by Ann Irwin
What a struggle it is to live! To Shakespeare it was about “To Be or not to Be” and for many of our clients that is the struggle they bring to our door. But for many others it is about How to Be. We arrive here with no map, no compass and with everybody telling us what to do, where to go and what we want. Is it any wonder many people end up so dreadfully lost? When they find themselves in this vacuum, clients often begin a Spiritual Search an attempt to get back to the centre, to the core, to experience something that lifts them out of the ordinary and transforms them. However this journey has its dangers too if not grounded in the reality of living.
Into the Centre
I was forcibly reminded of this when, with a group of friends, I recently went on a Sacred Journey to Uisneach in County Meath. Uisneach is known as “the navel of Ireland” and represents the point at which heaven, earth and the underworld meet – a kind of Jacob’s Ladder or Axis Mundi where the whole story comes together. The energy there was quite overwhelming and we instinctively crawled into the womb holes of the massive Catstone and allowed ourselves to hum with the energy. It was quite extra-ordinary and for weeks afterwards I was definitely “away with the fairies.” It is this being “away with the fairies” I want to speak about. This is the magic place where we get snagged so easily, believing we have found the answer to the struggle of being. We live richly on this spiritual plane where the muck of living washes off us. We don’t have to engage. We are happy in our own spiritual time warp. The ascetics knew it. The Dervishes knew it. All the great Spiritual Leaders knew it. And now we too have entered the Sacred Doorway and nobody is going to drag us back to the boring reality, to the struggle and mess of daily living.
We are in a Spiritual Bypass and it feels so good! But it truly is a Bypass because, like being on the motorway to Dublin, we miss all the twists and turns, the hills and the valleys, the challenge of the traffic jams, the quaint and interesting villages, the stops we might make. In fact in our hurry to get to Dublin, we often miss the whole journey. We have not engaged. It all goes by in a blur. No struggle. We have arrived! And we have totally missed the point. Because, in life, the journey is the whole point.
It has often been said that the lower chakras are the counselling chakras and that we need to heal the struggles represented by these energy centres first before moving to the higher chakras. The lower charkas encompass our acceptance of being here, our connection to home, family and other relationships and our sense of self. These are the quaint and interesting villages where we must struggle with twists and turns, hills and valleys in order to learn How to Be here. If we allow our clients to move into Spiritual Bypass before they are fully here, we have betrayed them. If we support them in living internally and only surviving externally, without the rich and healing connection to their base humanity, we have truly betrayed them.
My daughter had an interesting take on the icon blasting comedian Tommy Tiernan’s latest show. She said “He’s a philosopher – he is exploring being here – being in a body, being physical, being earthy…..” Of course she was absolutely right. We are appalled and fascinated by his base humour – what can we do but laugh? He is exploring the base chakra, the one we have been taught to disdain – the root and the muck and the reality of our human condition. He is literally wallowing in the muck of being here but we can’t miss the sparkle of stars in his eyes either. We are spiritual beings in a human body needing to embrace the base before we can rise above it. We are human beings busy looking at the stars and crying out for the experience of the spiritual without realising that, like the lotus, our roots have to be deep in the muck before our beauty can reach skyward.
Refusal to root.
A very real difficulty experienced by many clients is a refusal to put down roots, a refusal to commit to being here. This can show itself in a refusal to commit to a separate self – a self without an umbilicus to another. It can show itself in dissociation between action and emotion. It can show itself most dangerously in a refusal to get down and dirty about what we want, about what we need and about what is rightfully ours. We long to live in Uisneach, that dreamy Otherworld, where there is no pain and no struggle but our roots demand commitment – the commitment of surviving the sad decay of Autumn, the angry destruction of Winter, the painful birth into Spring in order to reach the delicious ease of Summer.
I love the world of Uisneach, it has the feel and the smell and the shape of home, but right now I have in mind a journey North – north to the land of the dispossessed and the land of the Planters – the place where everyone had to struggle and fight to belong. For it is only in the red blood of the base chakra that we learn how to survive, often crudely, often selfishly and aggressively, doing what we must do in order to learn, in spite of fear, how to do it well and with compassion for ourselves and others. In my minds eye I already see the image of the Beaghmore Stone circles – the determined prayer of a people who saw their fertile land slipping from them. I see Cookstown, built, burned to the ground and rebuilt by a defiant Planter who refused to be uprooted and I see, with joy, the loving synthesis and integration of the recently constructed Sacred site near the old Border checkpoint called “Let the Dance Begin”. All monuments to the pain, the fire and the commitment of being here for the long haul and of discovering a way to be, which will truly allow the dance of being and being with to begin.
In working with our clients, as well as working with ourselves, it’s all about life lessons – and life lessons are sheer hard work. There is no Motorway through them. No Bypass. Only an acceptance that learning costs everything we have. Oh what a struggle it is to live!
Ann Irwin is a psychotherapist working in private practice in Cork.