Updated: Dec 30, 2021
This morning, I am drumming to call in the plant spirit I’ll meet in my upcoming dieta.
Unbound by physical laws I extend myself outward, carrying a message in the form of vibration, beat. This is the language of the plants. I speak without words in energetic quality. Warmth. Gratitude. Intention for a mutually beneficial alliance, to enter into the happy contract of right relationship. To co-create. I beam out the signal from the inner universe of my chest cavity. My mind’s eye scans for the presence of the one I will meet in a week’s time.
I sense this plant as a distant nebula, gathering itself for our meeting. I say hi. That’s enough for first contact. Tomorrow I’ll drum again, and every day this week.
View over Tarcal, Hungary. October 2020.
I woke with the sun in my camper van in Tarcal, Eastern Hungary, a village on the Trail of the so-called Wonder Rabbis. In a while I’ll head over to the local spa. It’s one of my favorites, small but super luxe at a 5-star boutique hotel. Wild swings from ascetism to hedonism are kind of my thing. That’s fine, AND I practice increasing my tolerance for the middle-spectrum as much as I can. Sometimes being with the everyday is so oppressively boring and so horrifyingly dysfunctional I feel I must be trapped in some sort of hell realm, to be asked to live like this. Other times it’s nice to chill out and be, like, normal, for once. My senses uncaptured for a while by the addictive nature of extremes and of novelty. I’m growing a taste for stability here in Hungary, feeling into it as medium to cultivate a healthy ecosystem around myself. Still, the impulse to run is not gone, and maybe it never will be.
That stability would be something new, not yet truly known by me. “Never get too comfortable” is the refrain singing out from my deep cell field. My deep time field. I wonder if *can* know it, beginning as I am so late in this lifetime, working as I am with my fragmented inheritance of place-making, of culture and community. The great grandchild of immigrants, one hundred generations of Jewish refugees wandering through my veins.
Maybe I need a re-re-re-reframing (again) of what I think the “right” inheritance is supposed to be like. I remind myself: everything that has ever happened to me and anyone related to me is valuable, underwritten by the unbroken wholeness and unity of all things. Disarmed from charge, everything can be repurposed as material to build something wonderful, now, anew.
So yes, I have been to Tarcal before, along with a number of other historic Jewish towns in this region of Hungary. Tokaj, Mád, Erdőbénye, and Bodrogkeresztúr where a renowned mystic named Rabbi Shayele lived around the turn of the century. To this day, it remains a pilgrimage site for Hasidic Jews from around the world. You can write a prayer on a piece of paper and toss it down on the good Rabbi’s grave in the old Jewish cemetery. I did it, last time I was here in October.
This region is also the site of my first Tinder date ever which was, guess what? A nightmare.
This will come as no surprise to just about everyone with any experience of Tinder.
Like many, I hardline resisted online dating until the pandemic got us all holed up in our homes with nowhere to meet anyone new. After my last relationship-thing ended in May of 2019 I thought, well, now I’m going to focus on myself and just remain open to someone amazing showing up. Let them come to me. No one did. I went to Peru for a long stay, did a few months of dieta and a lot of discipline-heavy solo work and traveling in remote regions of the continent. Not exactly a vibrant dating scene! And to be honest, I needed the time. Why is another story.
I reached a completion point, my gaze turned outward again and I was ready. Then the pandemic hit, great timing. I spent the first three months sheltered down in Ecuador, two with my parents in New York, and then finally squeaked through into Hungary when the border opened up for a few weeks in August. It wasn’t long before the lockdown began in earnest, so I had little time to make any friends. All in all, over a year and a half passed since that last relationship, which was anyway long distance. I was pretty much a de-facto Brahmacharya already. I swore I’d never use an app, but desperate times were afoot.
Back in Budapest, I went out on a few more pathetic dates and was fast descending into despair when I met a 31-year-old, 5-time national kickboxing champion from North Africa who never lost a fight and was getting his PhD in engineering. He was as hot as he sounds. Completely wrong for me – among other reasons, he still lived like a college freshman in a hostel downtown that smelled like a gym – but he could pick me up with one arm like I weighed nothing, and it was shaping up to be a really long winter. We had chemistry, and I figured we could at least keep each other company through the worst of it.
Long story short, things went south and six weeks later there I was, telling off this poor kid in the living room of my well-appointed Jewish District Airbnb, on the evening of my birthday.
“Uh oh!” said I to myself after he scurried out the door as fast as humanly possible. “There’s bugs in my head and I’m not dateable. Better look into it!” Not to imply that he wasn’t in fact being a dick, but my reaction could have definitely been more balanced is what I’m trying to say here.
