What the Spider Said

One of my great shadow figures in this life is the spider. Like, all of them. Except Lucas the jumping spider. But I’m pretty sure jumping spiders are the arachnophobe’s idea of My First Spider. They barely count. Still, it’s a good first step for me. I blame my father who told me scary tales of The Midnight Spider when I was a small child. He once told my sister and I that in the winter he comes on skis. You have no idea how that warped the mind of a little kid. So, I avoid spiders whenever possible. I ask my partner to take them out of the house or to kill them if they are poisonous.

When I dream about spiders, the dreams are generally dark and frightening. They typically show up to warn me about something terrible in my waking life that I need to address. That’s not a bad thing, but its petrifying in the dream. Literally, I can’t move.

Grandmother Spider, by Susan Seddon Boulet

Not long ago, I was lying in bed meditating and I had a strange vision of spiders all over the place. I wasn’t dreaming, just meditating but I wasn’t afraid. I knew they were not physically real; thought mentally they were definitely there. I was calm and I waited to see what happened next. Then I saw the Spider. Like the archetype of Spider. The Great Weaver sort of spider, that you don’t expect on a Sunday night. Well, there she was. In retrospect this could have been a Robert Smith Lullaby moment, but it wasn’t. She approached as a friend and told me to cast my web to help me capture what I want. I thought the word “weave” and she said, no. Cast your web. It wasn’t profound or deep. The message was simple, clear and direct.  I’m using words, but they were more thoughts or feelings. But the weird thing was the correction of “cast” over “weave”.

Something I feared had showed up as a friend and there was never a reason to fear it in the first place. Was it more shadow integration? I suspect so. I’ve come a long way. She was telling me to put myself out there and start creating my own business. Get out of the gig of working for others, cast my web and see what I catch. Maybe a spider version of “If you build it, they will come.” Sometimes the demons we fear are really angels in disguise.

So, I’m going to cast my web and see what happens. Wish me luck!

And just in case I started an ear-worm with The Cure’s Lullaby, go ahead and satiate it.

Advertisements

Embracing the Magic

Yeah, that’s all gonna have to come off.

For a while now I’ve been contemplating the reality that so many of us deny our own magic. Why is it that those of us who seek to recognize the magic in our soul, must go through years of intense shadow therapy to scratch the surface of our nature’s true core so that we can create a united will that will let us shine in our magical brilliance? One would expect that this shadow work needs to be done for anyone wishing to embrace the magic within, but it seems that we run into what I would term as excessive muck. Even once the outer layers of filth are removed, one must apply the proverbial scrapers and picks to skin off the tar, plaque and barnacles that have accumulated over years of systematic abuse and societal programming. The work, it seems, is never truly done.

A good friend of mine, Nick Mather of Dreaming Green, sent me a video from the movie, Samsara, that perfectly nails the visualization of how our psyches are attacked and taken over in a constant barrage of promises of wealth, happiness and beauty that give the illusion that we have some control over our lives. But this is a demonic spell we are under. The message, it turns out, is nothing more than layer upon layer of fear and crippling self-doubt, which keeps us working for the machine. We believe that if we work hard enough, keep our noses clean and don’t make too much noise, we will be rewarded. Except the reward never comes.

Office Man, from the film Samsara

I’m sure the behemoth looks like something out of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

So here we are. Just a handful of shamans and witches in a world full of demonic forces in which most of the people have been scooped up into the behemoth industrial structure. I imagine some mechanical monstrosity held together now mostly with duct tape, rust and wads of chewed gum. And as insanely terrifying as it is, people believe in it and serve it. They can’t get out of its demonic thrall. My friend Nick likened our modern fascination with ourselves to the myth of Narcissus, who wasted away in the thrall of his own image in the water. But today it’s not even our own image, it’s an artificially constructed image. I think the key is there and why it is so worse now in the digital age than ever before. It’s the deception of a false image being made to appear as our own. We’re not looking at ourselves, we’re looking at simulacrum, which is distorted with false ideals of beauty and success. If we stripped off the veneer, we’d be left with something that more accurately depicts the portrait of Dorian Gray; something terrifying and wrought with its own corrupt, corrosive forces. Basically, we’ve each been lured into the trap with our own shadow, which is why it works so well.

