"So often in life, we put on these masks of what we are conditioned and expected in society to be and I did that. I let myself get lost in the collective story, rather than holding true to my story."
I've been reflecting lately on what it means to have an ego death. I think that I'm finally coming out the other side of mine and it's been a massive three-year journey just to get to this place when I can start to feel again.
For me, the drive into my "death" was multi-faceted; I had just started my Chakra Cards business, I met my partner, I hurt my neck in a headstand, my daughters were proving very challenging teenagers to parent, I started working full-time and I had started my yoga teacher journey which ended with me dropping out of yoga altogether and questioning why I was adopting a belief system that COMPLETELY belonged to another culture and another time.
Without yoga, I didn't know who I was - it had become my identity both on and off the mat - and in it my ego felt grand and important, and superior to others. Looking back, it was inevitable that I would crash with those belief systems. What followed was the surrender of care for my health and ceasing all exercise, increased apathy about my future and complete despondency about life.
For many months I wallowed in grief about losing my home, my new life as a partner and my changing role as the mother of three almost-adult children, not little ones. Then those months turned into years and only now, after months of psychological help am I able to see my way out of this existential or mid-life crisis or however you want to label it.
Some of the things that helped me during this time was self-reflecting through journalling and the Chakra Cards, returning to the things that had helped me in the past like alternative healers and strangely, looking at photos of me as a child. When I looked into my eight year old eyes, I could see her hopes and dreams and I could see how I had surrendered those because of life's circumstances. So often in life, we put on these masks of what we are conditioned and expected in society to be and I did that. I let myself get lost in the collective story, rather than holding true to my story.
I had completely forgotten who I was. I was metaphorically standing there naked with all aspects of my "self" as puzzle pieces - waiting for me to put them back onto my body. I didn't. I chose to stay in that hollowness for many months until the first piece of who I really am became apparent; that I am Tasmanian. It is my home and my birthright. It is my story and my heritage and it is embedded so very firmly into who I am that it brings tears to my eyes to feel that ownership of identity within me.
I have the first piece of myself back.
Every day I try on different things and see if they fit, but nothing has given me that same emotional, primal feeling of that first puzzle piece, and so I keep exploring who I think I was and who I might be. I'm very aware now of how easily our egos can lead us down paths that we THINK is the right thing and I'm cautious in not going down that path again.
This morning I saw Russell Brand talking about his own crisis, and I realised that I'm not alone in this - others have had it happen before and you might be going through your own crisis right now or in the future - but it's a really important phase in our spiritual development. I wouldn't ever want to live through the past three years again, but you never know, This re-birth might be just the best thing I've ever done.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2019
"God is mythology that we tell ourselves to make sense of the world and reinforce our self-importance."
I'm binge-watching The Handmaid's Tale at the moment and I'm so blown away by the human mind to conceive of potential alternative realities for us all. Margaret Atwood wrote it in 1985 and I cannot believe I didn't have the opportunity to read it until last year. With the current political and social systems eroding our human rights and dignities, Dystopian stories help us to imagine possible scenarios of our society and our place in it. Gilead is one of many dystopian futures which could potentially be real futures for all of us - with the assistance of the human ego.
We humans are capable of great passion, love, creativity and innovation and yet, we are also capable of great evil, control and hate. They are two sides to the same coin and the series of events that we are seeing now in Australia with the religious and political interference in the media could easily swing either way and force us down the dark roads of fascism and dictatorship or to a society where all life is valued. The American erosion of women's reproductive rights sets a dangerous precedent for the return to the suppression of women, who are only now starting to make great strides in equality.
But what is behind all of this? Is it about money? Control? Or is it something bigger? After the great yoga debacle of 2016 where my whole belief system came crumbling down, I have been in this state of, well, hollowness. It's a hollowness of faith and belief that feels empty without having something to fill the void. Religion fills that void for about 95% of human beings, and helps us to make sense of the world and our place in it. But ultimately, God is mythology that we tell ourselves to make sense of the world and reinforce our self-importance as the superior species.
