Mixed Media Song


Uncomfortable is a song I’ve journeyed with for some time. Like most companions, it reveals different facets of its character depending on the light in which it’s approached. At times, it’s a song about awakening from the constructed, conditioned self. On other days, it can feel like an expression of the seemingly interminable, crushing passage of dying to one’s known condition—or perhaps witnessing the death throes of the current version of one’s world, a world that simply cannot continue the way it is—with only the faintest hint that something new may be waiting to emerge on the other side. Sometimes the repeated line “I’m uncomfortable in this world” seems to be the only thing that registers for the listener, perhaps giving voice to the abiding angst and alienation—maybe subtle, maybe glaring—that many experience in this current moment of our human story. Since finding myself drawn to rekindling my journey with the song early in 2020, all these hues and more have taken on renewed life against a dramatic global backdrop.

The timing has had a certain poetry to it. As I was working on a song that insisted on highlighting the discomfort of inhabiting this world, the collective coronavirus shock and shutdown began to take effect, and by the time I had finished the new arrangement, North Carolina (my current and adopted home), New Zealand (my original and timeless home), and a significant portion of the world had effectively gone into lockdown. As George Floyd’s death reverberated through this country’s psyche, refusing to permit the perpetuation of cultural blindness and self-deception, this song kept playing as I accompanied it through the mixing phase. And as I reached the point of releasing the song, the country in which I’ve spent most of my adult life was in the final stretch of perhaps its most painful election in my lifetime. Needless to say, this has all been taking place against a backdrop of upheaval and rising stakes that’s been gathering momentum for as long as we care to remember. 

A song can’t help but reveal itself anew to a traveling companion over the course of such a journey. One image that moved to the forefront of my mind and that has remained there since is that of the birthing process. In recent years, I’ve arrived at a simple description for my work with individuals and groups: I accompany people on their initiatory journeys through life. It struck me that this song is no different. Stanislav Grof’s psychodynamic and transpersonal model of the four “perinatal matrices” experienced by the fetus during birth provides an apt metaphor here. The second matrix, in which the first stage of potentially blissful intrauterine experience is abruptly severed by the onset of labor, is characterized in Grof’s understanding by feelings of helplessness and despair: With the commencement of uterine contractions before the cervix has opened, our previous home begins to crush us, giving rise to the feeling of being trapped in an impossible situation with no way out. The ensuing third matrix precipitated by the opening of the cervix and the descent of the head into the birth canal brings a further stage of ordeal and seemingly endless struggle, eventually building to a moment characterized by simultaneous annihilation and radical liberation into a qualitatively different state of being—the moment of birth. 

The creation of this recording of Uncomfortable was itself much more protracted than I anticipated. The journey felt like an extended birthing process, and I began to experience the song in such terms—as an expression of an archetypal process that, in the current telling, foregrounds the elements of interminability, struggle, despair, and hopelessness that may precede a radical shift and opening. I have some experience with these dynamics, both in my own journey and with those I’ve had the privilege of working with, and I bow to their mystery and gifts. This is probably the ground from which the song originally sprang. I must admit, however, that I also dream not only of their individual expression, but also of the collective potential of such transformative dynamics, and I know this sense was at least partly present in the song’s inception. It feels appropriate to have been accompanied by this song through a time of such collective upheaval, an experience of upheaval that may well be just the beginning of whatever is to come in the time ahead. I recognize that the song gives greatest expression to the endings, struggle, and despair inherent in this archetypal birthing process. And while that’s an inevitable part of the journey, my hope and trust in this moment of our collective journey is that we will somehow find our way to what wants to be born on the other side of it.


About Simon Spire

Simon is a contemplative teacher, depth-oriented and somatic practitioner, and quest guide working with individuals and groups, as well as a writer, researcher, and doctoral student. He is also a songwriter and recording artist, which is what led me from his original home of New Zealand to the United States, where he has resided since 2005. Over the years, Simon’s songs have won prizes in the USA Songwriting Competition and been featured on MTV, NPR stations, AOL, NBC, Voice of America, and in the Top 20 airplay charts in New Zealand. Visit: https://www.simonspire.com

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On Stan Grof…

Stan Grof, MD, Ph.D., is a clinical psychiatrist from Czechoslovakia and a leading researcher in transpersonal psychology explores breathwork as a psychedelic. Grof distinguishes between two modes of consciousness: the hylotropic and the holotropic. The hylotropic mode relates to “the normal, everyday experience. The holotropic has to do with states which aim towards wholeness and the totality of existence..

Kosmos | Given your interest in Grof, did breathing or thoughts on breath, play a role in the birth of this song? How so?

Simon | This is such an interesting connection you’ve made! I experienced some pronounced breathing struggles in my early adult years that involved constant restriction and a sense of not being able to get a full breath. Moving through those challenges forced me to become familiar with the sharper edges of surrender, and it taught me a lot about the intensity of those archetypal death-rebirth dynamics. While I wasn’t consciously writing from this place, Uncomfortable is certainly resonant with the essence of that experience. I wrote an essay about this 10 years ago, and people struggling with “air hunger” often contact me after reading it. These queries have increased during the pandemic, so this theme you’re intuiting is there on multiple levels. 

Kosmos | Collectively, which of Grof’s four perinatal matrices do you feel we are in at this moment in time?

Simon | Both in individual and collective contexts, I tend to think in terms of an ongoing initiatory journey—one that is always unfolding through cycles within cycles building upon one another. On the longest timescales of human existence, perhaps it could appear that humanity is approaching a potentially monumental transition akin  to the liberation and new life of the fourth matrix. But if we zoom in on the present century, I think it looks more like hovering on the precipice between the second and third matrices amid profound struggles that will require courage and grace. Zooming in yet again, we could say that 2020 initiated a sub-cycle by disrupting a limited form of intrauterine stability and abruptly dropping us into the second matrix.  

Kosmos | If we find our way through, what are your hopes be for what we collectively find on the other side of our recent struggles?

I hope that we’re able to find our way toward genuine acknowledgement of one another’s experience and the generative process that can emerge from conflicting perspectives. My larger hope is that we will eventually foster a culture that honors a greater sense of what it is to be human and an expanded understanding of humanity’s role on this planet. I imagine, among other things, a profound awareness of beauty and a new level of intimacy with the creative unfolding of life.