journey

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Altared Perceptions: January 2013- “Heroism”

Published January 6, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Yes!  Am am now caught up!

When I saw that January’s theme was Heroism, I was excited to volunteer to design this month’s decor.  With my passion for Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey, what could be better for me to get my creative juices flowing and ease myself back into the world once more?

The design is based on an earlier post I’d written (“Lessons from the Yellow Brick Road”).

full display

I wanted very much to keep the design simple and abstract.   The three boxes represent the three characters that Dorothy met on the Yellow Brick Road in Oz: the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion.  I also wanted to tie January’s Hero theme in with December’s theme of Blessings.  Each box represents a Blessing that the characters needed to find within themselves, and each box is “wrapped” like a gift because blessings are gifts!  The overall idea is that there are those blessed with compassion for others (represented by the Tin Man) and those who are blessed with brilliant ideas (represented by the Scarecrow); however, those who are blessed with the courage to act upon the other two (represented by the Lion) are true heroes.

scarecrow

The Scarecrow claims that he doesn’t have a brain, but the Wizard points out that he had one all along.  Even though he exhibits cleverness in outwitting the apple trees, the Scarecrow just didn’t recognize his own intelligence without some outward symbol to “prove” its existence- a diploma.   When Dorothy took off with Toto to get away from Miss Gulch, she really wasn’t using her brain.  She was simply reacting without thinking.  She didn’t think about the impact her running away would have on those who loved and cared for her, particularly Aunt Em.

Tin Man

The Tin Woodsman claims that he can’t feel anything because he doesn’t have a heart.   The tin smith who built him forgot to put one in, but he is the most sentimental of the three companions.  Like the Scarecrow, he needs some outward symbol to prove that he has just as much love and caring as anyone who has the physical, blood-pumping organ that he desires- something tangible that he can look at as a reminder.  And so he is given a heart-shaped testimonial with a built in clock that ticks.   Dorothy’s running away from home and hurting those who love her can be seen as almost heartless.  She is more concerned with and seems to care more for herself and her dog than her family.

CourageAnd then we come to the Cowardly Lion.  He claims to not have any courage, but throughout their journey, he exhibits great amounts of bravery when the need arises.  All he needs is a medal from the Wizard as an outward sign of his courage.  As this relates to Dorothy, it takes more courage to face our problems than it does to run away from them.

Brains, heart, courage— thought, feeling, bravery– that’s what I need to integrate on my own path.

When the Wizard leaves Oz, he puts the three in charge of the land in his absence.  Their combined talents — the wisdom to know the right thing to do for the people, the compassion to think about the needs of the people, and the courage to actually do what is best for the people– might create a land of peace and harmony.  Of the three, though, I see courage as the one of the three that would keep things in proper balance.  It’s one thing to KNOW what’s right, another thing to FEEL what’s right, and an entirely different thing to actually DO what is right.   Of the three, I think that the Lion is the key to that balance.  For harmony, all are required.  To be brave but not know what to do or not care about others would be futile.  To know what to do but not care about others or not have the courage to carry out what’s right is also futile, as is wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve but not knowing the best course of action or having the guts to do anything about those one cares about.  And so with the “healing” of her friends, Dorothy is also “healed”.  She learns about looking for her heart’s content beyond her own back yard, but only after she saw from her friends what it meant to use one’s brain, heart and courage.  Only then could she return home.

I want to be “home”– balanced.   full displayThat’s the reason for the inverted pyramid with courage at the base.  Without the courage to act upon our compassion or our ideas, what good are those blessings?

The yellow ribbon represents the Yellow Brick Road, or the road we all journey on throughout life.  It is not smooth, but filled with hills and valleys and twists and turns.  However, having the courage to continue on our path is heroic in itself.  Heroism isn’t just for Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman…it’s those people who face challenges day in and day out with the courage to keep going.

So… it’s that balance that I need to work on within myself as I move along my path.  Hmmm… interesting that Oz was also surrounded by a great desert, and I seem to be emerging from one.  Perhaps, like the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Lion, I need reminders of my blessings and gifts.  I shouldn’t NEED reminders, but I guess they serve as affirmations in times of feeling lost or alone.   Like the Scarecrow’s diploma, my degrees in my office remind me of how I am able to use my brain.  Like the Tin Woodsman’s testimonial, pictures of my children are a daily testimony of my love for them, and gifts they have given me are reminders that they love me in return.  However, what I do not seem to have on display are any signs of my courage.   I do know that I HAVE courage– I’ve made several trips through Hell and have managed to survive– but what I don’t see on a daily basis is any outward symbol on display.   The Lion continued to wear his medal so that he wouldn’t forget– where’s my “medal”?