Humans are just one of an approximate 8.7 BILLION known life forms on this planet. That means, for every single one of us, there is another species, plus more. How did we get to the point where WE think we are more important or valued than any of the other species here? If we look back into history, the Great Chain of Being was a massive IDEA to explain our existence which has influenced humans the past 2500 years - particularly in Western cultures. But it was an idea, first suggested by Plato. It was one man's idea about how to explain our place in the world.
We are still living with the consequences of that thought through racism, sexism, class systems and species extinction. The idea that an educated, wealthy MAN is superior to women, non-European humans, slaves, animals, plants, minerals and the Earth itself, is insanity. It's also an OLD idea that continues to affect the day-to-day lives of women, people of colour, animals and our ecosystem. That doesn't make it right. But the other thing that the chain of being does, is place "God" at the very top of the chain. A God, which, when you strip back the layers of ego, just doesn't exist. Of course, God serves a role, in helping people to have faith, hope, a sense of purpose and a feeling that we are somehow important - there's nothing wrong with that, it's good to feel purpose - unless it elevates us above another living being on this planet. That isn't God, it's human ego.
Which brings me back to the imagined realities; what if the way that we are currently living is an imagined reality that doesn't belong to us? What if we are just accepting the reality and regurgitating other people's ideas without actually having a single unique idea of our own? This was my truth when my yoga world came crumbling down. Yogic philosophy is somebody else's idea about the world, it's not mine.
It's far too scary to conceive of a world where there isn't some great creator watching over us, the alternative is horrifying - that we are alone and all we have is this little blue dot and the life on it. It makes sense that we have made up stories to help explain our existence; the stories give us comfort, faith, hope that we aren't alone. I too have been there.
With the impending ecological disaster facing our world, surely we can move past an idea that places all beings in a pyramid-style hierarchy. Surely, we need to be looking more to a world where we work with one another, with the environment and with the natural rhythms of the planet we inhabit and not some imagined reality, with the mythology of stories that we continue to tell that someone thought millennia ago?
©Alyssa Curtayne 2019
"I am absolutely astounded that in the ONLY, known, habited planet in the Universe, we cannot prioritise our ecosystem, our biodiversity and our humanity. I think that one of the biggest lies we have told ourselves is the lie that humans are superior creatures, and that some humans are more superior than others."
If you read the last blog, you'll know I'm reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and the most amazing things that I've discovered in the book is the power of the collective story. Our human story is built upon hundreds of thousands of years of trying to make sense of our place in the world, which then affects our behaviour and as a result builds societies. Harari discusses things like money, democracy and religion as "imagined orders" that helped growing numbers of humans to cooperate with each other in the absence of biological evolution. Yet we never question these stories.
In Australia, many of us are feeling despondent about the recent Federal election results - with a continued attack on our freedoms, the environment and common-sense in a time where it appears the rich keep getting richer and the rest of us need to stay in our place. I got sucked into the nonsense that was the election and the fallout and to be honest I am still gobsmacked at the short-sightedness of my fellow citizens to vote for the status quo. Ultimately though, I am absolutely astounded that in the ONLY, known, habited planet in the Universe, we cannot prioritise our ecosystem, our biodiversity and our humanity. I think that one of the biggest lies we have told ourselves is that humans are superior creatures to all other life, and that some humans are more superior than others. In his book, Harari talks about how through the power of collective stories that humans feel some sense of belonging to their tribe. Scrolling through social media today it seems that instead of moving into higher states of evolution, where we value intellectual dialogue and science-based evidence, we are reverting back to the tribal behaviours of our ancestors in an attempt to belong to something.
Perhaps this indicates some level of disconnection we have with the Earth and all living things that we are seeking a sense of belonging OUTSIDE of ourselves in a collective group. But that's for another blog.
I love stories. I love writing them, I love the moment I get ideas for them and I love reading them. But this human behaviour where - instead of uniting under a collective story of protecting our habitat - we are becoming more and more fractured; more and more divided on the issues that matter for our survival as a species.
