why look back?
(to look the other way ?)
are there not times when it is good to look back?
to understand the present?
(understanding is sometimes overrated)
is it even necessary to understand the present?
my friend silvia is the sort of person who can successfully recount the exact details of a conversation she had at a particular moment in time, with a particular person, when she was 13 years old. elephant memory. with her, it is like the past is never really the past, her connection to it is sharp and constantly present, a database of information accessed at a moments notice. situations, conversations, words, places, weather. i’ve never quite remembered things in that way. my relationship to the past is tenuous at best. i’ve never really been interested in maintaining relationships because of the weight of time. never been interested in attending reunions or finding people from the past on facebook. i have one friend remaining from my years of schooling. aaaaahhhhh, school…..where i rode an endless wave of friendships that ultimately grew and tripped over each other, tumbling out of existence and into distant memory banks. i don’t remember teachers names. memories of my childhood have always been like mists….or key moments refracted in a mental hall of mirrors, occasionally spat up, triggered by sounds, smells, sights, words, tastes……..how real is what i constructed as a result? how does it contribute to what i live in the present?
i try this experiment. i decide to lie back and contemplate this little girl in the old black and white photograph, the one identified by popular psychology as my inner child. i invite her in to see what she has to say. when i do, she reminds me of things long forgotten, bringing them to me on delicious, disconnected breezes of memory……….
ripping open the sky.
playing at sliding along the wet cement in the rain.
a child’s ecstatic connection.
the silent buzz of happiness.
spinifex and red, anthill-ridden hills,
a huge backyard.
a dark, rambling workshop.
hidden mysterious corners.
a ballet teacher.
feeling out of place.
the town pool.
sundays, glorious sundays.
time with our father while mum made lunch.
classical music and opera.
a red telephone.
sundays at the lake.
falling into bed.
as with all children, there is a radiance, an innocence that i feel reverberating back at me from the past when i look to that little girl through the eyes of a woman. yet, i have spent years of my life somehow focusing on one aspect of this one story ~dysfunction. what about the rest? watching the memories as they flow past, i realise that my past is so much more than the image of the life that i had constructed piecemeal and carried around with me all these years. it is a shock to realise that the child’s mind has been at the steering wheel all this time, driving me towards a skewed perspective.
this is the central theme of an ayahuasca trance that i experience while i am in ceremony with bea in murcia. in the darkness, the ayahuasca comes on strong and all these pieces of the past illuminate, moving to fit together perfectly, forming one life, a seed. the weight of personal family history surrounds me, along with that of all my ancestors. it is the food and i am the embryo. i see space slowly opening up around me, allowing the embryo to blossom as it feeds, increasingly inhabiting more space. now, the shape of a woman, living the same life, begins to appear. layer on layer, i feel wholeness as i melt into her shape, until I find myself back here, lying on a mattress on the floor of a room with 20 other people at various stages of the ayahuasca trance.
as I come out of that first intense part of the trance, i hear several people vomiting. mexican waves of sound amplified by the acoustics in the room, punctuated every now and again by sudden cascades of water every time cris pours out a glass of piripri for someone. i feel the presence of water rushing about the room, waves crashing over the group. the rip reaches down into my stomach and i realise that i also want to vomit. so, i go to the bathroom and release it. nasty, black. better out than in. the only negative thought at that moment is that I am not able to be outside so I can vomit on the earth, give back to the mother that which no longer serves me. i stand and inspect my work. i see a child’s gaze, a child’s interpretation, leaves blown along by the wind, tumbling, propagating a distorted and uncontrolled system of memories.…all of this sits prettily at the bottom of a pristine white toilet bowl. i flush it away and i feel lighter, relieved. strong in the knowledge that the past is beautiful but, in many ways irrelevant if you want to live in the present. i go back to my mattress, snuggle under the blankets and settle back to enjoy the ceremony.