top of page

33. What a pain. April 10, 2018

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

First some news, followed by some ponderings... about the avoidance of pain. Please come this Saturday, April 14th from 6-9 pm to Gallery AWA in Greenpoint for a panel discussion that aligns with the exhibition, Sacred Luminosity 2: Shakti The Goddesses Amongst Us. Joining gallery artists Anshula Tayai and Tara Boirard will be Daria Dorosh, Jayanthi Moorthy and I. After a lively brainstorming session about what to cover during this panel, it is sure to be fascinating!! ***You can imagine how much this concept appeals to me as I continue on a path to embody the Cailleach/Sheela na gig/Healer/Wisewoman. And now for some reflections... So much of life can be painful. In fact, our entrance into this world is arguably, one of the most painful things we'll ever experience. It's so traumatic that we literally block it from our memory. (Do any of you remember being born?) Imagine being squeezed so tightly that your head is forced into a cone shape. Have you ever cried out during a deep muscle massages? What if the masseuse intentionally forced both of your shoulders downward or maybe folded one up and the other down and pushed you through an opening half your width? And then your neck was pushed backwards at an acute angle, while your bones and muscles were squeezed with so much pressure that you were literally propelled forward. You survived. You, a tiny, fragile being. Now think of your mom. You've seen the Try Guys experiencing simulated labor? Right. So many of us moms choose to go through that more than once. This reminds me of watching a documentary about a cave a while back. After entering a cave filled with water, the main character's goal was to reach a massive cavern on the other side of the cave wall. It was only accessible through the tiniest of passageways. She had to dive through a hole near the bottom of the water-filled cave. It was barely wide enough for her body and several yards long, with no room for turning around. Once she committed to swim, that was it. The risk was running out of breath before reaching the other side. She dove nonetheless, head first, kicking calmly and strongly. She was unable to use her arms, they had to be stretched out in front of her to fit. And then she was at the point of no return. She had swum in as far as it was to reach the other side. Pushing herself backwards was no longer an option. So often we are faced with these passages, the lure of something unexpected revealing itself. It's frightening or difficult and it might seem easier to stay stationary. Instead of scoffing at it, we notice that it feels familiar - like family - like it is part of us. Like it was meant to be. Once we decide to engage, worry can cause mental and physical pain. Like being faced with the idea of swimming head first into a tiny hole. And then we realize that everything we've done to date has prepared us for this. We've actually had hundreds of practice dives. When we finally lift your head out of the water and breathe deeply, not fully understanding how this new space holds enough oxygen, we fill our lungs completely with fresh, clean air. Air that few, if any have ever breathed and it's as if we're taking that first breath of life all over again. It seems like so many people I've spoken to lately are transitioning in their lives. I'm there as well. I've lost sleep worrying about launching Spiral Herbal Remedies at Artists and Fleas in Williamsburg. Can I do this? Will I be able to help people? Will people respond? (I'm there every Saturday and Sunday from 10-7.) I forgot how much I enjoyed teaching. In this case, about our plant allies, the plants and fungi that occupy the same space, live in the same air/soil, experience the same trauma from our shifting ecosystem and still want to help us heal. I worried about other facets of my life as well. What about my art career? Will the art world understand? I'm not just giving my life a philosophical framework, I'm living it. Malidoma Some', a West African Elder of the Dagara people, calls these transitions "Initiations" in his book, The Healing Wisdom of Africa. He reminds us that transitions signal the onset of tremendous growth. Indigenous cultures have always framed them with ceremony, which brings focus to the transition and creates an atmosphere of support. What has happened to our ceremonies? What can we do in our daily lives to resurrect them? Do you give yourself permission to slow down and contemplate your life or ask for help? Malidoma will be coming to Brooklyn this Fall. My elder and teacher in Herbalism, Karen Rose, of Sacred Vibes Apothecary and my Herbalism sisters are making arrangements for him to speak. I will share details as we draw closer. “Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller See below to view a performative costume: Becoming Cailleach Copyright © *2018, Donna Cleary All rights reserved.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page