Metanoia: Introduction

Art is impossible, you know.

Ask any artist, and they’ll tell you – what grows inside of them and what is manifested outside of them never matches completely.  There is just no way to express 100% of any particular inspiration.

This, over and over, has been my struggle in creating this body of work.  My subject material is my life, and I experienced my life in 3-D.  And no matter how fancy I get about presenting my work, the experience of expressing my life as story will never be as vivid, as fully rich, as living through it has been.

It’s hard, sometimes, to let go of a dream.  My journey of healing, the journey that I chose to write about, was so beautiful to me – so miraculous that I wanted very badly to do it justice in the telling.  I struggled with structure, and form.  Weaving together disparate pieces of writing, I felt like a spider weaving a web of experience, and so I decided to build a website.  When the dance between form and content grew so intense that I could barely hold the cohesive form in my own mind anymore, let alone explain it to anyone else, I grew frustrated.  I’d poured so much work into the structure, but I still wasn’t able to express the complexity that I had come to understand, about the world, and what it means to be wounded within it, and what it means to heal.

I wrestled for weeks with my dissatisfaction.  It was, predictably, my Tantra Teacher, Vyana, who helped me unlock it.  I was trying to express the fullness of an experience in an artistic medium – to translate every piece of it.  What Vyana helped me see is that not only is it impossible to express 100% of an experience, it also wouldn’t be useful.  Because, if I could create for you, the reader, the exact same experience that I lived through, you wouldn’t need to have your own experience.  And that would be tragic.  You wouldn’t grow, in the same way, if the experience wasn’t genuinely yours.

This gave me immense relief.  I shifted my focus from inviting the reader into my experience of transformation, to creating what I hope will be an invitation for you, the reader, to explore your own psyche, your own story, your own experiencing.  And so I turned to my work and began to simplify it.  I kept the website, because the way my stories live in my psyche does feel very much like a web to me.  And, inspired by the power of listening to memoir audiobooks narrated by their authors, I elected to record some parts of my work to embed into the website.  I included pictures, and some artwork I made.  Because this whole thing, in addition to being an invitation, is an experiment in vulnerability.  In being seen.  In expressing parts of myself that lived in the necessary habits of secrecy and silence for so many years.

As my teacher’s teacher would say: “Both are healed, or neither are healed.”  And so this work, which is my invitation to you to explore your own healing, is also my expression of the journey that I have taken in search of my own healing.  That’s what Metanoia means, actually:

Metanoia

This word, which I chose as my title, feels as if it entirely captures the essence of my work.  Being who I am, I needed to know as much as I could about the word itself before settling on it as my choice.  Googling the word led me to, of course, Wikipedia, where I learned that there are many different uses for “metanoia”, including theological and psychological.

In theological terms, “metanoia” is usually translated from the Greek as repentance.  However, at least according to Wikipedia, that translation is hotly debated.  Treadwell Walden, author of The Great Meaning of the Word Metanoia: Lost in the Old Version, Unrecovered in the New, calls the translation of Metanoia as repentance, “an extraordinary mistranslation.” (2009, p. 1)

He describes the word as “the first utterance of John the Baptist as the herald of the Christ, and the first utterance of Jesus the Christ as the herald of the kingdom of God. It was their summons to mankind, preceding the announcement of the power that was approaching, of the revelation that was at hand.” (2009 p. 1)

What, then, did this oh- so important word actually mean, if repentance was a mistranslation?  Walden argues that it’s “transmentation” – “a sort of mental transfiguration, under which the Mind, when placed in a new situation, thinks new thoughts, receives new impressions, forms new tastes, inclinations, purposes, develops new aptitudes”. (2009 p. 77)

He goes on to explain how changing one’s mind ripples out; changes the whole self.  So Metanoia, if we believe the arguments of Walden, can be more accurately translated as “transformation” than “repentance.”  Let me tell you, going through the Bible and replacing the word “repentance” with the word “transformation” is a trip.  Believe me, I’m in a good position to know.  And there’s something meaningful to me about titling the tale of my journey of transformation with a word that, by a change in translation, could turn the indoctrination of my childhood into something beautiful rather than something shaming, just as the journey my work portrays has re-framed my sense of identity into something beautiful, out of what I believed was something shameful.

And that’s just the theological meaning of metanoia!  In psychology, specifically Jungian psychology (which I’ve studied and experienced just a little bit of through my work at Shalom Mountain), “Metanoia” is defined as “the process of experiencing a psychotic ‘break down’ and subsequent, positive psychological re-building or ‘healing'” (according to Wikipedia).  In other words, the transformational crisis.  What better descriptor to assign to the stories of both my crises and my healing; the stories of my transformation?

Because that is what this is.  It’s the story of my journey.  There’s some context woven in: about what I learned; what I studied.  There are a lot of stories about my healing process.  There’s journal entries, and letters.  And there’s reflection on my growth as a writer.  Overall, it’s the story of how I found my voice, and how finding my voice led to finding myself, led to finding my name, led to finding my aliveness.  It’s a journey that changed my heart, mind, self, and way of life – that brought me through death, into life, into living, and living abundantly.  If you’d like to read about the rest of the journey, click here.