The Benefit of Being Clueless (about Which Way from Here)


I had no idea what to expect as I watched the Hungarian archers hoist their wooden bows and cast their flaming arrows into a 12-foot bonfire stack.

As each arrow ignited the tinder, I had this primeval awareness that something significant was about to happen.

The fire ceremony was an “integrally” synthesized approach (assembled by Bence Ganti, the founder of the Integral European Conference or IEC) that included indigenous Hungarian elements (shamanistic drums, space-clearing whips), integral group therapy, postmodern elements (songs, mantras and chants,) plus tribal elements of fire and dancing. The display of the native Hungarian shamanistic elements, Taltosism, were especially moving given it had been castrated from the culture in wartime, and had a resurgence in the 1980s along with other contemporary shamanistic rituals globally.

I didn’t know until visiting Hungary for the IEC just how many invaders had attempted to steam-roll the country, and how persistent the Hungarians were at reclaiming their lands and rebuilding their culture. Over and over.

Just days before the fire ceremony offered to the participants at the conference, I’d contemplated how difficult it must have been for a country to have fought for its existence as the Hungarians had. The historic Castle District in Buda, the western portion of the city of Budapest, is a testament to the integration of all the marauding cultures and the resilience of these eastern European peoples.

As the fire grew taller and hotter, flames soaring 25 feet into the air and the heat extending to a circumference of 100 feet, I could feel my skin scorching and the air hard to breathe as several hundred of us encircled the fire.

The thunderous drums, ceremonial dancing and reverberant chanting and singing evoked a hypnotic state through which I slipped into trance.

Suddenly, I felt myself in the fire.

Disoriented, confused at first, and then realizing I had been transported back in time to a witch burning held in Hungary. I felt my skin melting, eyes bulging. I saw my sisters with me in the fire, our hands and feet bound. I was screaming with the small amount of air still in my lungs.

I saw the villagers just watching. Passively standing by. Allowing the decimation of magic in the form of those of us who were Seers. Truth tellers.

And then I dissociated from the visceral memory and torturous heat. It was too much to bear… the intensity of the burning and the memory of that historic struggle in the 18th century.

I’d had regression experiences that pointed to a lifetime of this ilk, though I had no interest in re-experiencing it.

And yet here I was.

Standing outside of it, watching myself melt and disintegrate in the hellish flames. Hearing the screams, the longing to be taken away. And witness to the indifference of the lookers-on. The people who’d detached from the horrendous murder of those who didn’t comply with the mainstream subjugation of the time.

I found myself in this odd limbo-state, between worlds. And really hot.

Hearing the drumming and chanting and wild dancing of my new friends in modern-day Hungary, regaled by the Shamanistic rites of a native land whose roots had been ripped from the soil by so many other cultures. And simultaneously witnessing my own spirit and soul dissipating into the winds high above the bonfire as the flames combusted my human form.

And then it occurred to me. This is why I’d been called to Hungary.

Leaping into the Unknown

The very purpose of my visit, while ostensibly to give presentations to an international crowd, evidently was to heal the deep wounds of abandonment and rejection long buried in my own DNA.

While I was hosting the suffering and letting go of the former life, I also could feel the release of my own anger and resentment and hatred of those who’d allowed me to suffer on the fire.

The ceremonial support team (of highly-trained Integral therapists) surrounded me with rattles and chanting in order to animate the release of the old energies, helping me to be fearless in releasing the wounds of the past.

As the energy dissipated and I collapsed on the dirt, empty of attachment to the old suffering, I began to experience a belonging inherent in this new collective, encircling the very fire that had taken my life just moments (and lifetimes) before.

I was held in the arms of my new friends. I had a sense of acceptance, a coherence with those who’d made the journey to be there with me. Perhaps unlike ever before.

I felt secure in the implicit pact that several hundred of us made that night to commit to creating a different world.

Yet I’d never expected to have such an experience when I decided to go to Hungary.

How Did I Get Here?

I’m often asked how I so willingly step into the unknown. That I must have some insane amount of courage to move forward freely without knowing what’s next, or some tolerance of suffering that naturally comes when things don’t go as planned.

I chuckle inside, knowing that if it required courage I’d probably not do it. I’m the girl that hates heights and stays clear of roller-coasters.

Yet, I can’t NOT follow my guidance. The breadcrumbs are laid out in front of me as I muddle my way through life.

And yes, I ask for and listen to an insane amount of guidance. From the ‘voices’ that have accompanied me since childhood. To the wise elders who’ve shown up periodically. To the signs and symbols and totems that appear to offer a bit of inspiration or direction. To the people who arrive just in time to point out what I didn’t know before.

In this instance, I had just met my friend Steve, an astrocartographer who’d been sharing his expertise on locational astrology. When queried about attending the conference in Hungary, he insisted that I MUST go. To paraphrase him, “the stars were aligned” for me to have a powerful experience. I just didn’t know what it would be about.