Dorian Gray, by Ivan Albright

So, how did we come to this and what can be done about it?

I’ve discovered that much of the spiritual work I’ve done through my whole life has left out the physical world and concentrates on the spiritual realms. That’s really been the main problem all along. Spiritually, most of us have been taught to value the higher realm of God. We ignore the physical world around us at a great cost. The feminine, worldly aspects of spirituality have been stripped away in so many belief systems because it is viewed as lesser rather than the equal partner of the masculine, mystical aspects. This has left our world with a severe hormonal imbalance that is life threatening to the entire planet.  

A colorized version of the Above and the Below. Opus Medico Chymicum, by Daniel Mylius

In Alchemy, we often hear the principle of correspondence translated to “as above, so below, as below, so above.” However, this is not how it’s written in the translations we have of the Emerald Tablet, which is reputed to have been written by Hermes Trismegistus (the tablet has never been found, but many translations of it exist). The Emerald Tablet words this carefully because it is an alchemical formula for us to follow. It states, “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.” 1 We too often forget that we need to start with the Below if we’re going to work up to the Above. We exist in the physical world and it is here where we begin the whole process. Acting as though we are already lofty entities of great spiritual power is not only hubris, it’s psychotic. The act of world-creating demands that we unite the Below and the Above; these two worlds reflect each other. So, valuing only the Above and treating the Below as though it is trash, leads us into the scenario we are living out today.

Embracing the Divine Feminine and witch within has allowed me to pull the physical world into my spiritual practice. Witches, warlocks, shaman, medicine men and women, spiritual gurus, light workers and warriors, all know that we start in the physical world. We begin with Gaia and connect to the Anima Mundi, the World Spirit. It is from there that we can connect to the spiritual world of the Above to create our world Below in its image.

What I’ve learned from this process is to do away with ideas of sin and shame, which are completely unproductive and only work to sabotage us. Sin and shame, these two twins of destruction, keep us immobilized and trapped in the demonic snare of our current system. This is the muck that covers us unless we commit to the work of freeing ourselves from them.  It’s taken me nearly my entire life to learn this lesson so that I can just begin the process of shadow therapy. I’ve already cleared so much of it; I feel lighter and happier. But there is more to do. I have so much gratitude for witches like Carolyn Elliott and Lisa Lister for helping me to see how to embrace my inner witch — that lushes, gorgeous, powerful. magician within — and bring her forward. They taught me that the physical world is necessary, beautiful, and magical, but we also must remember to be a fully immersed part of it.

The Magic Circle, by John William Waterhouse

1 Hauck, D. W. (1999). The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation. New York, NY: Penguin Compass.  

Money and the Subconscious

It’s been a while since I posted to this blog. Again. This time due to grading finals and then getting lost in thought on what I want to do with the rest of my life. I’ve concluded that I do not want to grade for the rest of my life, as that is self-torture. For the past two weeks, I’ve engaged in a shitload of shadow work to find out why it’s taking me so long to get out of my present occupation and into one that allows me the freedom to stand in my own power and love it! The problem as I see it is that I still have a divided will.

ShadowWork DrknessConsciousA divided will occurs when on the surface one wants all the good things in life, like a fabulous job that pays well with incredible perks, but deep down inside there is a subconscious need to fail. That need to fail can come from a variety of different forces, such as a deep seeded idea that money is evil, or the belief that one doesn’t deserve a good life with a stable income because of a past misdeed or trauma. Or maybe one wants a healthy relationship with a romantic partner, but subconsciously they feel unworthy of one so the unconscious mind desires a less than ideal relationship, even an abusive one. The problem is that we often don’t realize we have a divided will, because our subconscious wishes are buried under feelings that acknowledgement of them in the light of day is completely unacceptable. To acknowledge I want a crappy job because it lets me off the hook from dealing with all that evil money that I don’t deserve anyway, isn’t something most of us find suitable for our conscious mind to ruminate over. However, digging in the dirt to bring those desires up to the conscious level is exactly what needs to happen if one wants to transcend and transmute those shadowy desires into something more productive.

