I just finished a book about the magic and mystery of the natural world and it thrilled my soul like all good books do, especially when the story has to do with forces we humans don’t understand.
Today is Friday the 13th. And not only that, it’s a full moon—two weighted events in many people’s psyches.
The full moon’s effect has entered our lexicon: lunacy, lunatic. And Friday the 13th is considered unlucky—13 being the number outside of the whole number of 12. I’m not sure why Friday, although I do know that sailors will not start a trip on a Friday—I know we didn’t in my family.
But I don’t consider the full moon an adversary and I certainly don’t think Friday the 13th is unlucky. I’ve written about the full moon before Full Moon Dreams and you know that I pay attention to what is shown to me during this time, because instead of being half or fully buried it has now been brought up to a place where I can work with it.
As for Friday the 13th:
I was born on the 13th and I turned thirteen on Friday the 13th. And the day I turned thirteen on Friday the 13th was the full moon.
I think “unlucky” is a way to describe events that happen to us that we don’t know how to process because they are not what we think we want to have happen to us. My personal belief is that everything that happens to me is for my highest good—that the natural world, of which I am a part, has my compassionate evolution in mind, not my destruction. So with that belief firmly seated in my soul, I gratefully take what the world gives me, trying to learn what I am supposed to learn.
One last thing: my Buddhist name, given to me by my teacher, the late Peter Matthiessen, is Tsu Ki. It means, The Moon.
Sometimes I don’t sleep well. I’ll fall asleep right away, but then I wake up, usually about 2 or 3 am, when the liver meridian is strongest. One of the liver’s jobs is to synthesize the events of the day before, deciding what to keep and what to discard. So when I don’t sleep well, I guess there’s so much to filter through, that it wakes me up.
The good news is that I’m privy to my subconscious thinking in those wee hours. Small situations of the day before loom ominously at 3 am, and since I’m awake I can, if I want to, figure out why.
The other morning I was thinking about someone I barely know and I felt funny—bad funny. Instead of shoving it under the rug I decided to poke around in the depths of me and see what I came up with. And it was this: I was comparing myself to this person and judging myself against them in a little subconscious competition. I realized if I do this with someone I barely know, I must do it with everyone. Not that it’s a bad thing–I think it is in our DNA–survival of the fittest.
But if it is a subconscious behavior it leads me–controls me. If, on the other hand, I am consciously aware of it, then it becomes another opportunity to set myself a little more free. I can realize that there’s no comparison between me and someone else. There’s no comparison between anyone and anyone else. Each of us fits into our lives, hand-made for that life. There’s no one else who can fill it or live it.
We are all incomparable.
Life is not fifteen minutes of fame. Life is the hero’s journey.
Joseph Campbell identified what he named “the hero’s journey” as the one constant myth throughout all cultures and societies. It is the individuation process of becoming who we are and fulfilling our destiny within our greater community. So-called “primitive” societies have marked this coming of age with rituals that are, for the most part, missing in modern society; but the need is still the same—to find out who you are as an individual and within that, where you belong. Rituals validate this growth, making it more palatable since growth, by definition being outside of the comfort zone, is not a comfortable process. But if the urge to individuate is not honored—if we numb it with drugs or alcohol or inattention—it will come back, and even stronger.
Life is only growth, and to that end, challenges are presented to facilitate this growth. Behaviors that prevent us from moving forward stall growth, but the challenges continue.
So face your challenges, embrace your individuation process. There’s no one else like you in the entire world, and your voice has something to say. Find out what that is and present it.
Leave home, find your power, bring it back to your community and share it. Then the circle is complete.
I live on a pond. A spring fed, well-behaved stable kind of pond with one outflow near our house. When it rains a lot the pond level rises since the outflow can’t compensate fast enough, and that’s when I start to panic. Since our house is right on the water I fear flooding. Or do I? It would have to rise a biblical amount to flood the house and even in hurricane Irene, we were fine. So why do I get all tense and sleepless? Obviously my overreaction—I would call it terror—is not normal. Then one morning during yoga, a snippet of memory flashed.
I was on my dad’s sailboat and we were heading for Bermuda. A storm was settling on us and I was steering–my dad standing next to me. As it rained harder and the wind picked up, my dad said “I don’t know how much more of this the boat can take.” At his comment, my knees buckled, and it was only my hands and arms gripping the wheel that kept me upright. I thought; if my dad thinks we’re going to sink, we’re going to sink. I’m going to die.
Obviously I didn’t, but it was a fierce storm, made worse by my belief in my dad’s words. Now when it’s raining and the water level rises next to my house, my emotional memory is screaming at me to get this situation under control even as my intellect knows it’s impossible.
How do I sort this out? I think the answer lies in choice. I could blame my father for saying that thing that scared the bejesus out of me and left me with the emotional memory, but I could also choose not to. I could say: I do such-and-such unhealthy behavior because of the way I was brought up. But now I’m fifty-five and an adult, and if I’m still doing that behavior, it’s because I am choosing to.
Acknowledging choice creates space. And creating space gives us some objectivity. There are aspects of my childhood that taught me unhealthy behaviors. But in order to see that I had a choice to be a different person, I had to create space—I had to get away from that ‘normal’ to see other possibilities. It’s like clearing a garden in a tangle of forest. We clear it inch by inch until there’s enough space to realize we can plant what we want rather than accept what is there by default. So that ‘s it. We have choices. Always.
I’ve been thinking about the emotion of anger lately because of the ongoing debate around gun control. Hearing the trumpeting of the Second Amendment as a justification for the slaughter of children makes me angry. And so I want to go deeper and figure out why.
A few years ago, I took a course taught by a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine that discussed the connection of emotions to health. I learned that traditional Chinese medicine identifies five emotions as integral parts of the human–Anger, Grief, Joy/Sadness, Fear and Worry–and that each of these emotions is linked to a specific organ in our body. In TCM therefore, feeling an emotion is not an unattached event, but is instead a clue–a signpost pointing us in a direction toward greater clarity and self-understanding.
The emotion anger links to the liver and its role in our lives is to set boundaries. We feel angry when a boundary within us is being violated–something we believe in is being challenged. Seen in this light then, no one makes you angry; you make yourself angry. You have created the emotion. And that is where the empowerment lies.
When I feel angry, I try my best to rout out and examine the belief that the anger is asking me to look at. In this way, I can hope to act with clarity, rather than react. This is important, because anger is a rather pensive emotion. It is not meant to be belligerent.
In the case of gun control, the boundary within me that is being violated is the idea I have that we are all one, and that what we do to each other, we do to ourselves. Therefore in my belief system, if we think we are justified in murdering one another for ‘personal freedom’ we are not only committing violence on a physical level, we are ripping ourselves from a fundamental truth.
Now that I have ferreted out this belief, I can ask myself: do I really believe this idea the anger has pushed me to see? And in this case, yes, I do. From the moment years ago, when a damaged Vietnam vet shoved a pistol against my sixteen year old head threatening me, to the slaughter of six year olds last December by a deranged teenager, I see no value in guns. They tear rather than mend.
My anger has revealed a belief, challenged me to examine it, and asked me to affirm or reject it. In this way, our emotions are guides for our self-growth. The more we understand the role of emotions in our lives the more we can change what doesn’t enrich us. Working from inward to outward is using our emotions in the way they are meant to be used.