Ostracism and Exile

In ancient Rome, according to Jungian analyst Joseph Lee, if someone was exiled and sent from the city never to be allowed to return, it was the equivalent of a death sentence. Outside the safety of the city, one was unlikely to survive. To be exiled or ostracized remains an extremely violent experience on the inner and outer level.

As we recover from the confusions and fears of the last few years, I hope we will examine what happened and decide not to repeat some of the societal choices we made to exile and ostracize others. Should anyone making a free will choice be subject to death threats and extreme shunning? Should we ostracize friends and family because they see a situation differently than us? Why would we ever pick up the weapons of ostracism and exile to use against fellow humans who exist in an energetic matrix which renders us all one energy field? Not only are all beings needed and valuable but all of us are actually an indivisible whole.

Can we swing the pendulum back from these acts of separation to acknowledge our oneness and act from unity consciousness? I believe we can and will.

Ostracism is a subject close to my heart since my childhood and early adulthood community all went along with my mother when she chose to disinherit me and throw me out. It was disorienting in the extreme to abruptly lose all connection with the people and places that had filled my life. The loss of a beloved place in the Adirondacks was particularly devastating.

Green Hope Farm staff has always been a surprisingly multi-cultural group for northern New England. I wonder if part of this is that my own wounds of exile that I work so hard to accomodate and heal call out energetically to others who also have been exiled from their homelands.

If I have been there to help other exiles heal, they have been there to help me heal. Take for example Thembi.

Thembi arrived from Zimbabwe with four little boys. Her husband had to flee when he found himself on Mugabe’s hit list. Eventually Thembi found refuge in the United States too. Thembi was no stranger to nature as she had a much loved grandmother who lived on a farm, but Thembi was a city girl. She grew up and flourished in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. When she came to America she left family, friends, jobs and a vibrant network of joyful interconnection to find herself in an alien landscape of trees and grass and in a culture so incredibly unlike her own.

Exile can make one bitter. There is just so much lost. Thembi suffered her losses and accommodated them deep in her heart without bitterness. She inspired me with her pluck and sass. She’d comment with zesty humor about the danceless even joyless community she now found herself in, but she got on with it. She worked at Green Hope Farm, but she also got her degree from a local college in hospitality management. When her house burned down and her family lost everything from their old life as well as their new one, she picked herself up and rebuilt. Now she is running two very successful businesses while still raising 5 boys. Yes, she had another child after arriving in America! Her beautiful home was created on a tiny budget but looks like something out of a magazine. When we visit, the conversations are refreshingly honest but devoid of cynicism. So much about her new world still puzzles her and makes her laugh, but everywhere Thembi has gone, people have come to respect her incredible work ethic, innovative problem solving and enormous heart.

She didn’t die when exiled from her homeland, but she is a rare person of great courage and fortitude. It’s a wounding journey to be ostracized or exiled and requires immense determination to overcome. Some might say that exile was the making of Themibi, but I’m sure deep in her heart she’d like to still know the embrace of her family and friends. Who wants to be on the receiving end of these kinds of losses?

And so I hope as we move forward as a culture, we consider the ramifications of our choices to throw people away. It’s taken me over twenty years to somewhat accommodate the losses of exile and learn to live with the wound. I hope I have been as plucky as Thembi, but I know it has come at a cost.

I often get very mad at people who hurt me, especially when the hurt echoes the original wound of exile. But because of my experience of ostracism, I try really hard to find my center and wait until I’m calm enough not to be reactive. I try to get to a place where I can send back love. I try not to bring exile or ostracism to anyone else. I’ve struggled with forgiveness but continue to work hard on it. I remind myself that for so many reasons, forgiving others is forgiving myself. Even when I don’t fully experience it, I hold in my heart the truth that we are all one. Isn’t it time to leave the whole patriarchal dynamic of judgement and shunning behind and recognize this?

In closing here are a few Flower Essences that help us with this task.

Agnes Rose– This precious Rose Flower Essence friend helps us know, “You and I are not we but one.”

Corn– Corn helps us access the wisdom of cooperative community, a vibration where we live as peacefully and harmoniously as kernels of corn growing on the cob.

Sweet Pea and Carouby de Maussane Pea– Last night I dreamed I was planting several big garden plots of peas. I awoke thinking how pea Flower Essences support peace in community. There is more than a little energetic significance to the peas in a pod idea.

Arbor Garden– A gift of harmony and oneness, offering a timeless experience of ourselves as love in an ocean of love.

Maltese Cross– If you have been exiled or ostracized, Maltese Cross helps heal from the violence of this experience.

The Three Phacelia Sisters– Breaking the inner and outer dynamic of ostracism and exile. This one helps us heal the wounds of our own self exile.

Osteospermum– Helps us remain serene and unaffected by others judgments, criticisms or betrayals of us. This one helped me so much in the early years of my experience of ostracism.

Wound Healing– Don’t we all need some of this? I certainly do!

Maple– It’s maple sugaring season here, so Maple is on my mind. Maple’s Flowers bring an incredible energy of balance and sweetness, the middle way but the zesty middle way like Thembi.