What I’ve found over the past few weeks is that I have profound problems with money and how to make it ethically. Through targeted meditation, I brought up childhood issues with money that stem from my parents always worried about household finances and arguing about it. I was already primed to think it was evil because it was a negative force in my life ever since I could remember. This began my life long cognitive bias that money is truly the root of all evil. People will exploit others to get more of it. They will lie and cheat to gather money to them.  And I looked for this to play out in every scenario. I was never disappointed. When you look for something everywhere, you will find it! And I was able to feel self righteous and superior in my lack of money. Subconsciously, I was reveling in it!

MoneyEvil

“I’ll eat your soul!”

 My meditation didn’t lead me to some great understanding that money is actually neutral and can be used for benefic purposes. That would make things easier, but that’s not what I found. What I discovered is that money is simply something one must have to live in this world. It’s a necessary survival tool. Money is not good, it’s necessary. One can do good things with money, I don’t deny that. But the history of money is abysmal. It’s a tool of enslavement.

However, not having it doesn’t make the world a better place, it just makes me completely miserable and unable to take care of my family. By meditating, I was able to bring up the unhealthy attitude I cultivated about money at a young age. I could see that much of it stemmed from the anger and fear my parents displayed as they worried about it daily. I could see that little eight-year-old girl terrified that her family would have no money and end up living on the streets without food or clean shelter. While the situation was never that dire, it was to a young girl who internalized the fear and anger her parents projected.

Moneygoodevil

Money shoulder angel, show me the right path!

Both my sister and I have the exact same fear of money and success. I thought it strange when I first made the connection a few weeks ago, but now it seems more impossible that we wouldn’t have the same neurotic issues around them.

For now, the shadow work continues, but I’m working to unite my will, transmute my money hang-up, and put myself in a better place financially. I’m learning to let go of the fears I developed and find myself worthy of financial stability and a happier life. I’m learning to get out of my own way so that I can experience the happiness and magic that is all around me!

(Well, this certainly helps my anxiety over money!)

Hi. I’m Stephanie, and I’m an addict (of depression).

I wasn’t going to write tonight. I woke up with a sinus headache and I felt sick most of the day. I decided instead to do a little shadow boxing to work out some internal problems, call it an early night and go to bed. Then I pulled out my tarot deck and asked it if I should write or go to bed. The deck handed me my ass and told me to get to work. I’ve been procrastinating since January, it’s time to get back to writing in the damned blog!

4 of Cups

I’m looking at you, Four of Cups! (Revelations Deck, by Zach Wong)

It’s in moments like these that I know I’m on the right path and that I need to stick to it. The past several days have been a series of synchronicities. Whatever is on my mind, I come across blogs, videos, articles, books, movies, and incidents when I’m out and about, all screaming at me that I’m on the right path and now I need to take action! It’s the action part that makes me freeze up. My mind shuts down and suddenly I can’t even compose an email to a friend. Actually do something? No. Can’t do it today. So, it gets left to the next day and the next. And nothing happens.

This isn’t a temporary rut, this is depression. I learned something interesting about it today while doing shadow work that I hadn’t considered before; I’m addicted to it. I’ve suffered from Depression most of my life and I never sought help for it. There were many reasons for that, some legitimate, some not so legitimate. Part of me was afraid that the type of drugs used to treat Depression would screw me up further. I still think that is a legitimate fear given the nature of psychiatric drugs and the not-so-scrupulous pharmaceutical companies. But there are other methods to treat depression ranging from the foods I eat to different types of therapy. My greatest move to even try to treat my depression was to take a B-complex vitamin (it does help a little). Depressed Cartoon

All of this changed last year. On my birthday I had a download from the Universe. It told me that it was time to get my shit together. I’ve discussed this a few times in my blog already. The short of it is, I was a hot mess in my head and I had a sudden and painful revelation that much of my depression was the result of trauma and abuse from my childhood. I spent a good portion of last year doing shadow work and getting at the heart of what caused my deep depression, which was constantly working to undermine me in all aspects of my life. My relationships, my work life, my finances, my faith, and my enjoyment of life are all suffering because of this depression.

