Ask, and the universe shall deliver.
I have heard that line many times over, from motivational speakers to religious leaders, they have their versions of “ask, and the universe / god / supreme being / controller of the cosmos / etc. will deliver”, and it sure does provide some comfort during uncertain times.
Though I personally believe that the equation is not as direct as that, the formula, I think, is pretty sound. Asking for what you want or wish to happen is often the first step to realising that desire, though there usually is the element of effort in between.
Where am I going with this? Good question.
Truth is, I’ve been asking the universe for spiritual guidance. I’ve been asking for this for a while now, especially since my Great Crash of 2018.
Nothing knocks you off balance like losing everything (and I mean everything). I lost my job, hence losing my financial stability. Eventually, I lost a place to stay, I found myself having nowhere to go. Having limited options and a stubbornness about not becoming a burden to anybody are a bad combination when you’re struggling to rediscover your center.
More painfully, I lost friends. I lost a lot of friends, allies – as well as the connections to those allies – both existing and potential ones.
Was it all worth it? I asked myself.
Looking back, I was standing up for what I believe in. And I knew there will be a heavy price to pay. I just didn’t realise it was going to be that costly (non-financial costs are much more difficult to recover).
Sticking to my guns, I went into battle against enemies with lots of MUCH bigger guns. At the same time, I went into those battles without army and armour, which was stupid. In one incident, I even blew up a grenade upon myself.
Needless to say, I took heavy casualty in all areas of my life. Being the wounded person that I was – I admitted defeat, raised my white flag, retreated to safer territories, and sought refuge.
It did not take long for the material to have all been exhausted. Even when they were replenished and I eventually found myself in better environments to attend to my wounds, the main cut still remained open, and bled from time to time.
I knew I had to find a healer – the immaterial, spiritual kind, but I did not know where to even begin looking.
So I asked.
The spiritual guidance I look for
I’m not picky about a lot of things, but I am picky about who I consider a guide, a mentor – a teacher.
The best teachers, for me, are those who do not even seek to “teach” me. They simply do, without meaning to, as an indirect result of having more knowledge, more wisdom, or in hip-hop speak – more juice to re-energise my mind, body, and soul.
As a feminist in the study of development (specialising in political-economy), I have deep personal interest in scholarly literature on critical theories applied to various subjects like history, sociology, and politics. I’ve been reading and quoting from classic progressive thinkers of the Modern world, though I give a personal focus to Syed Hussein Alatas because of his Nusantara origin.
Essentially, my work and interests have exposed me to countless opportunities for intellectual nourishment. I literally meet above-average people all the time, so I know I’m not lacking in terms of access to smart people and brilliant minds to work out whatever problems I may encounter.
However, this time, I cannot turn rely on only the brains, as I usually do. This is a problem of the heart and the spirits. To heal proper, I cannot turn to my usual ‘doctors’, but I need to seek those who could help me inspire trust, love, and kindness. Not just in others, but most importantly, in myself.
There are very few people in this world that I could turn to for that. Fortunately for me, I know someone in particular who is both intellectually exceptional and spiritually… psychic, a term that I have come to use to refer to someone who is perceptive beyond the five physical senses.
Academic and intellectual credentials aside, Meghana Bahar – feminist scholar and communications specialist – has skills of an interpreter of the metaphysical, also known as the mystic, spiritual, or divine.
I do not come to these observations lightly, as I am first and foremost a person of (social) science. In the years that I’ve known her, she has been a source of guidance for me in terms of trusting my intuition – my gut – and how not to load too heavy of a burden upon my heart.
Recently, she kindly did a Heroine’s Journey (by Maureen Murdock) tarot reading for me. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it’s basically the counterpart of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, who was Murdock’s teacher. While the Hero’s Journey is about fulfilling someone’s destiny by looking out (like conquering difficult tasks or coming back to the village with a beautiful foreign bride), the Heroine’s Journey is about looking in (by overcoming inner struggles or deep insecurities).
The reading consists of five parts, representing five different stages of a heroine’s journey, namely The Call, The Threshold, The Ordeal, The Boon (or Gift), and lastly, The Homecoming.
