Metanoia – Huh?

Wishing WellI was recently at a Michale Meade retreat in Vashon, WA (amazing!) The retreat opened with participants being asked to choose from descriptions (and altars) of 3 elements – Water, Earth, Fire. My comfort zone, the places I know best are Earth and Fire (I’m a Capricorn, Aries, Leo for those who care). But every bone in my body said “choose water.” So I did.

Next step was picking a stick from bowls placed on the altars of the respective elements. There were words (relating to the element, in my case, water) written on the back of the sticks, hidden from view. It was reaching into the mystery and seeing what came. I picked the METANOIA stick. Meta-what? I’d seen and heard the word before, but had no idea what it meant.

Michael said the ritual represents “choosing” (the element) and then “being chosen…” and added “beyond one’s ability to choose.” Nice. So I chose water, then metanoia chose me. (This process ultimately divided us into meal groups – shout out to my fellow metanoians.) So what the heck is metanoia? He wouldn’t tell us, and told us not to look it up and let it unfold. (Someone looked it up any way, and found definitions such as radical change and a complete reversal of direction.)

When I got home I read about it and extrapolated this from what I learned:

So What is Metatnoia?

Breakdown leading to rebuilding or healing. (Ah, the alchemical negredo. I know this energy.)

From the ancient Greek – meta meaning beyond or after and noeo, meaning perception, understanding or mind. Whoa.

It goes on from there…”a change of mind, a change in the trend and action of the whole inner nature, intellectual, effectual, and moral.” “Transmutation of consciousness.” “To express that mighty change in mind, heart and life wrought by the spirit of god.” “A cosmic shift in mind and heart.” “Change in character and purpose.” “Profound, usually spiritual transformation.”  That sounds deep. And mysterious. I’m intrigued to see how this unfolds and shows up in the coming months.

I saw another definition connecting it back to water: “baptized to show they were changing their hearts and their lives.” More watery initiation Hmmm….

Pipe Ceremony

Photo by Debra Goldman

I did have a watery (emotional) opening at the retreat that was surprising and very deep for my psyche.  It came again from the body. I twisted my ankle on slippery wet rocks, and the physical pain brought vulnerability that cracked me wide open. It did feel like another step in my soul’s initiation.

I shared deep stuff, I cried, I spoke a commitment (into a large room of mostly strangers) to dedicate myself to my creative work, and specifically, getting that book of poems (that’s been forming for over a decade OMG!) published and out into the world. This is the year. OK.

We’ll see how this unfolds…



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