But since I entered my adolescence, I’ve built an identity around this depression and as I grew older, my choices and actions reinforced that depression. I not only became comfortable with it; I started to crave it and resist any attempts to cope with it in a more constructive way. As with most mental imbalances, I didn’t realize I was doing it. I didn’t wake up one day thinking, I love my misery I’m gonna keep it! It was a gradual thing which consumed me. Eventually it led me to a career I hated, financial instability, poor health, deteriorated friendships, and to nearly destroying my marriage.Monsters

The realization that I was feeding the depression beast of my own volition came to me last night while reading an article (Q&A) on Existential Kink, by Carolyn Elliott, the creator of WITCH magazine. It wasn’t the first time I had this thought, though. It’s come up before on restless nights in the small hours of the morning. And it was easily forgotten after I slept. But reading it last night, after shadow work and meditation, it hit me like a sack of bricks to the face. Yes, I do it on purpose. Yes, I sabotage myself. And I do it all the time.

The misery I’ve wrought upon myself is comfortable. I know what to do with it. I built up an identity around being an impoverished, deeply misunderstood, antisocial creature. Getting out of the mess I made for myself is intensely terrifying! All of the “what ifs” come up. What if I’m really not that smart? What if no one wants to read my blog? What if no one cares about my ideas? What if I can’t figure out how to market myself? What if I’m wrong? What if I have a successful business and I can’t figure out my taxes? (Cart before the horse, much?)

I became inert, out of fear of breaking out of an identity that only served my comfort zone.

This is not to say that one’s depression is their own fault. It’s not. I had two big things going against me; abuse and a chemical imbalance. Neither of these things were in my control. It hit fast and hard once I started puberty. Then the reinforcement cycles swamped me and pulled me under. My physical addiction became sugar, while my mental addiction was the depression itself. And boy do I ever have a sweet tooth! You know those orange circus peanuts that are basically just whipped sugar? My favorite when I was a kid. I pretend I’m better now because I haven’t had them in about 25 years. Don’t let that fool you, I still have a stash of Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs in my freezer.

Circus Peanuts

Don’t let these orange pieces of death happen to you!

When I found out that people with sugar addiction have the same chemical imbalance as alcoholics, I decided to get some help. I checked out a diet that assists people with leveling out the chemical imbalance. I bought books, read testimonials, and even gave it a good shot for a whopping month! And then slid right back into my old patterns. The sugar wasn’t just due to my chemical imbalance, it was also emotional support. I couldn’t give up that emotional boost. Especially when it was typically the only good thing that happened to me all day. Which landed me with a raging case of diabetes. You’d think THAT would have been my wake-up call, but it wasn’t. It shocked me and I got on the wagon for a bit. But then I got a new job and I hated it and the sugar became quite irresistible as I dealt with getting up early in the morning every day to go to a job I detested. It was only towards the end of that nightmare job that I started to wonder what the hell I was doing in this cycle of jobs I hated and eating myself into an early grave.

Jung FateI don’t want this anymore. The good news is, I don’t have to live with it! I’m learning to accept the things about me that I don’t like. I acknowledge them with my awareness, and let them go without judgement or shame. It’s about acknowledging, yes, I did this and I did that and those things weren’t good for me. This is what I learned from those choices. Now I move on.

It’s taken me a years’ worth of shadow work to get to this point and it culminated with the New Moon on April 5th. It’s been an exhausting, painful ride. Most days I feel like I’m trying to climb over electrified chicken wire with quicksand waiting for me on the other side. Still, I’m ready to move on and find a better place.

Accept ShadowWhat do I want? I’m still working on that. But I now know what I no longer want. I don’t want a soul crushing job. I don’t want to eat myself into an early grave. I don’t want to pass up good opportunities because I’m scared how I will be perceived by others. I don’t want to live inauthentically because I can’t figure out a better way to pay my bills.

