Is Covid-19 Our Global Initiation?
turning collective tragedy into a transformative journey
From an indigenous perspective, initiation can be seen as a rite of passage from one stage of life to another — a process that illuminates awareness of life’s purpose. As a teacher of the ways and wisdom of West Africa’s Dagara people, Malidoma Somé speaks to the importance of initiation in functioning societies, describing it as a vital means to discover our purpose and personal contribution to the well-being of the world.
Somé explains that successful initiation involves three parts:
an ordeal of some kind
While separation and ordeals happen to just about everyone, homecoming does not. Homecoming involves a recognition of and celebration for surviving and being changed by one’s initiation. Most people don’t get this, Somé points out, “which causes them to go back into the ordeal.”
Our current pandemic offers us the first two aspects of traditional initiation: isolation and ordeals. However, if we are to seize this opportunity for true initiation, if we want to use it to propel us to the next, more inclusive stage of humanity, we must let our experiences change us.
The first question to ask may be:
Will I use this time to consider what matters most — to discover a deeper sense of myself and my purpose within the greater whole of life?
If we do choose to give ourselves to this initiation, the next question might be:
Can I find ways to receive and offer support in this journey, and the homecoming?
If we sincerely take up the challenge that initiation offers, we might emerge from this global initiation not only wiser, but more resilient, compassionate, and effective in our contributions to the well-being of the world.
With this in mind, on April 24, I sent out an email to 40+ people, inviting them to consider collaborating with me in a creative endeavor. With little instruction, I offered them nine writing prompts about “their journey” — whatever that meant to them at the time. My vision was to create a video collage that supports personal reflection and highlights both our diversity and our unity — creating a “socially distant” but emotionally intimate community that might support the third part of initiation: homecoming.
13 people courageously accepted my invitation. They live in four American cities: Berkley, CA; Portland, OR; Seattle and Bellingham, WA. Each person emailed their responses to the prompts I’d sent, then allowed me to video record them reciting what they’d written, via Zoom.
With each Zoom call it became more apparent that, regardless of whether the completed video would be seen by anyone else, this process itself was good medicine…for those sharing their story, and for me as witness.
The video below, dear reader, is my heartfelt response to the privilege it has been to be a witness. May sharing the humble fruits of our collaboration somehow contribute to the well-being of the world…and possibly to your initiation.
If you’d like to explore this powerful process yourself, below you’ll find the writing prompts we used for this project.
Whatever our individual journeys hold, may we each find our way through the current isolation, ordeals and uncertainty, and allow the pandemic to be our initiation — making us more committed to life’s purpose and to living in ways that reflect how interdependent we truly are.
My journey began when ________________.
I didn’t know it then, but this journey would lead me on a search for ________________.
Along the way I’ve experienced ____________________.
I’ve encountered _______________.
I’ve chosen ___________________.
As a result, I’ve lost ____________________.
And I’ve gained ___________________.
At this point in my journey I’ve learned ________________________.
Because of my journey _________________________.
*These prompts have been adapted from those shared by Karma Cloud, a former colleague of my beloved collaborator, Stephen Podry.
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