Maybe that’s why I still struggle with inner fears.  Maybe, like the Lion before he “found” his courage, I have a tendency to forget those times when I have been brave.   Its purpose would not be to sit and gaze at it all day.  I don’t stare at my degrees, and I don’t constantly sit and stare at the pictures of my children– but I do like having them there to notice from time to time.

It’s usually when I am feeling pretty stupid about something that I happen to go into my office and I’ll notice the diplomas.  Then I usually remind myself that I can use my brain, and pretty soon I’m feeling a bit more confident about thinking things out.   When I get out of the “God, I feel so stupid” mind-frame, an answer to the problem usually seems to present itself.

It’s when I am feeling sad and lonely– particularly since the final break-up of a long term relationship– that I do pick up the pictures and think about each child in turn, or I see something that one of them made for me or gave me as a gift, and then I remember that I always have them, no matter what.  Their love, and the love of supportive friends, will serve to remind me that I am never alone.  Remembering that I am loved will help to keep me from flitting about trying to find love in all the wrong places.  If I am ever meant to be with a partner, then it will happen– but not because I used loneliness as an excuse to go on the prowl.    I am open to the possibility of a partner appearing in my life one day, and that is enough.

I think that if maybe I came up with some kind of outward symbol of my personal courage, the inner struggle with my fears will be better dissuaded.   If, on days when I am feeling most fearful or riddled with conflict, I had something that my eye could happen to fall upon– like the diplomas and the pictures– it would help me in the same way.  So that is what I am going to concentrate on… creating a visible reminder.

Of the three Oz characters, the only “mortal” one was the Lion.  While the Scarecrow was physically torn apart by the winged monkeys, he didn’t die.  The Tin Woodsman stood for many years rusting away holding his ax mid-air, but he was still alive.  Only the Lion can grow old, get sick, and eventually die.  And if courage dies, the other two won’t be as strong because the balance will be broken.  However, the Lion is also the only one who has the power to reproduce and pass his legacy on to the next generation.  In that way, courage might never die, and balance might be able to be maintained.

I do find it also interesting that, of the three characters in the film, only the Lion has a song of his own.  While all three sing a version of “If I Only Had a _________”, the Lion is the only one to have a solo number when he sings “If I Were King”.

That’s what I need to do for myself.  Not only will it be helpful to have some kind of symbol as a reminder on days when I feel weak, but I have to keep courage alive.  I have to pass it on somehow.

And so I re-post this.  I need to remind myself to continue the hard work to reclaim my inner courage, and I write to try to pass the idea of courage onward.   And perhaps re-reading this from time to time will be all the reminder I need to face my fears and make peace with them.

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Taking Leave: Crossing that First Threshold

Published October 16, 2011 by Susan Woodward

Close your eyes and relax.  Now take three deep breaths: one for body, one for mind, and one for spirit.  Take one last very deep breath and hold it.  Just when you think you cannot hold the breath any longer, pull in just a bit more air.  Again, when you feel as if you cannot continue holding the breath, pull in just a little more.  When you finally do release your breath, do so very slowly in a long continuous exhale until you have released all that you were holding.  Breathe slowly and deeply as you continue to relax.  Relax all the muscles of your body: your legs, your arms, your shoulders, and your jaw.  Completely relax.

Imagine that you are sinking down into the furniture, and in turn sinking through the floor.  Allow yourself to continue sinking down and down, all the while feeling completely relaxed.   You continue to sink down until you find yourself nestling into a pile of soft cushions in a cavernous room.  The ceiling is very high, and you notice that the room is circular.  Painted on the ceiling is an intricate design that resembles a compass.  Getting up, you find the favorite comforts of your own world furnishing this place, and feel once again that safe, welcoming, familiar vibration.  Turn around very slowly and take a good look at your room.  You will find your favorite furniture, and your favorite décor.  Breathing deeply in contentment, a familiar delicious scent wafts to your nostrils.  Surprised, you look to find that a plate of the food you love most is waiting for you.  It is just the right temperature, and there is a beverage alongside it.  A small card placed next to the plate says, “To fortify you”.  Your stomach rumbles slightly, and not wanting your favorite food to either get cold or melt, you sit at the table and eat heartily.  As you fill your stomach, a sense of satisfaction and energy permeate your body.  You feel wonderful, as if you could accomplish anything.

After eating, you decide to get a better look at the gift you received on your last visit.  You go to get the box so that you can bring it to the table.  When you come back, you find that the dirty dishes have disappeared, leaving the table neat and clean even though no one is there with you.  If only the everyday world worked that way!