I want my wife and I to be happy. I want us to not be afraid of when the money runs out. I want us to be free to live authentically. Whatever I end up doing when I grow up, I want to add value to the world. I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but for the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m on the right track. I feel like I’m crawling out of the hole I dug for myself. I feel like we’re going to make it!

Which Witch – Florence + The Machine

Me and My Shadow

Nice Kingdom Hearts Iphone Wallpaper the shadow knows t shirt by lamontcranstonSometimes my shadow side takes over and I get angry and vindictive with those I interpret as acting against the social good. In this case, with several atheists who set out to attack anyone expressing any sort of religious thought. I am not against atheism. I see it as a perfectly reasonable position to take in this world. I counted myself as an atheist for about a decade between the ages of 25-35. My journey has taken me somewhere else, but I still find atheism a legitimate claim worthy of attention and respect.

But I don’t like bullies. (there’s always a “but,” right?) I don’t like people who set out to discredit others based solely on their beliefs, unless those beliefs are demonstrably harming others (I include animals and the environment in this). This was a case of going after anyone who was trying to discuss nuanced philosophical understandings of the divine and conflating them with fundamentalist ideologies of Christianity and Islam. The shadow side of me decided a smack down was in order in some sort of crusade against religious intolerance!

But first, some perspective is needed…

Atheism SymbolIn our history, to be a self-declared atheist could be a death sentence and often it was. Even after the Enlightenment, one could face social and financial ruin if they admitted their atheism in public. And today in America, while atheism is more accepted and mainstream, there are still consequences that go with it. One only need to look at how many vocal atheists hold public office in the executive, legislative or judicial branches of government today for evidence. There aren’t any. At least none that admit it. And it’s one thing a political opponent will dig through first; what religion are they and when did they establish ties to the church they claim they attend? Obama went through this when his opponents wanted to frame him as a Muslim in the eyes of the public. Just imagine if he was an atheist!

EvolutionAmong the academic and scientific communities in the nineteenth century, atheism rose up in the ranks and became respectable. This was largely accomplished through the publication On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. Many intellectuals saw Darwin’s theory as a means to put God to bed once and for all. God wasn’t needed to explain the world anymore.

But many atheists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, especially those who were not shielded by academia, felt isolated, ostracized and condemned for their beliefs. This still goes on in many communities in America. A number of my friends that grew up as atheists in communities that were overtly religious often felt threatened and afraid to speak their truth. In this respect, I do understand why some would take a position of attack against religion, as religion was the vehicle for attack against them at some point in their life. Was it religion or the intolerance of the community they lived in that led to the abuse and bullying? Likely both. Especially if it came from a person in religious authority.

My reflection of the history of atheism doesn’t excuse someone who had a bad experience with religion from attacking someone with religious convictions, but it does open up my ability to have more compassion for them. My need for a “smack down” says more about me than it says about them. I was ready for a fight! I wanted to show them that they were as irrational and dogmatic in their thought that they accused others of being! Basically, I just wanted them to feel stupid by showing them how little they understood religion and spirituality outside of Christianity.JungShadow

I don’t know if they were bullied by intolerant religious folk in the past or if they’re bullies themselves who like to harass people for disagreeing with them. I don’t think it matters. I wanted them to feel stupid for their actions. This is about me, not them. Could it be if I don’t make a solid defense and tear them down first, maybe my own set of beliefs won’t stand up to the scrutiny either?  Yeah, I think that’s part of it.

Psychologically, humans are messy creatures. My core beliefs are solid, but I’m still formulating what I believe for myself on this life’s journey. Not everything is on solid ground as I sort it all out. The need to lash out is strong when I feel attacked, because everything is still raw. I feel a knee-jerk reaction to protect it. When an animal has a wound, it will lash out if anything comes near it, even if it’s potential help because all the animal can feel is the pain.

In our society, I think a lot of us are feeling the pain right now. We’re trying to protect ourselves in irrational ways to make it stop. This is not productive. Lashing out only creates more tension and more lashing out. It also aggravates the wound we carry. It can’t heal this way, it only becomes more of a problem.

