Initiation by Thunder - A Short Story

I was transfixed as I gazed upon the rolling streams and the gallantly displayed mountains of Maasailand. The people, who had imprinted themselves firmly in my heart, majestically sauntered about with their erect bodies adorned in ceremonial regalia, engraving their regalness upon the air. Namonyah Massai Ear RitualBy contrast, I looked empty. Stealing glimpses of my own predicament I panicked; trying to figure out how to strip off my too western New York designer clothes and shoes. Would I really ever belong? Of course that question was rhetorical, or at least it was comforting to imagine that somehow, I would.

The Maasai villagers were preparing a feast in my honor - I was to be given a naming ceremony and holes were to be burnt into the upper portion of my ears. The naming ceremony was something I swallowed easily, for to have an African name would link me back to a collective memory - ancestral blood. However, I definitely needed more time to contemplate the holes being burned and wondered if I would be left devastated, on fire and mortally scarred.

Even though I was the one who begged for this to happen, the whole ceremony, I still needed to impress upon my mind that this was not merely a fashion statement - those holes represented a long held tradition (ancestral significance) and would be with me for life.

For days, I had insisted that it would probably be easier, healthier even, to actually cut the holes in my ears; in that way I didn't have to deal with the protracted pain from the burning. I assumed that once they put the red-hot pick to my ears I would lose all control of my voluntary and involuntary functioning. I didn't want to make a fool out of myself. After all, I was out here in the deep interior, with no reality check or for that matter a frame of reference. This is how I saw it - I was educated.

My insistence was met with a perplexed look and a crooked smile. I was gently reassured that their way was best, had been tried and tested. As an adult, the cartilage had hardened and to cut would prove too severe and might result in infection. Something inside me surrendered. I moved on.

The medicine that spoke from the oracle reading had pronounced that I, Robyn, would be named Namonyah- the blessed one. The village keepers had all agreed that my mysterious and dramatic arrival was of course responsible for the week’s rain. No rain had fallen for several months and for cattle grazing nomads, rain is a priority component in their lives. The chosen name would reflect the power they felt accompanied me.

The burning of the holes would bond me to a people who held Earth Wisdom. Somehow, I knew that after this rite of passage, I would forever have an umbilical connection to this tradition.

My adopted mother Kipotek, the matriarch, and the other elders Sedalla, Napanoi and Norkilisu, had prepared the blessed space. It would be the container provided to hold me as I journeyed through this initiation. This container, or what I choose to think of as some kind of alchemical vessel with strong boundaries, would witness my radical transformation.

As the days sauntered into months, I reached deeply inside myself to relate to the wondrous fullness of the Maasai's simplicity and grace. I ached to belong, to feel a complete sense of oneness that would render me whole. The integration of myself within the abundance of nature was the most important thing to me. Nothing else outside of that existed. Period.

In the sedentary existence of Maasai life moments swelled, bursting at the seams, making a mockery out of time. In this suspended place of being, I painstakingly observed that the source of the Maasai's fulfillment was their direct enmeshment and communion with nature. Their harmony arose from a keen sense of oneness with the Earth, a respect for her as a living breathing being. Their lives moved in conjunction with the order governing the cosmos.

Each morning at sunrise I awakened to watch them pay homage to the energy of the sun, exercising reverence to eternal and immutable order. As long observers of the mysteries of celestial bodies imbued with life force, they also watched the night sky, glimpsing the unfolding miracles behind the veil of nature.

Yet, I knew it wasn't enough for me to just observe this. The more I experienced the balance - the reciprocity of their relationship to the whole- the more I knew how far I had been removed from an intimate relationship with the source, the sacred ground of being. I desperately needed to embody this all-pervasive consciousness.

Rummaging through my brain, I questioned, shielding the embarrassment even from myself. How on Earth had I arrived here so spiritually empty-handed? The quintessential - the purest and most essential part of my soul/indweller - had been denied, had been torn away, stolen from this very foundation. The agony of my separated self, longed for reunion with wholeness.

With that question occupying my mind, I removed myself from the village in an attempt to get in touch with the profound knowing that would move me to a space of experiencing wholeness, facilitating a transition to where I would be fully prepared to receive the honor and blessings that were about to be bestowed upon me.  (Top)

So there I stood, miles away from the village - a lone warrior daring the sublime powers to somehow make me over; to remove the feelings of cosmic isolation. My contemplations drew me into the inner realms, moving me into meditations on myself.

The distant sound of what I thought was a wailing lion penetrated my desolation, but the rippling of the sky signaled that it was thunder. There it was - instantly - on top of me, right in my personal space, before I could even gather myself to make a move. The tumult of this thunder was promising to open its jaws inside my body.

