“I will not hold your hand anymore.”
I have strong memories of my Mum teaching me how to garden. Our backyard seemed massive to me at age six, the garden, a wild realm of precious food among the ever renewing promise of weeds. The scents all call me back here, the soil, the early grass in spring, horse manure. I am deeply fond of these spring memories, as they are soul rememberances of the magic of nature.
I remember her showing me how to make the appropriate size and depth of hole in the rows of vegetables we would plant. As we would drop one seed in each shallow indentation, my curiosity would pull me to wonder how such a small, dry kernel could ever grow into a whole corn or bean or zucchini plant.
Real growth requires initiation. This is reflected in nature, even as we observe seeds. Without moisture, darkness, fertile soil, the pressures and electromagnetism of the earth, and the catylistic power of the sun, a seed can be dormant for many years, unchanged. Once planted, the vital force of the seed, generated by the lineage of the parent plant, is initiated in relationship to the vital forces of the environment. The hull of the seed is broken, and the tender first sprout of the plant must find the surface in order to survive. Once there, the plant draws it’s needs from the elements, and it also must withstand the varying intensity of them to continue to grow. Each day, The plant meets new challenges, and either finds a way to integrate, or will not survive. This is the essence of what it is to experience initiation - a challenge that is beyond your current known habits that forces you to grow beyond your previous container, just as the plant grows from the seed.
Human beings have a great history of surviving enormous challenges, both natural, and human generated. It would seem that human beings have discovered creative ways for us to make challenges easier, just as we have found more efficient ways to ensure our mutual destruction.
I am witnessing a very destructive force emerging in the last twenty years, the elimination of initiation, and the rampant misunderstanding of it as a necessary aspect of growth and vitality.
The current general climate in so-called ‘civilized’ countries is to ensure that everything is easily and conveniently available for consumption, and at the same time, nothing requires the inherent responsibility of ownership. This is apparent in everything from parenting, our school systems, to our economy and governmental systems. We can easily see the fallout of this failed paradigm in the destructive impact humans have imposed on the environment in the last few decades.
In our earlier cultures, when we lived in more indigenous environments, the human life was marked in ritual by a series of initiations. These involved challenges such as fasting and vision quests to ‘break the hull’, and then celebration of the resulting survival with ceremony. It is in this way, we earned our growth, and we learned to be self-reliant, responsible, as well as open to inherent ancestral wisdom and spiritual guidance.
In the absence of initiation, we are much like dormant seeds. Our potential is undeniable, but also inaccessible. As Plato observed ‘Necessity is the Mother of Invention’. If we consume only what is easy and convenient, we will not understand our true needs, and we will not grow.
When a parent tells their maturing child “I will not hold your hand anymore”, both will feel the pain that is inherent in change. The child may even process this experience as a trauma. No one is really ready to handle what hasn’t yet been experienced. Yet, if that child has been loved, nurtured, validated, and disciplined enough in early life, they will meet this initiation and grow forever changed by it. The initiates then assume the ongoing challenge to walk among, beside, and in the midst of community.
Thanks, Mum. I am still gardening.