Friday, June 17, 2011

Our Deepest Questions in the Ordeal

Dear Birth Peeps,

In the Ordeal, there is always a time (or two) when what will happen next is uncertain and not entirely in our control (which is often true in life, but in the Ordeal we know with certainty we are not in absolute control). When we face uncertainty, powerlessness, or our mortality, Deep Questions come to us, e.g.,
Where did I come from?
Who Am I?
Why am I here?
Where am I going?

In this painting whimsical figures (soul-elves?, is there such a thing, it just came to me!) begin to emerge, each with a question mark coming out of his mouth. The soul-elves are positioned near the Gates, dancing, showing the way, chanting their Deepest Question. The one by Diving Woman mirrors her--he is upside down asking her, “Who Are You? Why have you come here?”

Who Am I? is the fundamental question of every quest. If you’ve heard the story of Inanna’s Descent, you know Bidu asks Inanna this Question, and he asks her, "Why has your Heart led you to this place from which you cannot Return unchanged or unscathed?." He does not ask this just once, but seven times as she passes through each of the seven Gates. If you know the old Testament, you know the question "WHO AM I?" is in capital letters (I was told it is the only phrase in the Bible that is capitalized because it is so important). If you’ve ever been in a great descent or a dark night of the soul, you have heard this questions as you tossed and turned, as you wept, and when you tried to find a quick way out of Fate.

Soul Questions or Heart Questions are not meant to torment you, they are meant to awaken you, to free you. They are Medicine Questions.

In the painting soul-elves are asking these Questions, but really... it is You who must be in perpetual Self-inquiry. Instead of following and believing the mindless chatter of the Victim and Judge in your mind, enter into Silence and keep asking these Questions as you cross invisible Thresholds, when you feel lost, despair, fear, abandoned, in pain, and even when you feel certain and proud of yourself.

Like this:
Who is Proud?
I am.
Who is the "I" that is Proud?
(Then Listen deeply, don't answer with ordinary mind, reason, and words.)

Who is afraid?
I am.
Who is the "I" that is afraid?

And so it goes with every possible emotion or belief you can identify with. You don't have to be in an ordeal to practice Self-inquiry. You can do this all the time, it's a wonderful practice. But in an Ordeal, it is especially potent.

I had a thought, or maybe I saw an image... of the initiated traversing a labyrinthine brain in the underworld...No matter what the circumstances are, no matter what the physical environment of our Ordeal or Quest, the true Descent we make is into our own Mind.... our beliefs and assumptions. I will just have to paint another hero's journey to express this image....

I will do my best to keep up with the blog and painting. My Golden Kidney is in stress and I am not quite myself these days. Not even a stressed kidney can keep me from painting and sharing with you, it may just be less frequent! Regretfully, I am cancelling the July Advanced Doula Workshop so I can focus on getting well. "I will be back!"



  1. Thank you! This is just what I needed today.

  2. so beautiful, I love reading your posts, they inspire my everyday attempt to open the eyes of the women in my life.

  3. I hope you are feeling better soon Pam.

  4. Pam, I was curious about your Old Testament reference. I have never seen a WHO AM I? But I have seen the Exodus 3:14 passage were God is telling Moses to go back to the Israelites and tell them that I AM has sent you. Other translations say, I AM THAT I AM or I AM WHO I AM.

    That said, :-)
    I am using the labyrinth I created at the Seattle Intro Workshop in my meditation practice. Great tool. I am reading Allen Hardmans book, Toltec Wisdom, and just recently noticed the chatter in my head (Victim and Judge). The mitote. It is for the most part critical. Today I am gong to see if I can get some answers with the Self-Inquiry method you write about. Thanks for everything Pam.

  5. This is so helpful. These questions are sign posts and guides along this journey from crazy mind to huntress and sanity. The more I ask, watch, and quietly "sit" with the deeper answer (or sometimes in discomfort with no answer!), the more I feel able to share this process with others in my life, personally and professionally. While these questions are a life raft when there's an ordeal (and ordeal are not in short supply it seems), I'm also finding it's just as important for me to ask these questions, and go through this process, when things seem just "peachy" or going as I want them to. It's here where the victim and judge can hide out, seemingly camouflaged, ready to nab me the ass. And so I practice, and appreciate these guide posts, as I do my best to stay out of the revolving door, which sometimes just has to hit me in the face to make me notice i've been "in it". I love these questions and this process. Much love to you Pam, and everyone.