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Facing the Shadow: “Path” by Apocalyptica

Published October 20, 2011 by Susan Woodward

Wow.  That’s all I have to say every single time I watch this video.  This is such a vivid, fabulous depiction of the inner conflict and facing the “Shadow” inside.  How appropriate for me right now that it is entitled “Path”.

I love the “call and response” between the live performers and the shadowy figures on the wall.  I can especially feel the angst as it builds through the music, and when the “stand off” occurs, I feel the rise within my own soul.

As I continue through this desert path with the sun looking down on me, the only other “living” thing I see is my own shadow.  It is a part of me, both outside and in.  I suppose that part of working through toward solitude is befriending that shadow part of myself.   I know it’s not necessarily the “dark side” of me, but the things that I keep hidden, both consciously and unconsciously.

The conscious parts are easy to discover… the things about myself that I would just as soon keep private and hidden from the world.  Some parts I’m ashamed of, while others are simply just too personal to bring out into the open.

The unconscious parts are much more difficult to discern.  Sometimes things pop up and I ask myself, “Where the hell did that come from?”  “What made me do that?”  “What drives me to want this, that, or the other thing?”  These have a way of coming out unbidden and when they do, I begin to feel anxious and feel almost as if I have to beat them down.  The anxiety comes from not being able to control when or where these behaviors, attitudes, or impulses pop up.   I guess that’s what I see in the video… that struggle for control.   Maybe the darkness of my shadow is my collective fears that I feel the need to conquer.

There’s that pause in the music where the one musician is tapping on his knee, waiting for a response– that silence before the storm of full confrontation.   Then both sides are in a frenzy of conflict and it seems as if the Shadow is conquered… at least for the time being.  But is conquering what I really want here?

The more I think about it, though, the more I seem to believe that I need to be gentler with my Shadow self.   What I think would make the transition toward solace much easier for me is if I befriend those parts of me that are hidden.  And not that the Shadow part is evil… just in darkness, out of sight from everyone else.  For the regrets and shame from things in my past, it would serve me better to acknowledge their presence, know that they will never truly disappear because those things are a part of who I am and who I have become over the years, and to simply let them dwell there in peace without trying to beat them down.  But those will be the easier parts to befriend… the conscious ones.  It’s dealing with parts that pop up by surprise at various times in my life that catch me off guard and cause anxiety… and then the whole “fight or flight” instinct kicks in.  Except, in that situation, that there’s no flight from what’s a part of you… just fight.  I am not sure how to keep that inner part under control so that I don’t end up in full-blown self-conflict and attempting to beat myself down.

Perhaps the conflict I feel inside could be better resolved by taking the time to really LOOK at the conscious parts first.  Heck, since the sun is bearing down on me in this desert, it’s right there all the time.  There’s no hiding it here.   I can allow myself to feel whatever emotions that go along with what I find, and then moving through the desert won’t be as lonely when I befriend myself.  Once I am at peace with those parts, maybe I’ll figure out a way to discover the unconscious parts.    What does lurk deep in my soul?

I’d like to figure out how to get a look at what’s hidden just beyond my view.   There must be a way to tap into what is unconscious and bring it forward… but I think that finding a way to curb the confrontational attitude that I often take toward myself might be a step in the right direction.

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“Your Gardening Angel”

Published October 16, 2011 by Susan Woodward

Blooming cosmos and snapping dragons

In a patch of sweet serenity;

Passion flowers and

Passionate hearts

Beautify the face of Mother Earth.

Summer rains bring

Occasional wet wings

And a tipped halo or two,

But the angels toil tenderly

To the music of

Water falling

Rhythmically

Against the rocks.

Lilies bob as fish and frogs play

Hide and seek

With the dragon fly;

Brown spider tirelessly tends her web

Among the terra cotta;

The hum of a Kubota in the distance

Lulls the senses.

Ahh… dreaming away again in Martha Stewartville.

Some Will, Some Won’t: Being the Master of Two Worlds

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 pass deep down into the earth and suddenly find yourself awakening in your bed in your very special place.  Stretch cat-line in contentment as you look around your room.  Admire your favorite possessions and embrace the familiarity of being home.  It almost seems as if the long journey was a dream, and yet you know it was not.  Get out of bed and go to each of your special items and remind yourself of why it holds this status for you.  Who or what does each remind you of?  How does the memory of each make you feel?

Everything is so familiar, and yet you can sense of difference in the air.  The difference is not with the place; it is within you.  How have you changed?  Do these changes make you think or feel differently about being home?  How does this make you feel?  You realize that your return has left you with an obligation to share what you have learned with others.  How do you feel about that?

While you are perusing the room, a pleasant, tantalizing scent wafts in the air.  You are suddenly greeted with, “Well, I’m glad to see you’re finally back!”

Turning around, you find the one person with whom you wanted to share your experiences sitting at the table.  A hearty breakfast awaits you, and the table has been set for two.  Who is this person?  Why is he/she the one you with which you most wish to share your tale?  How do you feel upon seeing him/her?  What has he/she prepared for your breakfast in honor of your return?