The intensity of its vibration shattered me, dissolving my boundaries and pushing me to participate in an energy consciously bouncing itself off the walls of nature. The thunder was forcing me to exchange in a dialogue that I did not understand how to listen to, or how to engage in. I didn't know what to do, and I was terrified. Had I ever known? I kept telling myself that at some level of my collective human existence that I must have known how to interact. My ancestors certainly did; the Maasai do. What made me appear to be so outside the scheme of things?

My thoughts kept yelling at me to run but my body wasn't responding. My feet were magnetized to the Earth. This was a force I knew I had to reckon with, because in the expanse of the Great Rift Valley, there was no place for me to run. Where do you go when the vastness is unending, all engulfing?

A feeling of immensity was moving inside me, stretching to burst through. Still, something was in my way, preventing me from reaching and touching this vastness. My eyelids battled with the weight of unreleased tears. In the midst of my confusion I wrestled with a deep aching from having been separated far too long. This thunder, I thought in panic, was perhaps the first sound uttered on the day of creation, giving birth to everything, and from the thunder the tears of God were emitted. No matter how philosophically I tried to deter my fear, no scientific explanation for thunder applied here.

I experienced in awe an animated thunder removing the layers of veils, revealing that Divine Intelligence was the body dancing behind this magnificent phenomenon, exercising extraordinary influence over my life. It was as if I had been inserted right into the heart of the cosmos. There was an interior dimension within the pattern of the thunder that I was being made aware of; a dimension that was missing in my own life - that was perhaps the impetus for my being in Kenya in the first place.

The only thing that made sense out here in this mystical environment was “me” and even that “me” wasn't holding up. A vague inkling of myself rapidly slipped away, leaving a hole. In the chasm was an enormous thirsting.

Through tear filled eyes I watched my fear switch over into exhilaration. I felt like I would erupt, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Then suddenly an idea was gestated - perhaps there was something as raw, as potent, as commanding inside me. If I could connect with it, activate it, perhaps I could match such a power. The thunder bellowed on, saturating the world with meaning and leaving me without form. Without form it was easy to move inside the thunder, where I beheld the very thing that I was searching for; I was the mystery. Inside this awareness I witnessed my body screaming in silent protest, screaming at the dissolution of all conditioned resistances, fears, disconnections, and ignorance; screaming to liberate the membrane of pain and separation; screaming to punctuate my life with meaning.  (Top)

It was then I saw the light bouncing off the wall of nature and knew that nature had a soul. An unrecognizable voice unexpectedly resounded from the deepest cavern of myself, “This thunder is inside of you!"

For a year I lived in Narok, Maasai’s deep interior. I observed, experienced and participated in some of the most remote Spiritual practices I have yet to come across. Some of what I was made privy to, I do not have permission to share. What I will share however, is that I was initiated into their cosmology and exposed to their Spiritual medicine.

I was taught to open the oracle through complex divination systems, to see the energy of Divine intervention coming off the rocks-our first ancestors-as they spoke to me; to recognize the edges of ritual, the danger involved in invoking sacred energies; and the importance of knowing how to contain them.

In amazement, I watched Maasai warriors jump their way into trance states. I practiced. I participated in ancestor reverence and was taught never to kill snakes because they were very likely to be an ancestor. And that the flies that stepped on and off the corners of their mouth, walked across my eye lashes and made themselves at home on the familiar landscape of Maasai bodies were definitely ancestors. It was disrespectful to shoo them away or disturb their meanderings.

The Maasai believe that to pierce the Earth is a violation against her. Therefore, they do not plant seed to provide them with a source of food and rely upon the thick unpasteurized milk, blood, honey and occasional meat. The most distressful teachings of the Maasai were in regard to the handling of their dead. They do not bury their dead but leave them west of the homestead with the head facing east for the hyenas to consume. Years later, I was to learn that in Tibet they refer to this custom as air burial.

These traditions awakened a realization within me and brought on a deliberate awareness of how to respect and propitiate Earth Consciousness. Their Spiritual practices bedazzled my awareness. Their Shamanic teachings shattered the core of my conventional belief system, prying open space for me to empty a long-lived western mind. My own newfound truth facilitated deep structural changes psychologically, spiritually, and physically. My growth was animated, and rich. I noticed how the shifting was occurring and how I began to meld, to think more like Earth thinks. Such being-ness, completeness - the unbroken circle, emerged.

Activating Thunder inside me brought me to my knees, surrendered me to a raw magical awakening place - so deep. Activating Thunder - my life force was a metamorphosis that required thorough and radical upheaval.

I had activated the thunder and engendered a Spiritual relationship with the moving divine expressions held in nature, and within my interior. I had ridden the thunder, climbed upon the back of this deity, felt its gyrations, the heat, and electricity lighting up my body with its vital force. I had tasted its cold shocking bitter-sweetness, and I came away emboldened because of it and continued living in order to tell you this story.  (Top)