The main purpose of this blog is shadow work. I write to figure out what’s really going on in my head. There’s a lot of fear – when I get down to it – that needs exorcised. My answer to this is to transmute it into compassion. There is a Buddhist meditation that asks participants to rephrase what they are experiencing from their ego perspective to a universal perspective. So, for instance, instead of saying, “I have fear” or “I am suffering,” say instead, “There is fear” and “There is suffering.” This raises the person out of the individual mindset and to the understanding that all of life experiences this. We’re not alone. There is no duality; no, Us versus Them. We’re all connected. With this connection comes a greater understanding and compassion for ourselves and others.

Buddhism

Lego My Ego

egoI teach religious studies and philosophy to make my living. Teaching has taught me so much more than I could have hoped to learn as a student myself going through the process. All my students, dedicated and not so dedicated, have given me valuable lessons in both academic and life in general. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned, is that the ego is very sticky. If one is trying to banish it from their lives, it will try to defend itself in whatever way it can. It can act like a beast or a frighten child to keep its hooks firmly in place.

Normally I start to see egos come out around the time we start studying Hinduism. The idea of detachment doesn’t sit well with most students who were mostly brought up with Christian values in American households, even if they no longer identify as Christian. Individual rights are placed higher than that of community for most of them and those values run deep. Hindu ideas of the Divine, the trappings of the ego, and Eastern values of community over individual entitlements, typically do not resonate with them. They have a difficult time wrapping their minds around a seemingly polytheistic tradition that see the Divine intrinsically tied to all things. For these students, God created the universe out of nothing and is entirely separate from Its creation. Placing community above individual interests is communism and destructive in nature. This is not something that is thought out, it is the result of indoctrination. It is also the ego claiming its stake.Christinaity-and-Hinduism-212

As we go through Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Jainism, and so forth, the students tend to conclude that we must agree to disagree. For a few students, they have found their home and they continue to research and learn about these faiths. But most walk away with the notion that they’re glad they were born in the West.

This is not to condemn them for this stance. Most people prefer the ideals and religions of the region they were born into, as is to be expected. Our place of origin is an accident of birth, its not something we can control. And each place has their own form of teaching children their values and beliefs. Typically, through the methods of indoctrination by their parents (who were indoctrinated themselves) and educational institutions. Breaking out of the paradigm one was born into is not an easy task and comes with many negative consequences. Even those who intellectually rise above the indoctrination must weigh if that is more important to them than losing the support of family and community. In counties like America that claim to value individual rights, the irony is not lost.

As I watched them resist the new ideas they were exposed to, I’ve recently concluded that I was pretty self-righteous in my own position. I’d sometimes get irked that they wouldn’t even try to wrapped their minds around them. I never expect students to actually change their ideas on their own values or faith, I just want them to understand that there are other ways of thinking and these different modes of thought are not inherently wrong. In addition to that, their out right refusal to entertain these ideas also leads them to form misconceptions. How can they reject something they didn’t understand?

Ego GotG

Ego the Planet from Guardians of the Galaxy Volume #2

Last night I was meditating on the new fall term and how I would approach it. And in an overwhelming sudden realization I asked myself, how the hell does your ego fit through the door? Was I not a student once too who had a difficult time accepting new ideas that were previously foreign to me? Hell yeah, I had a hard time with some of the new concepts! I may have changed my position on many of them, but it wasn’t over night or even over the course of a single class. I was introduced to concepts that then took a few years to stew. Some new ideas I encountered outright scared the hell out of me!  And, of course, I’ve been down right wrong in many ideas I had and conclusions that I drew. I’m often wrong now and change my opinion as I learn more about something. I am seeing these students in 8 or 15-week intervals during one fraction of a phase of their life. I do not know the path they are on or where they will end up as they go through life.

I once read a review that a student submitted regarding my Ethics course. The student stated that they liked me and I was very helpful, but that the subject matter was boring and not useful. I nearly cried. But that’s ego. It is ego to think that what interests me should interest anyone else as well. The example I give regarding the power of the ego, is to imagine your best friend hates your favorite song. Since that song becomes part of the Ego2ego identity, it can be hurtful if people you know and love hate it. It might mean that they hate the real you too! It doesn’t mean that at all. But when the ego is bruised, it can be difficult to shake that off.