Greet this person with a big hug before sitting down at the table.  The two of you enjoy the wonderful food, and he/she listens to the tales of your adventures.  How does he/she react?  What does he/she say about what you’ve learned?

“You’ve changed,” he/she observes.  As you continue to talk, it is apparent that he/she approves of the changes in you.  How does this make you feel?  What does he/she remark about the changes?

As you continue with your meal, it is obvious that he/she is becoming more and more wistful with the description of each adventure.  For a moment, you think that he/she is no longer listening and has begun daydreaming.  Question him/her about it.  How does this reaction make you feel?

His/her response surprises you.  He/she tells you that he/she had been contemplating trying something new, but was unsure of whether or not to proceed.  However, after hearing your tale, you have awakened in him/her the courage to take that step forward.  How does this make you feel?  What is it that he/she would like to do?  How has your story impacted him/her?  What can you do to help him/her get started?  You can feel a change taking place in your relationship to this person.  What is it?  How do you feel about this change?

After finishing breakfast, you talk for a bit more before he/she arises to leave.  He/she has many plans to make, and is eager to get started after listening to you.  How do you feel about that?  He/she gives you a big hug and says that he/she will return soon to talk with you more.  Say good-bye and open the door for him/her.  When you do, you discover that there is someone else on the doorstep that was just about to knock.  Who is this person?

Say good-bye to one friend as you welcome your newcomer.  This new person is also a good friend, and you are glad to see him/her.  This person, however, does not seem to be as pleased to see you.  When he/she enters, he/she barely returns your welcoming hug before taking a seat and turning to you with, “So.  You’re back.”  The tone carries something negative, but you can’t quite put your finger on what is wrong.  You’ve been so close in the past and are puzzled by his/her reaction.

“So what did you do while you were off on your vacation?” he/she demands.  Again, the tone sounds condescending and puts you on your guard.  What feelings are going through you?  Why might he/she be acting this way?

Try to remain pleasant with this person who obviously isn’t.  Cheerfully describe your adventures just as you had earlier.  Somehow, though, based on his/her stiff reaction, you begin to feel as if you’d done something wrong by going on the journey at all.  Where is this feeling of guilt coming from?  Why do you even feel guilty at all?  You’ve done nothing wrong, although this person obviously believes you have.  What do you suppose has led him/her to the conclusion that your journey was a bad thing?  How does that make you feel?

As you talk, you hear yourself downplaying certain parts of the adventure.  Why would you censor yourself?  Which parts do you downplay?  Why?  How does it make you feel to know that you cannot share your entire experience with this person because it obviously makes him/her upset?  What has caused this chasm in your once-close relationship?  How do you begin to feel about yourself as you hear how you downplay your experiences?

His/her comments are repetitive, and all he/she seems to say is, “Oh. Uh huh.  How nice for you.”  How does this make you feel?  Why do you suppose he/she is acting like this?

Before long, the conversation becomes too unbearable for you to stand.  It seems that the only way to talk to this person is to change the subject entirely and try to talk about something you have in common.  However, resentment has begun to build in you, and you find your end of the conversation as stiff as his/hers.  How do you feel about this change between you two?  Is there anything that can make things be the way they used to be when you were close?  How do you see the relationship evolving?

As the conversation becomes more uncomfortable, your companion decides that it’s time to leave.  At this point you are filled with conflicting emotions.  This is someone that you care about, and yet his/her reaction to your journey has left you filled with negative emotions.  What are these emotions?

After he/she leaves, the negativity still hangs in the air.  While you know that you’ve done nothing wrong in following your call to adventure, your friend’s reaction has left you feeling as if you should not have gone.   Ask yourself once again if there is something that can be done to heal the relationship.

You decide that the events of the day have left you tired and confused.  You were so happy to share with your first visitor who actually seemed inspired to begin his/her own journey.  Revisit those feelings that reinforce the positive aspects of sharing your experiences.  Knowing that there is nothing you can do at the moment to change the way your second visitor views your journey, keep your focus on the positive.  In your heart, you know that change involves the risk of displeasing those who do not invite change into their own lives.  The change in you has changed the relationship, and the change in the relationship is uncomfortable to the person who wished to maintain the status quo.  Perhaps, with time, he/she will come to accept what has changed in you and the relationship can grow.  If not, are you willing to bear his/her resentment at seeking personal growth?

For the remainder of the day, pour over the extensive notes you took while on your journey.  What observations do you make?  Pay attention to the types of plants and trees and animals you mentioned in your journal.  How were these significant at that point in the journey?  Fortunately, you own a book of symbolism.  It is a rather large volume that sits high upon one of your bookshelves.  Bring it down and begin to look up the significance of everything you wrote in your journal.  Even though you have returned, these symbols have lessons to teach you.  This is an activity that will bring you much pleasure in the future as you begin to analyze your journey and its significance to your personal growth.

The activity calms your mind and alleviates the negativity you’d felt earlier.  You know in your heart that this journey was the best thing for your growth and that no one has the right to negate that growth, no matter who he/she is.  Feeling better, you tidy your place after your visits and prepare a simple supper for yourself.  Now how do you feel about being home?