And so I booked the flight, arranged to attend the conference and anxiously awaited the adventure, knowing that something would happen.

The most salient nugget I retained from a dozen-plus therapists during my depressed and suicidal phase was to have “no expectations, something will happen.” It’s the best way to get through life without extreme disappointment.

To be open to the adventure inspired by letting go of knowing what was next.

I’d made many similar decisions before. Moving across the country a few times. Being called to start new career paths or explore relationships. Instructed to write a book. Encouraged to avoid people and opportunities that may seem lucrative or exciting but didn’t have the energetic alignment with my true path.

I always pay the price when I don’t heed the guidance received, when I think I know better. When my rational-linear-logical mind tries to make sense of things and suggest that some moves are just too outlandish to work out.

And I fall flat on my face when I ignore the signs, energy, and wisdom that’s coming to me through my everyday listening.

And, like my experience in Hungary (which BTW turned out magnificently in every other aspect as well, from making new friends and colleagues to having two powerful presentations)… having no imagination about what was going to transpire yet healing a deep core wound from a former lifetime and generating a sense of belonging like no other.

You can’t make this stuff up.

And yet, it requires me to admit that I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing, until the answer or direction or insight shows up right before me. Placed at my feet.

What is Required to Live into the Unknown?

Even before the pandemic was settling in, I wrote a lot about the Fear of The Unknown, or FOTU as it’s called by the social scientists who’ve decided it’s the greatest fear of all. Here and here are a couple of articles I wrote about FOTU and how to overcome it.

Knowing that very little is in our control, and that we are subject to the whim of a gazillion possibilities in any given moment, it’s foolish to pretend that we have anything other than the slightest influence in how things turn out.

Even when we use complex metatheories to assess points of leverage, or analyze data to predict potential impact of our actions, we’re still aiming blindly into the future.

Yet, when we listen to the stirrings of our soul, and the breadcrumbs that follow to help guide us into the mist, we are more likely to find our way than if we carried a highlighted travel guide and map from AAA.

When things go the way they do (as they always do,) different than we expected, with an even slight reframe, we can always find a reason that THIS was so much better than the other way would’ve been.

Every single tragedy of my life turns out to be a gift when I wear that mindset. And, who wouldn’t want to be the odd-one-out who can turn any embarrassing moment or slight catastrophe into the best life ever?

The Abundance of Breadcrumbs

Usually the breadcrumbs show up when you least expect it, and often point to a direction you’d never considered [usually they’re back roads, easily distinguishable from the highways of mainstream travel.]

And there’s no shortage of intel that comes your way, if you have fresh eyes and beginner’s mind and are willing to dance to a slightly different drum.

Breadcrumbs can look like everything from a gut sense or hunch, or a hawk circling overhead indicating transition, or a dream or whispers calling you in the night, to signs pointing to a new direction or a message-yielding license plate, or a windstorm out-of-the-blue ushering in change or a bird squawking caution…not to mention the abundance of wisdom from elders and teachers of all kinds who show up to proffer insight.

The signs are endless. The question is – do you listen?

Most of my life transitions have occurred following a significant shift in energy and a symbol, dream, calling or cosmic nudge. I know what it feels like to be in alignment with my soul, so I can easily sense whether these other-worldly elbows should be heeded.

The key is to get started. Listen closely. Allow that you don’t have control over much of anything anyway. And allow that it may be just as profitable (and certainly more fulfilling) to follow the hunch vs your current way.

What’s the worst that can happen?

You find yourself in a foreign country, letting go of past life trauma and making new friends.

Walking Gladly into the Unknown

The true benefits of being clueless about what’s next is acknowledging that we’re all clueless about what’s next.

This awareness that the only thing we know is what is, here and now, helps me to pay attention to the very next step, and then the next one. This deliberate and conscious attention to this moment helps me to walk gladly into the unknown, which is always far more fascinating and liberating than anything I could’ve planned for my day.

As a more-than-middle-ager… that beats a sleeping injury any day.

Recent Blog Posts

About The Author

I’m the Author of the bestseller, The Golden Thread: Where to Find Purpose in the Stages of Your Life. Download this free audio course to learn about your own Golden Thread of purpose.

I am a purpose activator and catalyst. I warn people they shouldn’t be near me unless they want to become a new version of themselves. That scares some people, delights others.

I’ve spent my life imagining a world where we could all become who we’re meant to be, awake and alive in a way that allows us to express our most innate, natural and purposeful gifts. I’m the creator and dreamer behind the Purpose Flywheel™.

Stay tuned or contact me to get started now.

Emergence Institute

Holly Woods, PhD

ⓒ 2020 Emergence Institute