew and attend to the fire, the seeds and the plants and the herbs and the grains will burn and there will be nothing left for the people on Earth to eat.
The old woman puts down the weaving and stands up to attend to the fire and the brew. She is old and has been sitting for a long time. She walks slowly up to the cauldron in the back of the cave and begins to stir the brew.
Meanwhile, outside the cave a black dog walks by. Maybe the black dog smelt the brew that was brewing in the cauldron because he stops and walks into the cave.
In the flickering light he sees the weaving on the floor of the cave, and he sees a loose thread. The black dog pulls on the thread and keeps pulling on the thread until the whole garment has been unraveled and lies in a mess on the floor.
Just at that time, the old woman returns from stirring the brew and she sees what is left on the floor. The old woman sits down and looks at the mess of threads and quills.
All her hard work, love and dedication that went into making the garment has turned into just a big chaotic mess.
Suddenly she sees a loose thread herself. She grabs hold of the thread and as soon as she does, she has a vision of a garment that is even more beautiful than the one she had just been working on for such a long time.
Immediately she begins to weave, again, a new garment.
The one that will be the most beautiful garment the world has ever seen.
And that’s the end of the story.
I hope you love this story as much as I do. It is a good medicine story that can be applied to the both the greater world and our own individual lives. May you live well within the cycles of life!
What did the story trigger for you? Where are you in the cycles? I would love to hear in the Comment section below!
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