Relaxed and calm once more, you decide that it is time to go to sleep.  Curl into a comfortable position, and take a deep breath.  Feel yourself drifting away into the darkness.  Soon you begin to feel yourself rising from your very own bed 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 think about your two friends.  Send them both positive thoughts and energy and know that your journey was right for your personal growth.  This realization will remain in your memory 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.

Haunted Memories: Atonement with the Past

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 awakening after a satisfying rest.  You feel refreshed and ready to move forward on your journey.  Looking up, you find your best friend has already risen and is preparing breakfast for you.  It is fortunate that he/she remembered to pack additional food from the house before leaving since the two of you ate your mentor’s gifts the previous evening.  Both of you sit and share a meal, comfortable in the silence between you.

After eating, it is time to begin the trek towards the west to get back on your path.  The sun warms your back as you begin, and the day promises to be a glorious one.  How do you feel as you move on with your friend at your side?  What does the countryside look like?  Take note of the types of plants, animals or birds that you see… they do hold meaning for you.  Keep a list in your notebook to refer to later.

What do you and your friend talk about on the journey?  What is his/her goal that he/she is working toward?  How can you help?  He/She has already helped you in getting across the chasm.  What can you do for him/her?

Finally you reach your path.  On the other side, you can take a look at where you’d come from earlier.  It seems like a long time ago since you’d been standing on the opposite side of the chasm, trying to figure out how to get across.  And now here you are.  How do you feel?

Taking out your map, you consult with it to make sure that you are going in the right direction.  Your friend also takes a map out of his/her pocket.  How wonderful that it seems that you will still be traveling in the same direction!  Smiling, the two of you face the journey and continue.  Describe the path that you are now on.  What can you see in the distance?  How much further is your destination?

After traveling all day, the sky becomes darker and you decide to camp for the night.  You have a rolled up blanket that you’d taken from the raft.  Spreading it on the ground, you make a place to rest near the small fire you and your companion have built.  What do you two talk about?

At some point in the conversation, you mention the gift you’d received from a mystery person back in your special room.  Take it out of your satchel and show it to him/her.  How does he/she react?  Does he/she know what the gift can be used for?  Listen to his/her suggestions.  Look again at the object and try to apply your companion’s ideas to it.

Your companion also begins to speak of his/her own goals and dreams.  Listen intently.  What do your goals have in common?  How do they differ?  Why do you suppose that this person just happened to be the one to arrive to help you in your time of need?

For some reason, as you listen to him/her describe what he/she plans to accomplish, you begin to doubt your own goal.  Compared to his/her goal, yours begins to seem inadequate.  Why?  What makes you feel that you have to compare yourself to others?  What feelings go through you as you continue to listen?

Your friend has become very tired and lies down to go to sleep.  You, however, are not yet sleepy enough and wish to sit up for a while.   Staring into the fire, the dancing of the flames becomes hypnotic, drawing you into a trancelike state.   Your friend’s aspirations play in your head, making you feel insecure.  What has caused you to doubt yourself?  What events in your past have led you to feel insecure in comparison to others?  Watching the fire, you begin to see shapes taking form.  At first you think you are seeing things, but after a few moments, you note that a scene is being played out for you from your memory.  Keep staring into the fire.  What do you see?  It is something from your past…something that happened long ago that now causes you to feel insecure about other people’s successes.   What is happening?  Relive the scene as if it were happening for the very first time.  How do you feel?  Who is involved?  What is taking place?  Pinpoint the event that has led to the insecurity that you feel today.

Now that you have recognized the event, open your journal and write down everything that happened exactly as you remember it.  Do not leave out any details.   Write your feelings as well as your memories.    Write and write until you get it all out.  Once you have captured it all on paper, tear the pages from your journal.  With all the emotion you can muster, crumple the paper in your fist and hold onto it as tightly as you can.  You are about to destroy that memory, and with it, the insecurity you feel.  Wad the paper even tighter in your fist, pouring all the insecure feelings into it.  Tighten the muscles of your hand, your arm, and the upper portion of your body.  Continue tightening all your muscles until your entire body is filled with tension.  Let the tension flow through you and into the wadded paper in your hand.  Pull the muscles tighter until they are quivering.  When you cannot stand the tension any longer, let go.  Completely relax every muscle in your body, including the hand that is holding the crumpled paper.  Allow the paper fall into the fire and watch it burn.  Stare at the flames and see the painful memory go up in smoke.  Let it go.  It cannot bother you any longer.  How do you feel?

Your companion stirs in his/her sleep, but does not awaken.  Look at him/her.  How do you feel now?

Sleepiness begins to come over you as you continue to sit by the fire.  There is a sense of peace that permeates your body after having let go of your insecure feelings.  Relax and allow the peaceful feeling to wash over you.   Lying down on your blanket, yawn and look up at the sky.  What constellation is overhead at this moment?  Why might this be significant for you?

Stretch once more before curling into a comfortable position.  Take a deep breath and feel yourself drifting away into the darkness.  Soon you begin to feel yourself rising from your bed in the outdoors.  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 think about the memory you released and how good it feels to no longer carry that burden.  The peaceful feelings you experience from letting go 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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