My Cicada Teacher
As I write this, the state of Maryland is enduring two massive shifts, one in the natural world and one in the health world. Both shifts teach me so much about the deeper call of nature in myself and my patients.
In the natural world, May 2021 marks the 17-year emergence of billions of cicadas, a large bug that digs its way up through packed soil, out from under roots and rocks and lawn furniture. This 2 inch bug appears as a nude, fat exoskeleton- with legs. After about an hour after it slowly wiggles its way into light, it pauses. Then a miracle of sorts takes place. It turns out that, in order for the cicada to fulfill its passionate mission to reproduce, it must first let go of the protection it has known for 17 years. The hardened shell which gave it the protection it needed to get to this point in it’s life suddenly becomes a burden that must be shed. In order to shed, it must be ready for a deep and complete change.
It’s amazing to me that after seventeen years of existence in the dense, dark earth, this creature and its brethren hear and answer a call so pure, so primal that it leaves the safety of its home, the familiarity of all it knows and makes the enormous effort to tunnel itself up through the earth and find its way first to the light and then to the height of 90 foot trees just so it can fulfill its mandate from the heavens.
This very vulnerable miniature beast is a wonder, a testament to the power of intention and determination.
Once the cicadas come to the light of day, they know it’s time to rid themselves of the protection they knew for all this time. They wiggle first out of their tunneled holes and shortly after, out of their protective skin. They are exposed and vulnerable especially as their new bodies The metamorphosis is dramatic! Nature has given them a mandate to get to the top of the tree. I can imagine that the dream of that for 17 years seems quite impossible in the state they are in. But Nature is also benevolent, for in the act of trust and determination to follow the path of the unknown set before it, nature has miraculously provided WINGS! Suddenly, what seemed impossible and improbable is now quite reachable!
It’s a laborious start to know life as grounded and heavy. Maybe it's hard to trust they have all they need to succeed.
At first they continue crawling, their wings being an unfamiliar accessory. When it becomes obvious that crawling just won't cut it, they test out their newfound freedom. It doesn’t take long to discover the lightness of being, albeit clumsily at first. Soon the flight becomes easy and the once impossible goal of high tree branches now becomes a reachable reality.
Finally, rising to the tops of trees, together, in a huge chorus, billions of cicadas begin to sing! They sing and attract their mates in a huge, passionate sexual orgy! This is the reward to heeding the call at all costs! Their mission, purpose, mandate, is fulfilled in a massive celebration of life and then death. Following their climactic quest, they lay their eggs in tree branches. Then they die knowing they accomplished their life’s work - which will bring a new generation of cicadas in seventeen more years.
I cannot help but see the metaphors all over the place! As a practitioner of natural medicine, I am constantly looking to nature to teach me something of the stuff of life. I believe that we humans make life so complicated and that nature calls us to something more simple and no less profound.
As we emerge from our own Covid 19 hibernation, we gingerly step back out into the world. We tentatively shed our facial exoskeletons which leave us a bit vulnerable as the threat is still present. The Covid 19 pandemic is nowhere near over and we must find new ways to adjust to our new reality. The impetus toward life is so strong that we came up with ways to mitigate the situation. The threat becomes part of our new sense of reality as we press forward.
I can’t help but wonder how many of us have taken the time to reassess what we are doing here with our lives. Who are we without a job? Who are we without all the activities and distractions that helped us to feel somewhat engaged? I noticed that nature became a popular destination for those who felt cooped up and in need of fresh air and a sense of freedom. I noticed that suddenly people were learning new things they apparently never had time to learn before. I am included in that.
When the pandemic forced us to stop everything, I was so glad for the social permission to explore something else for myself. I took the time to open up to a movement inside that I had pushed away.. I learned that I am becoming more comfortable with a sense of “resonance” in myself to be the artist I wanted to be since childhood. It’s as if I am guided by a force of nature that was planted in me so many years ago. There is a sense of awakened life in me that I hadn’t felt in a long time! Some would call it “passion.” It’s deeper than that for me.
Listening deeply to a primal need that translates into a kind of “mandate from the heavens” or a “calling” is no easy task in a world that values consumerism and monetary gain- especially if that calling would veer us far away from the life we know now. Our exoskeleton is made up of all we have built into ourselves to make us feel safe. How do we shed that in order to become vulnerable, purposeful, beautiful and fulfilled? What would it take to listen to that call of nature and to find our wings?
For many of us our sense of security would be questioned. How do I “live my life” as an artist if I am busy “making a living” as an acupuncturist? Being an acupuncturist has brought me so much! I am grateful to have had a sense of purpose as a healer and to have helped literally thousands of people to find their way to a healthier, happier life. But for the past few years, I’ve noticed a restlessness in myself. I couldn’t name it except that it felt like my life was almost as resonant as a tuned piano with just one off note. So I avoided that key, until it was required in every song.
The pandemic gave me a chance to reflect on how I want to live a life where I feel a true sense of “LIVING” my life. I think we all are seeking the experience of being / feeling ALIVE! My exoskeleton has grown too small for me. Being an acupuncturist helped me move my life through the solid soil of raising children, paying bills, supporting a household and all of that. It gave me access to the most profound teachings of three thousand year old chinese wisdom. My mission for the past 40 years has been to find out person by person, what would bring them to life more fully and to help them build on the things to get them there. Now I must ask myself the same question.
So this year and part of next, I am going to shed my exoskeleton that I am so grateful to have had. I’m going to learn to fly as an artist and as a teacher.
I wonder how many others feel the same. Is your life too small now? What would it take to wiggle out and find your wings? Are you willing to risk your life for it? Are you willing to be clumsy, fall flat on your back and receive the help of someone who might re-right you to your feet? Do you know where UP is? What would bring you to fly to the place where you might find your passion for life again?
Know that there are billions of us ready to join you, including me! Let's fly to the top of the tree together!
Beginning, September 2021, I’m convening a “swarm” of us to write, meditate, create art and sing together as we find our true nature by allowing the rhythms and signs of nature to be our teacher. Details later. Just know that there is strength in numbers and nature doesn't intend for us to do this life alone.