DOES MY LIFE BELONG TO ME?!
We are on Easter Break. My 17-year old son needs to do revisions for his upcoming A Levels in Physics and Further Maths. He works best alongside someone so we divide up the kitchen table between us. I decided to write this piece because I had been pondering the question for some time. My son decides to play some music to help things along. “Is that Shakira?!” – “No Mum, it is Fat Rat! That is a DJ by the way. I doubt you know anyone I listen too…” I adore silence when I am writing but, as usual, it was not to be!
This may sound like a weird question with an obvious answer! Of course my life belongs to me, right?!
In theory it does yes, but being alive means making choices and choices bring commitments. The moment I choose to have children, those children are entitled to a large chunk of my time, energy and life force. The moment I choose to get married, a new unit with an overarching spirit all of its own comes into being: The Marriage (as well as two separate individuals). This is why the sum is always more than the parts combined. The dynamic multiplies again once a couple has children: there is now a Family, as well as two, three, four or five individuals…. There are now five people having relationships with four rather significant others.
The moment I choose a profession and invest in training in that profession I need to accept the demands and boundaries of that profession. Being a medical doctor, nurse or midwife will mean working night shifts in hospitals. Even a plumber will get phone calls about emergencies at all hours. An undertaker cannot so easily take time off either as people will not stop dying over major holidays.
As a shamanic practitioner I, too, used to get emergency phone calls at all hours. As a mother of young children working from home (with no hospital and no team to divide the workload) I eventually learned to take my home phone number off-line and to make an agreement with myself regarding what “opening hours” I operated and how many emergencies a week I can fit in at short notice (if any!) This is called drawing lines and operating healthy boundaries! (By now I also have a team of three people dividing up work in my practice).
So yes my life belongs to me but for my life to belong to ‘me and me alone’ I would need to stay single, not have children (or elderly parents) and perhaps embark on a life as a self-sufficient recluse in a very inaccessible area. (And when emergencies occurred I would have to deal with those on my own – or not be able deal with them and perhaps suffer serious illness or injury without receiving medical attention or loving care from another person). Yet, these are choices some people make to get away from the maddening demands of modern life. (A percentage of people have always done this, long before “modern” times, they have become trappers, sailors or “desert saints” and walked away from their communities). My own husband has one brother who went to sea at age 16 and reappeared years later with a Japanese wife (he then abandoned to raise three children completely on her own in Sweden). Today we call this commitment-phobia and yes, commitment is scary!
Yet, there is a level even beyond this web of social interactions, beyond being a member of a family and community. This is the point where people who follow a spiritual path may well see things differently from what is considered the norm in our society. Since western society embraced science as ‘our new religion’, the Church and priests have lost the control they exerted for many centuries. We no longer believe in Hell or live in sin. We don’t go to confession either. Only few people today believe that a male fearsome god will judge our souls once we die. In many ways this has liberated us and allowed a much higher level of individual expression, which can only be a good thing (to my mind). Having said, that: collectively speaking we have also lost the concept that we owe gratitude to our Maker and that we did not incarnate on this planet just to please ourselves and inflate our egos…
It is my personal belief, shared by many people following a committed spiritual path (of any description and not necessarily a religion!) that we come to Earth to be of service. That we all have unique gifts, our own unique energy, that is required at this time. This is because we all vibrate and operate in a larger Web of Life where all sentient beings are connected and together create (co-create) both reality and the future, the world our children’s children are to inherit.
Therefore I believe that I am here to serve and to evolve (meaning to learn, to grow in awareness) but I am also here to play my part in a larger whole. This means that I am currently wearing a human coat here on Earth for reasons beyond the personal level of relationships and raising children and so forth.
I have an on-going dialogue with my helping spirits about this and they say that I am here to be a spiritual teacher and teach others about living from a place of profound creativity and joyful creation. Along the way I also turned out to have a bit of a “freak talent” for healing work – but personally I see that as the journey back to creativity and living in joy. Being ill or dis-eased is the flip side of that coin. Once people re-discover their innate ability to create they can create healthy vibrant reality (as well as art, poetry or music etc.) and this will trigger the process of self-healing (activating the Inner Healer). Once I became aware of this key principle I switched my focus from offering one-to-one healing sessions to teaching larger groups.
The spirits making my life purpose crystal clear has been helpful because it has allowed me to focus and drop many things that are not my cup of tea in this lifetime. Out with dinner parties but roll on classes and powerful ceremonies!
The fly in the ointment is that “the hermit gene” runs strong in me. Before I fall asleep I fantasize about retreating to place far (FAR) from civilization and turning my back on the world. I am a profoundly solitary person, happiest alone in my studio or alone in the Forest. My idea of heaven is to be dropped in a completely inaccessible place with enough food supplies, fire wood and art materials for months – so I can immerse myself in creative process without distractions. It is when we are truly alone, without company, without internet, without external noise that we hear the voices of the spirits more clearly. So yeah, that is my dirty secret! I find it hard to always be on call. As a mother of three teenagers this is and will remain my reality – and I actively (happily!) chose it! The contradiction runs deep in me and this solitary trait runs in my family. My middle son has got a bad case of this “affliction” as well!
Having many students (and some clients) as well as children means working long hours every day again (often including weekends). I often look around me at people I perceive to have “easier lives”. Hang on! Let me rephrase this: lives with less pressure and way more leisure time. Here I am thinking of women who call themselves a “full time mother” of two teens aged 16 and 18 (with one about to leave home!) Or a woman whose children left home 20 years ago but she never returned to work (in the conventional sense). She shuttles between her garden and her yoga lessons. To my mind these are ladies of leisure. You may of course disagree.
On one level you could say: they raised their babies and their husband earns good money (so there is no financial need to work) – why not settle into a life of gardening and coffee mornings? Or another level I think: but aren’t they uniquely positioned to really make contribution to larger society? They have good health, many skills and financial security… they HAVE IT ALL! Why not use these things for the larger good of others than themselves?
Am I being judgemental here?? I know this is and remains one of my shadow aspects, (the flip side of being visionary) so it is a definite possibility. Not everyone has my driven personality and (what some have called) a supernatural energy level). Not everyone feels called to grapple with the bigger issues in our world (such as clearing family lines of centuries worth of accumulated trauma or contributing to paradigm shifts – or at least imagining that one is doing so!)
Cycling back to where I started, I think the question this article poses can only be answered by individuals in a very individual way. We all have different personalities, different star signs and different circumstances and dreams too. What I do know is that in my own life I continue to learn (fast and furiously) because I am a teacher, because I am in constant interactions with students and teens from a place of holding responsibility. It has been said that we teach what we most need to learn and probably my greatest passion in life is learning and becoming the best person I can possibly be, by the time I die. (And what I am in the process of becoming is not going to please everyone!)
I also truly believe that if everyone embraced life in this way – the world would be a better place. I am not going to apologise for thinking that! So… to answer my own question: my life force belongs to me (meaning I choose what – and whom! – I spend time and energy on) but my life ultimately belongs to Mother Earth and Spirit as much as it belongs to me personally. I am in service to Life – not the other way around. I would not have it any other way…
My son has decided to go on break. He says: “Mum, could you please take over as my dragon slayer for a moment because I need to nip out for a moment?!” Fat Rat has gone silent. Outside the window snow is falling upwards…
*Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, Easter Sunday 2017
About the Author:
Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of Norseshamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016. She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit 2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. Her second book SACRED ART, A Hollow Bone for Spirit : Where Art Meets Shamanism will be published in December 2018.
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