Sunday, July 20, 2003

Death and Rebirth
by Skald

"The process of throwing off the old role-- coming out in the new, is vitally important. The tradition in India, for instance, is of actually changing your whole way of dress, even changing your name, as you pass from one life stage to another. "

-- Joseph Campbell

I just came across this quote from Joseph Campbell and loved it. It certainly resonates. When I decided to make the change, for good, to a nomadic-poetic lifestyle- I felt an instinctual need to transform my whole life.... to throw off the old and come into the new. That is why I took the name Skald Hareksson as a writing name. I imagine its why Matt Salleh chose a different name for himself as well. There is symbolic power in this.

I chose to ritualize this process. On New Years day I climbed a mountian in remote Northern Japan in order to visit a shrine at its top. There was a violent snowstorm as I climbed... wind whipped in from the sea... and the snow was knee-to-thigh high. The entire mountain was desolate... I was completely alone when I reached the top. Once there I shed my boots and entered the shrine. I brought a piece of old clothing.... an old shirt that symbolized, to me, my old life. I knelt in front of the altar, rang the bell, and lit the candles-- then meditated for a short time. Next I spoke aloud to announce the death of the old persona. I gave a short eulogy then placed the shirt, and a poem, on the altar. My feet got cold.

I sat a while longer then blew out the candles.... and with them the old life died. I put on my boots and exited the shrine... standing atop the mountain looking out at the sea below... snow and wind in my face... a feeling of exhileration.

I shouted to the ocean and the sky to announce my new name and my new life. I shouted in all four directions.... at the top of my lungs.

And then I walked back down.

I suppose the romantic in me expected an instant transformation... but it has instead been subtle. And yet when I look at my life over the past year and a half Im astounded by the difference. I've been on a three month pilgrimage to Thailand, India, and Nepal.... Returned home, bought a van, modified it, and have lived in it ever since.... got rid of all possessions that could not fit in the vehicle-home.... survived with almost no money, living for a while on only coffee and scraps.... then established a very leisurely lifestyle working 19 hours a week... took a 10 day meditation course... wrote poetry... started this website.... ran.... walked.... did yoga.... made friends... daydreamed....took vision quests... had a near-death vision experience.... bonded with my dog... started a secret society.... read books.... relaxed....enjoyed life.

Bit by bit the old life and old persona truly died. Bit by bit Skald matured and grew. And now I stand on the threshold of another adventure.... soon to fly off to SE Asia to live, learn, and wander. The life I envisioned, on that mountaintop, finally taking hold.

The simple message is this: Never underestimate the subtle power of decisions, rituals, and transformation.

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