In this despair, I found that I needed to find some new stories, a new narrative on a world that could be. My friend Shely also sent a timely message: "Look for the good news. It's out there. You get what you focus on..." And I've started. But also I'm asking myself more deeply "What can I do? How can I make my own impact on creating the world I want to live in rather than fighting against what I don't want?" It's a tough balance, but like she said: "Stop reading the stuff that upsets you...you can only do the bit in your own world that cleans that up...Spend more time with stuff that uplifts you." And she's completely right. Everytime we tell a story, we are manifesting it through our intention, through our actions and through our fear and perhaps that's just a story I am telling myself to help me cope with the apathy in the world today.
The world I want to live in is in harmony with all of life, is intelligent and kind. And while that might be a Utopian vision, I know there are others out there who feel the same way. So, today I will make a concerted effort to focus on the stories that I DO want to share with future generations so we can see a way out of the current narratives that are no longer working for us. And I will take responsibility for the only person I have any control over - me - and start to live in harmony with all of life, value and nurture intelligence in myself and others and always be kind. And maybe that love will spread to others and together we can create a world where we can feel some hope.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2019
"What do you DO in your everyday is what makes a life, not what house you happen to inhabit? A home is a place to come back to when you've been away, it's a place to invite your tribe in, it's a place of solitude and of rest and it's certainly more than bricks and mortar isn't it?"
If you've been following my Facebook or Instagram, you'll know that I had a fabulous time in Germany and Austria over the past few weeks but one thing that became very clear was a sense of 'home'. It's a theme that comes up regularly in my life, see here. I became aware of being somewhere quite literally foreign to my sense of belonging and yet, I felt completely at home on the road on my own. Which made me wonder, what is home? Is it a place or a feeling? Is it a connection to a community or a physical building? What is it which gives us such a strong emotional attachment to 'home'?
I accidently referred to my birthplace (Tasmania) as 'home' during my trip away and it got me thinking about what it means to me. I'm currently reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and it really puts into focus our place as human beings in the world. Traditional societies lived where food was plentiful or could be harvested but today why do we choose to live where we do? Why do we feel the need to move from one place to another? Why do some people never leave the place they were born? And is 'home' simply a contrived place in our species' active imaginations?
I'm constantly fascinated by those television programmes which show wealthy Baby Boomers moving to the countryside or another country and being obsessed with the house that they buy, but isn't a home more than the structure that you live in? What do you DO in your everyday is what makes a life, not what house you happen to inhabit? A home is a place to come back to when you've been away, it's a place to invite your tribe in, it's a place of solitude and of rest and it's certainly more than bricks and mortar isn't it?
I've spent my entire life looking for a place to call home and for a brief time in 2008-2014, I had it - I had a safe home to live in, a lovely community, close to family and all the services I could possibly need - and I let it go. Whatever it is within me that drives me to keep moving to new places, to new adventures, to a life full of variety rather than stability may be that primitive hunting and gathering instinct that humans stopped (in most humans) following with the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago. It could be a behaviour learned from moving away from my "tribe" at 4 years old and be residual trauma from that time, but it might also be a sense of not feeling at home within myself, within my life.
When I was away, without thought of ties to my everyday life to my kids, my partner, my job, my life - the things that seem to define me at the moment - I felt more like myself than I have in a long time, I felt at home with me, I felt aligned with the Universe, or whatever you want to call it, and I felt a sense of purpose in just being me in the moment. Travelling does more than create great images and memories, we can live in a way that is not contrived in a work-eat-sleep-repeat social slavery routine, there's a real sense of freedom with being on the road and being disconnected from societal expectations and lives - we get to define it ourselves. And in that space, while I was a long way away from my physical house that I live in, I felt, for just a brief time, at home within myself. So now, I have the excitement (or challenge) of finding that sense of home in my daily life, so my whole life feels like an adventure safely in the home that is me.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2019