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A Journey to the Gates #3/4

Updated: Mar 1

Part 3/4 "Finding my Flow through my Fears" blog series.

Is the entry point to making leaps in consciousness always preceded by darkness?

I ponder Joseph Campbell’s Hero's Journey, the “Dark Night of the Soul”; considered to be a spiritual depression, an acute existential crisis requiring a deep dive into one’s darkest depths that must be endured before enlightenment. Dark Night of the Soul is not a new concept, the earliest origins date back to a poem written by the 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet St. John of the Cross. The void, or “the abyss” as I used to call it, appears to be the critical “space/place” of healing. The properties of this void intrigued me, is this “the nothing”(ness)?

It took me back to thoughts of one of my favourite childhood films and of Atreyu on his quest in The Neverending Story. The protagonist having endured the depressing death of his beloved horse Artax, is now on board the luck dragon; Falkor, in search of the borders of Fantasia…The experience within the void prickles with pure potential. He must pass through 3 gates to give a new name to the Childlike Empress, and save Fantasia from vanishing from existence.

Over the past two years, while researching for a VR documentary film, I have allowed myself to fall down countless rabbit holes. Finding and losing threads while weaving a tapestry of what appears to be the very fabric of my curiosity, in search of accessing my authentic and aligned pure potential. The nonlinear immersive story experience is about a homeless street artist who connects to her flow following a violent incident that triggers a resurfacing of a series of repressed traumatic events, when in a moment, instead of choosing destruction, she chose creation. And to express herself by burning the end of a stick, making charcoal and ash to draw with, reconnecting her to a - until that moment of agency - dormant gift.

The VR experience traverses my subject through the dark void (which I liken to a black hole) in her Dark Night resulting in a healing experience. Much like Atreyu on his quest, after making past the first gate where he was required to embrace his fear of the unknown (The Great Riddle Gate I consists of two sphinxes facing each other. It is always open, yet hardly anyone ever makes it across) my subject would walk through her fears to then meet herself in the “The Magic Mirror Gate II”.

Image: By illustrator Moe Balinger

Herein reflected the absolute true qualities of the observer. The forgotten, unseen, unwanted and unloved parts of her were revealed to her as one by one, other street people would sit before her on her park bench to have their portrait drawn. Her fears of dying living rough in that park, the torments of her mind distorting and the intense emotion from her horrific trauma’s dissipated, being replaced a harmony of technicolour on the page. She experienced an astonishing and yet accidental/unplanned phase of self-healing through art. In Atreyu’s experience, he is now his new self, his old self, no more…As he moves on to the final gate of his journey.

“He felt light and joyful, he laughed for no reason, out of pure joy”.

The street artist in my documentary sits opposite me on her bench she still thinks of as home, coloured with textures and marks she has made. She describes her experience of having found her flow. She would often sketch up to 15 portraits a day, and she tells me of a deep calm and peace that would pervade everything. A feeling of being completely at one with nature while drawing, rooted on her bench in the city park. Her words in our exchanges are profound and spiritual, imbued with great wisdom. There even appears to be a deep acceptance of her challenging and destructive past.

I would dive often and deep on this project trail, my life circumstances and honouring the truth of her story demanded it, but I had also realized her life was mirroring aspects of my own experience. In parallel both to my now and back to two decades ago at the time of my own spiritual awakening when I had begun painting with relentless urgency to self-express. A new rabbit hole in my immersive VR story-quest found me researching the Ayahuasca Journey. I was pointed to research French film director, Jan Kounen’s new project, after sharing my VR storyline and intent with my fellow resident artists and writers I was living in community with, in France. I was deeply intrigued, but given that I was working in residency in a 12th century Royal Abbey, living in the old nunnery near Chignon in the Loire Valley, I was not really in a position to explore any shamanistic style ceremonies, as sacred as it is said to be in Peru. So, I researched as much as I could the journey of others.