Open the box and remove what is inside.  Take a good look at it under the light.  What does it do?  What do you suppose it is for?  Holding it in your hands, it feels “right” in them.  It’s true… this is YOUR gift.  How do you plan to use it?  Looking into the box, you notice a small card that you hadn’t seen earlier.  It says, “To aid you”.  Take another good look at your gift.  How can this aid you?

While you are looking at the gift, you suddenly hear a knock.  Startled, you notice that a door has once again appeared in your room, although it is in a different place this time.  There are beautiful intricate designs on the wall around the door that continue up toward the ceiling.  Looking up, you notice that the door is directly below a particular direction on the ceiling’s compass design.  Which direction does the door face?  Why do you suppose the door faces this direction?  What could it mean?

Next to the door, a coat rack has appeared.  Upon the coat rack, you notice that there is a garment hanging.  What does it look like?  What kind of garment is it?  What color is it?  Examining it closely, you find a tag attached which says, “To protect you”.  How can this garment offer protection? From what could it save you?

The knocking has begun again, more insistent than before.  The voice deep inside you questions once more: “Are you ready?”

You know now that the only way to achieve your chosen goal and to heal your heroic archetype within is to go through that door.  The knocking persists.  Your journey awaits.

You have been fortified.  The food and drink has left you feeling energetic and strong.

Knocking again.  Help awaits you in the form of your gift, even if you do not yet know how to use it.

Still more knocking.  You have protection from your garment, and you put it on.  It fits perfectly as if it had been made just for you.  Rest assured; it has.  There is a satchel or backpack hanging beside the garment on the coat rack.  You place your gift inside the bag alongside the filled water bottle you discover in the pack and swing it over your shoulder.  Placing your hand on the doorknob, you turn it slowly and open the door.  The knocking has stopped, and peering outside, no one is there to greet you.  Still, you are not afraid.  You know that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.  How do you feel as you extend your right foot to begin that journey?  What does this journey mean for you?  What will it eventually mean for others because you dared to take the journey?

Stepping out onto the stoop, what do you see around you?  Fully describe your surroundings.  Is there a path or a road?  Or must you forge your own?  Come down the steps as you begin to walk your chosen path.  In which direction does it go?  Where do you hope it will lead?  Who do you hope to meet?  Who are you afraid to run into?  No matter what, you have your garment of protection, and you have your gift.  All will be well.

Knowing this, you decide that there is one last thing you must do before embarking into the unknown.  The one thing you have yet to do is rest up for the journey.  It will be long, and it will not always be easy.  You re-enter the room through the door so that you may rest your body for the trials ahead.  This time the door does not disappear.  You have already crossed its threshold, and you have made your decision to follow through on your quest.  All you need now is some last minute rest.

Lying down upon the cushions, you find yourself feeling comfortably relaxed.  Soon you begin to feel yourself rising from the soft blankets in your special place.  As you rise, you become more and more aware of your surroundings, and soon you are able to sense the furniture beneath you.  This is the room from which you began this journey not so very long ago.  As you become more and more aware of the room around you, you remember your preparations for your upcoming journey.  You are fortified, you will be aided, and you are protected.  These images and feelings will stay with you as you awaken from your rest.

Taking three deep breaths, one for body, one for mind, and one for spirit, you open your eyes to find yourself in a familiar place.

 

When Presents Present Themselves: Supernatural Aid

Published October 16, 2011 by Susan Woodward

Close your eyes and relax.  Now take three deep breaths: one for body, one for mind, and one for spirit.  Take one last very deep breath and hold it.  Just when you think you cannot hold the breath any longer, pull in just a bit more air.  Again, when you feel as if you cannot continue holding the breath, pull in just a little more.  When you finally do release your breath, do so very slowly in a long continuous exhale until you have released all that you were holding.  Breathe slowly and deeply as you continue to relax.  Relax all the muscles of your body: your legs, your arms, your shoulders, and your jaw.  Completely relax.

Imagine that you are sinking down into the furniture, and in turn sinking through the floor.  Allow yourself to continue sinking down and down, all the while feeling completely relaxed.   You continue to sink down until you find yourself nestling into a pile of soft cushions in a cavernous room.  The ceiling is very high, and you notice that the room is circular.  Surprisingly, you find the favorite comforts of your own world furnishing this place, giving it a safe, welcoming, familiar vibration.  Move around the room and examine these favorites.  What are you most surprised to find there?  Is it a favorite chair?  Your grandmother’s kitchen table?  A favorite painting that hangs in your best friend’s living room?  What items decorate this special place?