I wouldn’t be sharing too much of the specifics of my tarot reading here, but essentially Meghana helped me reflect on the past two years of my life since The Great Crash, and to interpret the cards that I drew out of the tarot deck within the context of my journey ‘homeward’.
This idea of ‘coming home’, either returning to a home I once lost or building a new one for myself, involves rediscovering my balance and my center.
“The Warrior is your Threshold card because it is your need to battle, rage, or go to war on a trigger impulse that has held you back and kept you from seeing. The Temple is your Ordeal because it is the burden, chains, or pain you carry willingly even though it is not yours to hold.”
The familiarity of the situations Meghana described were all too real, I held back my tears as I re-visited the pain of that grenade I activated upon myself – a foolish incident at the National Mosque that never should’ve happened.
“Both these cards, I feel, are telling you to drop the fight that isn’t yours to fight.”
An interpretation like this is how I decide if someone is a wise tarot reader. Ten readers could’ve gotten the same five cards to read, but that arrangement would result in ten different interpretations. The way Meghana interprets the cards in context and not in isolation, reflect a certain wisdom that only comes with the maturity of her psychic senses.
On another note, I learned once again that the real value of knowledge is not in the quantity of how much you know, but the wisdom of knowing what to do with it.
What I really appreciate about Meghana’s existence is the fact that decolonial, roots-based healing is central to her work.
As a development scholar, de-colonialising is super important to me. Being descendant of a formerly colonised people, I am highly sensitive to the effects of that heinous era. The social, economic, and political implications of colonisation are still impacting our lives to this day, and we are still suffering from them.
Hundreds of years of pillage, physical and sexual violence done against entire nations of people do not get erased from our realities just because we shout ‘Merdeka’ every year on the day that we were “set free” by those who colonised us.
Especially not so when leaders of our countries still operate within the same colonial logic of the past, some even try to revive (or justify) it, hindering our progress as a people. Whenever this happens, it angers me to no end, but this post is not the space for that conversation.
Journey of a thousand miles
Despite having come this far, I know that I am far from Home.
Funnily enough, I don’t feel discouraged at all. I actually feel optimistic about confronting what lies ahead.
My main concern is actually this: how do I go home?
Meghana gave me a few pointers to help with meditation and focus. I am to dedicate a place for prayers, like an altar. I am already using incense to purify the air, I mostly find the movement of air from stale to perfumed good for my mood.
Changing the material conditions of my environment is one of the important steps I need to take on my journey homeward. They are the runway, and spiritual enlightenment is my plane.
Acquiring the parts to build the plane was not easy. Not to forget that they were expensive (and I’m still paying my dues).
However, I take comfort in learning the Heroine’s Journey, which puts the heroine at the center of her own character development. Everything (and everyone) else only plays the role of supporting that development. It goes without saying that as she grows her powers and expands her skills, obstacles the size of mountains won’t be so heavy, and the people she meets who cannot keep up will simply just fall off her radar. And that’s okay. Because life goes on.
Runways, highways, roads – they don’t get built overnight. “Even eggs need a few minutes to boil,” said one of my Generals, she is part of a small group of wise, visionary people I’ve come to meet in this journey to self-enlightenment. There really aren’t that many of them around.
Though with the path that I have chosen, it’s a little difficult to get a heads up or tips from those who have traveled down the same road, give or take a few detours. Most of them are dead, living in exile (far, FAR away), or imprisoned (some are about to be).
Yes, if I choose to, there is a lot for me to stress about. There is still a lot of work to do, with many more roads to build, before I get to cruise along that highway to a home of my making.
That said, I already know that the journey will be long. The ever wise Lao Tzu said it’ll be at least a thousand miles, but thank God I’m not walking. Regardless of the mode of transportation, it is not enough for me to think of 2020 as a new year anymore, I see 2020 as a new decade. Then I’ll plan for the next decade, and the next decade and the next.
I just want to go home. To do that, I can’t keep dying in meaningless battles. This is not to say that I won’t engage in any. I’ll still make mistakes, but hopefully I wouldn’t be shooting myself too much. More importantly, I intend to live my life in complete honesty, and this is not possible without making some unwanted enemies.
Fun times are coming, I’m sure. As long as I get home eventually, it doesn’t matter.
Best wishes for the new year, and here’s to a new decade!