I’ve been feeling my Christian roots lately and am wondering what it would be like to have a religious ritual where instead of worshipping one man who died for our sins, we get to each stand with our arms spread across the cross and be witnessed by the congregation in our vulnerability, pain and ultimately power to rise.
I once facilitated this sort of improvisational shamanic performance art group called Riding the Dragon. The purpose of the group was to give movement and expression to whatever was arising from within the subconscious.
Every group would begin with a cathartic breath meditation to activate the emotional body, then one by one each of us would enter into the center of the circle and move our inner monsters while others witnessed.
My vision was that by deeply feeling and giving expression to our fear, rage, shame and grief while maintaining our witness through our inner artist and others accepting presence, we would experience break throughs. Furthermore, by allowing ourselves to be touched by each other’s vulnerable expression, we might become more accepting of our own shadows.
We could choose to be alone in the center of the circle or could ask other participants to join us. In one instance, in order to revisit my wounds around sexual violation, I requested that the men in the circle hold my body down while I struggled against them. With five strong men holding down my arms, legs and hips, it was impossible for me to break free. I fought for a few minutes, then finally gave up and closed my eyes.
When I opened them, the men had tears in their eyes.
“That was so hard for me – to hold you down like that, “ one said.
“Why did you give up? I wanted you to break free,” another said.
“I feel so depressed. It’s not supposed to end like this,” yet another said.
Their reactions both touched me and made me curious. Why was my “defeat” so uncomfortable for them? The experience was apparently so dark, a couple of them never came back to Riding the Dragon.
Beyond the power struggles between the masculine and the feminine is ultimately each of our fear of powerlessness. Especially in the western world, we spend all of our lives striving to feel powerful, valuable and good about ourselves through everything from academics to sports to career and relationships.
But what if power is not something to strive for, but rather a place to surrender into? What if we can only know our power by deeply feeling into our wounds and judgments around powerlessness?
The difference between surrendering sexually with another when we’re in love versus being forced to surrender through violation is that the latter is against our will. If will is the place where each of us and God meet – where personal and universal will merge – and we claim our divine authority – then sexual violation is also a violation of one’s spirituality.
This is why the effects of rape last so long. After I was raped, I could no longer trust or believe in any kind of God or “Good Orderly Direction” in life. Or if there was a divine order, I was not a part of it. Though I pretended to have faith, doubt became my spiritual doctrine. My only reliable source became my survivor instinct.
I revisited church the other day as a way of mending the split between my humanity and spirit. Behind the minister’s talking and message that had little meaning to me, I felt this presence in the room I hadn’t felt since I was a little girl. It was loving, understanding and respectful. There was a sober knowing between us. I felt a deep connection with this presence, which I’m guessing was Jesus – not as a man who is God’s only son, who died on the cross for all of us, blah blah blah – but as a man who loves me enough to experience the violations I experienced. Maybe this is why I’m drawn to spiritual rituals like Easter – not just for the emotional relief of the resurrection, but for the gift of feeling and bearing witness to my own suffering and sense of powerlessness. Not as a victim – but as a Tanrika – as a woman who has come into her full range – who is here to reunite all opposites, including love and hate, powerlessness and power.
As I write this, I can feel my heart pounding. I feel the preciousness of my blood, of life flowing through my veins. I feel the grief of the girl who had to just lay there while her soul bled out. I feel my helplessness in ever finding her in the dark maze of my subconscious. I no longer feel angry at the violators. I just want her back. I don’t necessarily want to know what God is. I just want to know she’s alive.