Among the articles in the room, you find your mirror which reflects your heroic archetype.  You are pleased that you remembered to bring it with you after leaving the forest, and you gently look to make sure that the previous crack has indeed healed.  Seeing that the mirror is whole, you smile and look at your reflection once more.  The hero is looking back, this time with a smile.  He/She still appears older than the first time you’d seen him/her, but the sadness has disappeared.  How do you feel as the hero smiles at you?

You sense a slight tingling sensation going through you as if the air were suddenly electrified.  It is not at all frightening, but it fills you with a sense of urgency to do something, as if you can’t manage to just sit still.  A staccato drumbeat plays faintly in the distance, but begins to increase in volume as the tingling sensation increases as well.  A sound of laughter, joyous and welcoming, comes from the mirror.  Looking at it, you see the hero not only smiling broadly, but actually laughing.  The sound of the drumbeat increases and the hero calls loudly, “Are you ready?!”  A vibration rises from the handle of the mirror, riding up your arm and permeating your entire body in sync with the beat of the drum.  In shock, you drop the mirror, shattering it to pieces.  The drum beat increases as the hero seems to rise from the place where the glass had been in the mirror.  You watch in fascination without fear as he/she continues to rise and then stands before you.  Still laughing, he/she puts his/her arms about you in a tight hug.  You welcome the embrace. The vibrating sensation increases as you and the hero merge into one.

A large mirror hangs on the wall, and as you look closely at your reflection, you notice that by softening your gaze, you can also see your heroic archetype as well.  He/She has always been a part of you, but you are now absolutely aware of that inner presence.  How does this make you feel?

Once the merging has taken place, the sound of the drum begins to lessen and fade.  The tingling in your body also begins to dissipate, yet the feeling of urgency to do something still remains.   After a few moments, you notice that the drum beat had been replaced by the sound of someone knocking on a door.  You feel a bit disoriented after your experience, yet the knocking continues.  A voice from deep within whispers, “Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before.”   What does this mean to you?  How does that idea make you feel?

Looking around the room, you suddenly notice that a door has appeared where there had been none previously.  You are startled at its sudden appearance, and you hesitate to move toward it, even though the knocking is becoming more insistent.  Again, the voice from deep within whispers, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  What feelings are going through you now?

Gathering your courage, you move toward the door.  As you do so, the knocking stops.  As soon as you hesitate, however, the knocking begins again.  Trusting your inner voice, you again head toward the door, and the knocking ceases once more.  Someone knows you are coming.  Who do you suppose is on the other side of that door?  Who do you hope it is?  Who do you fear it is?

Take a deep breath and grasp the door handle.  Opening it boldly, you find that the stoop is vacant.  In place of a person that you expected to see (because, of course, someone must have been knocking), you find a large, beautifully gift-wrapped package.  You look out into the darkness for a glimpse of the person who was knocking, but there is no one there.  Picking up the package, you discover that there is a tag on the gift.  It has your name on it.  Looking about one last time before closing the door, you carry the gift to the center of the room.  Setting it down on the floor, you sit cross-legged in front of the package to get a better look at it.  Fully describe the package.  How is it decorated?  Are there any ribbons or bows?  What color is the gift-wrap?  How do you feel as you sit and gaze at it?

After looking at it for some time, your curiosity gets the better of you, and you decide that it’s time to open the gift.  Because you sense its importance, you open it slowly, with purpose.  When you finally open the gift, what do you find?  What do you think you are supposed to do with it?  Is it something you already know how to use, or is it something you will have to learn to utilize?  How does this gift make you feel?  Who do you suppose sent it?

It will take you some time to think about the importance of the gift, and so you decide to set it in a special place in this room.  Where is that special place?  The gift will be safe because as you look around you, you notice that the door has disappeared once more, and the room is once again a continuous circle.

Lie back down upon the soft cushions, and think about the events of this visit.  Your inner hero still whispers to you.  What is he/she saying?  While you are listening, you find yourself becoming more and more drowsy. A rest will do you good now that you have decided to follow through with your call.  Curling into a comfortable position, you soon you begin to feel yourself rising from the cushions.  As you rise, you become more and more aware of your surroundings, and soon you are able to sense the furniture beneath you.  This is the room from which you began this journey not so very long ago.  As you become more and more aware of the room around you, you remember the gift in your special place, an image that will stay with you as you awaken from your rest.

Taking three deep breaths, one for body, one for mind, and one for spirit, you open your eyes to find yourself in a familiar place.

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