I feel the need to point out that I have really not experimented with any substances beyond some cannabis AND am also holding on to this notion that there are many entry points. While ayahuasca (and other psychedelics) appears to be a short cut IN, and is said to equate to 20 years of western-style therapy, I still sense there could be a less invasive life hack that the individual alone has sovereign access to.

What I did find fascinating in my research was reading testimony to many of the healing experiences had, both positive and negative. Interestingly in an article by Andy Zaremba on his Ayahuasca Journey, he describes it quite differently to how I initially imagined. He also notes certain things he did in preparation such as;

“We started focusing on our intention and petition to Ayahuasca. My intention was simple; just give me what I need in order to help me reach my highest potential, my initial petition was to eliminate fear from my life.

Focused intention on reaching pure potential and to eliminate fear (gate #1). Further on in the article, you read how he releases all attachment to outcome and in a way, and once past the fear, arrives at his own “Magic Mirror Gate” (gate #2). In his fifth attempt to have any experience at all with the plant medicine he describes his experience inside the void;

“This is where the story got a bit crazy. I felt as if I could move my consciousness into a black space that I could access through my body. I moved my awareness deeper into that black space, which actually felt warm, loving, and peaceful. I had the idea that I could actually move my consciousness infinitely deeper into this black space. While there, I had the notion of healing my inner child. Later, I learned that I actually brought this on myself. This is what they call, “working with the medicine.”

In many ways, this can be likened to the experience of the subject of my VR doccie project after “gate 2” of 3 on her path to enlightenment. A feeling of bliss, a feeling of no-thing-ness, weight-less-ness, unity with all, pure consciousness itself. I knew this feeling-state well, BUT from the “other” side.

During my near-death experience, I briefly crossed over into a different dimension, I feel no need to define exactly my time/space location because everyone will attribute their own beliefs to it. Like with the decoding of dreams I have learned that the feeling state of the dreamer is more important than the actual detail. It felt the same, exactly, but I would add one extra description; a feeling of being “home”. (In reflection, perhaps she did say this when she described her bench as “home”- the physical place of her connection to her flow.) While the state of my “beingness” was akin to experiences of bliss or Samadhi, here, I was not in a dark void. I was not in the “abyss” on this occasion but then neither was I in my body, my human vehicle per se, I had no visible body edge — if you get what I mean.

I was removed from the chaos of the trauma room and the many doctors, nurses, and machines, now seeing my ex-boyfriend (who had passed at 23) standing in the corner holding my dear sweet angel dog companion, Cheri, who had died just a few days before. Her dying at our family home back in South Africa, while I was now living in London had triggered a series of events and choices made that led to my falling from a tree in the remote countryside of Arundel. I later recalled something I would often say to her before I left;

If you go, I go …

When you die, you better know I am coming with!

Yes, a fear of further loss and abandonment by those I loved so deeply.

Neither of them said a word. They merely looked on, lovingly yet completely neutral, from what I feel would be the corner of the room but really, they stood in a mist of white light. Particles dancing with no gravity in a fine warm haze with no definable edge. This was my moment of agency. I could choose in the moment to stay or leave and so I did. I stayed in my body, although for the months that followed, I yearned for “home”. I guess now I realise that this was not my “3rd gate”, even if it was an exit. An exit, I came to understand, that I manifested while overcome with fears of further loss and my seeking to escape.

And yet, there was a knowing, I had come here in this lifetime, during these auspicious and incredible times, to complete my soul-quest and to complete the final phase, to pass through “gate 3”, and enter the phase of enlightenment while still IN my body. Later I understood I may serve as a bridge for others wanting to not make an exit either and be a guide for them, as they make this crossing in future. Not long after this moment, the road, the map and the knowing of the mission once again fell into a cloud of “forgetfulness”, only to be remembered again when the time came, and it would unfold moment by moment, challenge by challenge, never more than required.

It truly felt like being inside a virtual world. There were levels, challenges, characters and new storylines. There awaited rewards and Easter eggs of information to unlock, and at some point, you realise, that all along YOU were also the game designer, as well as the whole massive multiplayer game.

To Be Continued…

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