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  • Writer's pictureMarc-Henri Sandoz

Through the underwold and back (reconceiving trauma part 3-4: rite of passage - initiation)

I will remember all my life the moment where I entered into the surgery room, a few minutes before the beginning of my amputation.

I've told you in previous posts about my unexpected experience of peace in the midst of chaos and terror, during the days which followed my diagnostic of cancer. And now I was here: in no time I would fall asleep and wake up (hopefully!) hours later without my leg.

I had never been in such a dramatic and frightening situation, and to my surprise, the peace was still here. I could stay with my breath, repeating my new mantra, Jesus. And I was feeling like one in the eye of the hurricane: seeing the furor of the elements all around, but feeling strangely safe. I had deep inside that sense of Jesus being with me, who would stay with me when everything would shut down. I had that insight that he had been through deeper darkness and back, and that I was safe with his presence at my side. So I said to the anesthetist: "ok, we can go", she put a mask on my face, and I collapsed on my way to the underworld.

I came back three hours later, without my leg but still with that strange peace. Happy to be alive. And with a sweet rage burning in me: a rage to live and to make the best of this new part of my life. That rage have not left me since. In fact it burns more and more. It made me face and process lots of toxicity inherited from my religious history with Christianity, and from the way my parents were believing and I with them. I realized how much spirituality can be poisonous and life threatening, when she meets unresolved wounds and hidden traumas. It's the subject of a book I'm actually writing.

And one day later I could go out of the intensive care unit, and less than ten days later out of the hospital, to the surprise of everybody involved, including me.

I'm not going to pretend it was easy. It still isn't. I learn to live without my leg, and there is a sadness and an anger that will probably never leave me about that. But I woke up with new things burning into my heart :

  • this rage to live,

  • a trust in the loving presence of Jesus staying with me,

  • a pride of having been able to go through all of it with dignity and courage,

  • a consciousness that I was entering into a new stage of my life and a resolve to behave in such a way that it could be for the best and not for the worst.

And this is how I've learned to see the trauma I endured both as

  • a rite of passage

  • an initiation

1. A rite of passage because this experience marks my entrance into a new phase of my life. It could be a totally depressing idea, considering the raw reality of the amputation, the sufferings, and the deprivation of capacities involved. But with this presence of grace in the midst of pain, through this figure of Jesus, a new narrative opens for me. A narrative where I'm a survivor, not a victim, and where my sacrifice allows me the possibility to go on living. Without the loss of my leg, the cancer would have killed me! This new narrative will unfold during the rest of my life. It is characterized by a new sense of self dignity, self competence and self confidence.

Since that passage through the underworld and back, I'm a new person, and my new body is here to remind it to me.

2. An initiation, because through this experience I've learned very important lessons. Not lessons that you can read in books or summarize in some words. Lessons learned in a heart to heart with reality. I will need the rest of my life to unfold them and apply them to my daily life. The first fruit of these lessons is already in the things I discovered burning into my heart, when I woke up from the amputation. An other important fruit is that it allowed me to discover a lot of toxicity stuck in me because of my family heritage. I already could process a lot of it and reclaim like never in my life my right to live and enjoy life. The new person I am is wiser and healthier.

And through that initiation, I could reconcile with my strong interest for the Great Mystery that lies in the core of Reality, and reclaim my desire to explore it and share about it, in a perspective of radical opening to all of Reality, in respectful conversation with seekers of each and every traditions and practices.

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