Somewhere between the ancient world and the modern world, exists this divide, or at least, it's perceived that they are divided. When this conversation happens, it is usually predictable. The modern world is demonized with its technology and busy pace. And a romancing begins of by-gone eras of ancient village life, which can still be experienced in parts of the world untouched by modernization. There is a push to get back to nature, back to basics. We visit these ancient societies, and experience a disconnection from cel phone towers. We untether ourselves from the invisible cord of technology, and we believe our enslavement to it is released.
But what if modern invention wasn't seen as being so wrong? When we made the slip into industrialization, technology and modernization, we threw the baby out with the bath water, and centuries of tradition were neglected and ignored. The March of Progress Myth tells us that as long as we are moving forward, and inventing something, surely, it must be better right? There is wisdom in ancient cultures that has been replaced by knowledge. And we in North America are obsessed and intrigued by ancient teachings and wisdom. The modern-day interest in Wellness is evidence to that.
Take Reiki for example. What began as a practice by a Buddhist, Japanese man from the early twentieth century, is now practiced mainly by twenty-first century North American and European women. How does that translate, and what is lost in translation? Tracing back the steps, there is a point where our mothers' mothers practiced this innate ability to heal, and just like the story of Demeter and Persephone, we abandoned the way our mothers' did things in search of progress. Reiki is considered a new discovery, different from the way our mothers' cradled our heads with care. Perhaps it is at this point that our proverbial baby leaves the bath water in our history.
Diving deeper into the world of Reiki, we uncover not only Buddhist teachings, but also Shinto teachings, and our gateway to our ancestors. Disconnection from our ancestors is a pivotal point in our development. As most Caucasian Canadians who are intrigued by Reiki and wellness are descended from settlers, there is not a long line of ancestors connected to the land to look to. Our Aboriginal neighbours send us clues here, because they possess something the average Canadian descended from a few generations of pioneers does not. They have a connection to the land and to their ancestors. Perhaps a genealogy study will give a map of relatives not talked about, but for most, the line to our ancestors is not honoured. There is no place for them at the dinner table. They are names on a family tree from a foreign land, generations ago, where the spellings were changed. We do not have stories from grandmothers, but instead knowledge is found from institutions.
Knowledge is found from the written word and media. Education is indeed a privilege for the modern woman - the right to knowledge, education and advancement. We are continually bombarded with the idea that in our modern society everything is all messed up and we should live like our grandparents did. We should grow our own food, milk our own cows, and the jury is out on modern medicine. As grandmothers crossed the bridge from hard labour in the efforts of survival, to modern comforts and technology, they did so with a warm embrace.
Grandmothers are wise women. We know this, we inherently know this. But we abandon our truth and we give up our own power. Aboriginal societies know this, where women make the rules and grandmothers enforce them, because who would disrespect their grandmother? In our highly progressed and modern society, we have an epidemic of sexual harassment. One hundred years after sufferage, women have more rights than ever, but less respect than ever. But this was not always the case for our ancestors. More than a millennia ago, but I can find the pivoting point where the wise woman was relegated to the dark corners and the sacred feminine was demonized in the name of progress to a more efficient society with its streamlined religion.
There were many points in our history where our grandfathers saw a fork in the road and chose to banish an aspect of self into shadow. Our need for technology and modernization is one such aspect, and we are faced with a choice. We can romance the past and decide that one way is completely right, and one way is completely wrong. Or we can recognize that something in our psyche desires modern comforts and communication. It is how we inegrate it that decides our fate. We are not merely slaves to social media or cel phones. There is no aspect of our society that is worth abandoning. And we are not removed from the ancient societies who still walk the earth. We are co-existing with them.
With choice comes freedom. Modern advancements and ideas are designed to bring ease to our lives, not chain us to them. Choosing something new does not have to be an "either-or" decision. There is room both old ways and new ways to co-exist peacefully. The internet could be viewed as a means to open up our minds to ideas and belief systems that the ancient people didn’t have access to. They lived in a small region, and their beliefs were decided for them. Access to ideas and technologies can be empowering, as long as it is a choice. We may think we want to live the way our grandparents did, but are we really willing to give up air travel, personal freedom and refrigerators? Probably not, but we can inegrate them. Alternative practitioners, our society’s answer to the ancient Shaman can choose to integrate the creatures of comfort with the voices of our ancestors in a way that serves society and our clients, while honoring the hidden desires of our psyche.
Jennifer Whitfield, CHt, is a certified hypnotherapist and Reiki Master who has been practicing alternative therapies for ten years. She offers related therapies in her practice, and regularly teaches workshops on spirituality, healing and meditation. She sees her role as a practitioner to help guide her clients back to a state of wholeness and transformation. Connect with her at http://www.jenniferwhitfield.com and on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jenniferwhitfield111/