Meanderings from a Beach Walk
By Jodi Riverstone | September 2020
There’s something about spending time present near the ocean that slows the body down to be closer in rhythm with the tide. A welcome and overdue respite from what has been a trying season. I relished long walks on the beach the two days I was there last weekend. The surf line at Kalaloch is strewn with the cast-off exoskeletons of countless Dungeness crabs. Evidence of a process of shedding of that which is growing too small to occupy and an entry into a period of vulnerability as the hard protective, well-defined external self is released so that the life within can grow into a larger existence of itself. Crabs do what crabs do.
As I reflect on the past year that is 2020 thus far and the profound season of change, the global, social and political realities that are present and gravely concerning for us all, I cannot help but see the human species as also in a place of needing to realize the existential “shedding event” we too have already entered. The profound shift in our lives as we know and live it since the beginning of COVID-19 has certainly been a resounding wake-up call. Many heard it and have already responded….others side step by evoking blame, decrying “false information” and citing their rights to live as they choose as the fundamental “American Way” and therefore sacrosanct.
There is a beauty in the synchronicity of the crabs’ collective shed, timed so that all within the species cast their raiments at once. Orchestrated in time with the right combination of tide, current, nutrient flow and perhaps the pull of the moon… it may also indicate a group consciousness that our intellects have not yet identified. For me the metaphorical act of surrender is profound and pertinent for us especially now. The conscious choice for believing in and acting in hope, for transmuting what may initially appear as a death process into one of life expansion seems the only life-affirming and sustaining choice we have.
I do believe that humankind is at the moment in which the need to respond to the call to shed and change is here. Can we as a collective species answer that call? Unlike the crab, we are not just being asked to shed so that we can expand into a larger copy of our former selves. We are being asked to grow ourselves as conscious beings in response to the mounting pressures the planet is now facing and to respond in life-affirming ways that support the health and vitality of not only ourselves, not just humanity, but of all life…to give honor and respect for the life force within each in the multitudinous ways in which it is so miraculously expressed. This is a call for deep awakening and for a transmutation of the mind and heart.
To transmute: change in form, nature or substance. “The quest to transmute lead into gold,”states the Oxford Dictionary. To change one’s mind or have a change of heart requires first the willingness to go there…to let down one’s guard, to risk and trust that what lies beyond what one currently knows or accepts as “truth” might just be the greatest gift we can give not only ourselves but to everyone and everything we encounter and beyond. First it seems we need to be aware of the lens through which we view our reality. Antoine de Saint Exupéry in The Little Prince wrote, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” The resonance of that Truth rings in me like a bell. It is strangely and beautifully reflected in early neonatal development as the forming of what will be the infant’s head, which with all its complexity of cerebral cortex and sensory components does not separate from the heart until at week three, when the eyes begin to form. It would seem that the mind and the heart need each other….so that we can “see” rightly.
The opportunities to shift our “inner vision” and thus shed our former smaller selves can begin with seemingly small but significant acts of personal bravery. Life-affirming choices can start by expanding your capacity to see the other just as you…with their needs to be loved, to feel safe, to be respected beyond the basic requirements for survival. To have a place in the world. To be . . . . All people and all life have a place. Can we humble ourselves to allow for that? It seems to me we are in urgent need of doing so. Can we begin to believe that what we do in our seemingly small lives matters? We must. Each of our lives holds significance and each belief, each attitude, each choice makes a difference…and the first one that it makes a difference for is you. It ripples out from there.
As a write this, the air outside is yellow-brown with smoke from fires wafting on air currents from Oregon and California–perhaps another of the “new normals” that is a by-product of our global peril. We do not know what our future lifetimes will contain. We do not know what we individually or collectively can accomplish or what end can be achieved. What seems important is that we stay open…of mind and heart. That is where the juice is. Then activate the resources of hope within ourselves. Move that intention into Life-affirming acts. To answer the call for our own personal transmutation is to respond to that which may seem dire and hopeless and bring to it our larger capacity of envisioning, being and acting in ways we previously thought impossible. For our children, their children, then their children…and on. For all of life in its countless forms.
We are the ones living this now moment and there is no one else to wait for but us. The shed must begin.