I called up my mentor/therapist, a brilliant warrior queen who I’ve been working with on and off for several years and who has a solid hand in keeping me on the gold standard path of mental health. I told her I wanted to make a class about relationships. It’s her specialty and it’s the pandemic and I’m new here and all alone in this apartment in this foreign city, what else am I doing? So, we did it. The class consisted of me Tinder dating like it was my job (which it basically was, it really takes up an insane amount of time), and then us talking about it once a week.
Examining oneself in the realm of relationships has emerged, for me, as a central aspect of ancestor work. What manifests in you within relationships IS your ancestry. It’s your relationship with your parents and your whole family, their relationships with their parents and families and back and back. It’s all the social and cultural patterning you pick up from your environment and everything everyone who came before you picked up, too. It’s the behavior employed by all of these people to cope with trauma. It’s the successes and emotional skills you inherited. It’s you yourself as an ancestor, passing what’s yours to everyone around you and down to younger generations. Your Self in relationship is a pure crystallization of everything feeding into and out of the person you are in this moment, so naturally, accessing information and healing in the ancestral realm involves practical work on yourself in the relationship realm in the present. That is my understanding.
Right, listen. Let me tell you something. This was one of the most grueling, grinding sadhanas I’ve ever done in my entire life, and I’ve done a lot of grueling sadhanas. I encountered exactly no one who turned out to be anything to me, only a fever dream of ghouls in human skin reflecting my own broken parts back at me. I saw myself act as a person I didn’t recognize, grasping, anxiety-ridden, numbed out. I spent most of the whole thing with no other in-person contact besides these Tinder people, in a depression so crushing that at one point in April I asked my therapist, “is this what it feels like for this to be bad enough to go on medication?” I’ve been through several long depressions and all kinds of extended extreme mental states. I have a massive tool kit for that and have never once yet considered meds, until this.
(no shade about meds, they're appropriate for many people and situations and it's a fine personal choice. They’ve not been a choice I’ve felt suited to, yet.)
I grappled with every painful thing I’ve ever known of inside myself and more. I met the places where my self-worth was less than zero, where great wells of rage and fear live, where I regard myself with condemnation and with disgust. I wrestled with my wounded feminine, my overcompensating masculine, my gender identity, my sexuality. I saw my aversion and my attraction to power, my capacity to hurt others, to play the victim, to manipulate, to rescue, to fix, to people-please, to try to do everything alone, to stay too busy, to give it all up too fast, to emotionally isolate. I saw myself afraid to fail, afraid to screw It up, terrified to be rejected or abandoned, terrified that if I actually ever got the kind of connection I’m searching for I wouldn’t even know what to do with it.
When I think about it now, it recalls accounts of curanderos training in the jungle and having to fend off (or integrate) attacks by sorcerers and evil entities night after night on the medicine. Just, relentless. Relentless.
Sometime in early May, I had enough and quit Tinder. My mental state improved almost immediately. Then spring came. The lockdown eased, my few established connections blossomed and new ones have linked up at astonishing speed, more all the time. Life in Hungary is 180 degrees different: overflowing with friends, events, travel, even work coming up on the horizon.
People have been telling me all summer how wise and how grounded I seem. I feel a marked improvement, absolutely. I take this moment to acknowledge my very hard work and deep dedication to my own healing and my own learning, for myself and so that I can be a better guide for others in process as well. So I can be a better ally to all my relations. I thank my spirits and everyone and everything supporting me. I re-commit to my experiential course of study in the school of my own life, to doing honor to my guides and teachers by making the highest use of their attentions and their gifts. I also acknowledge that I am very far from finished. I clear a big, wide football field of space for myself to be un-wise and un-grounded in my continuing process, and pledge to unconditionally love and support myself in these moments.
More on that in the next installment.
Special thank you and big respect to our facilitators at the MIND Foundation and all the marvelous participants in the fantastic “Beyond Experience” integration workshop this past week in Romania. I’m full of inspiration and fresh perspective. This series of writings is dedicated to you.
Prayer to Rabbi Shayele. Jewish Cemetery, Bodrogkeresztúr, Hungary. October 2020.
This piece is a one of a series of four writings I did as part of a dieta in the Amazonian Plant Medicine tradition. The first three served as preparation, examining the psychological material most relevant for me in the moment so I could bring it consciously into the dieta space. The fourth is a piece of integration work, to begin to understand what I received and how I see applying it in my life moving forward. Writing is a big medicine tool for me, and I’m happy to share this window into my personal process so it may inspire others in theirs.