It is pure ego to think that after a few weeks in my class, while they are taking three or four other classes, my course should have any effect on students. My job is to present the information and hopefully drive their curiosity to seek more. In my own experience, I’ve found that it’s sometimes years later that a particular class I took or idea I learned starts to germinate. And so, I think, it is with many of us. Some things we learn speak to us immediately and take up our total focus for a time. Others take their time and only come to full fruition years later. And still yet others are quickly forgotten and discarded, only sometimes rediscovered later, or never.  I have no idea what will stick and what will fall by the way side for some students. It should not be my concern. Each of us is on our own path. My job is to teach my courses to the best of my ability and spread a few seeds of understanding. What happens after that, is none of my business. In my previous perceptions of my class and students, I violated Agreement 2 and 3 of the Four Agreements.

FourAgreements

By Don Miguel Ruiz

So, my lesson this term, is to keep the ego in check and understand that my job is to teach my course material to the best of my ability and encourage curiosity and discovery in my students. It is not to judge them or think myself above them. It is not to create young philosophers in my own image. It is my hope that they take this information and turn it into their personal growth, but what they choose to do with it is theirs. When one offers a gift, it’s not a good idea to check up on it and make sure everyone is using it as intended by the giver. It’s not a gift if there are rules attached; it’s a leash.

The Rejection of Fear

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”  —Frank Herbert, Dune

FearisALiarFear is the mind-killer, the thing that keeps us from total self-realization. It is the thing that creates nightmare worlds and holds its inhabitants hostage. The good news and the bad news are the same; It’s self-inflicted. I inflict a lot of fear into myself. I’ve been afraid of what others thought or me in my youth. I’ve been afraid of what others could do to me now in my middle age. I’ve been afraid of not making enough money, of not having healthcare, and of not being able to take proper care of my family. I’m fighting the fear of what lies ahead if I live my truth now. I’ve lost a lot of time because of the fear I hold. But fear is self-inflicted and because of this reality, I can stop it. I hold the power to end my own suffering if I choose it.

Fear_Itself_intertitleEasier said than done. But once I said it, something interesting happened. The fear slowly started to lose its grip over me. It didn’t happen instantly, but over several days and weeks of meditation and setting an intention to lift my fears. Just last night as I was meditating on the Principle of Polarity (which I will write about at length later), I became aware that certain fears that had their talons sunk deep into me, didn’t seem to have such a strong hold any longer. Fears that could bring me to tears in a matter of a few seconds… didn’t! They simply do not feel as important as they did to me only a few days ago.

Like most people, I want a little certainty and stability in my life. I want the peace of mind that comes with it. But if I am being honest with myself, certainty and stability are illusions. These things can be stripped away at any time with the rise and fall of social customs, political agendas, and environmental catastrophes. Sacrificing my own truth One-Earth-Peace-Lovefor the illusion of certainty seems a particularly bad bet to make. In Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, they use the term maya* to describe the illusions in life that deceive us and keep us off our true paths. Deeper than that, maya is the illusion that this physical world is all that is, when a much greater Ultimate Reality exists far beyond this physical manifestation.  Hermetic philosophy teaches that we can come to know that Ultimate Reality through the exploration and mastery of our own mind. Our minds are made in the likeness of the Divine Mind and expressed in the axiom – As above, so below, as below so above.

I felt a strange and wonderful release of built up negative energy this morning. The fears that kept me off my spiritual path are letting go of my mind and freeing it to move about with a sense of wonder, curiosity, and anticipation of discovery. I also feel so much discoverywondergratitude for being alive right now and fortunate enough to live through this experience. Despite all the hardship and ugliness in this world, there is also wonder and beauty.

And here is the most important thing I’ve come to understand; suffering and pain are not to be avoided in this life. No one likes to go through it. It hurts like hell and sometimes it feels like it will never end. For some, it may even be too much. But if we survive it, there’s gold to be found.

GoldTeaCup

*Not to be confused with Maya, a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi.