Perhaps one of my most profound awakening experiences was my introduction to the metaphorical mirror. Ram Dass talks about Gurus as being a mirror, as being no one at all who shows the student to himself by acting out his subconscious desires in Be Here Now: Guru Found. I honestly can’t believe I’ve never listened to Ram Dass until last Friday. My journey has taken me through many experiences that could have been better informed by some information I’m learning from him.
But the Mirror.
There may be a moment when I started to consciously understand that we are in everything and everything is in us. There are definitely many more moments in my life when I practiced as a separate person and as a Xenophobe. I don’t doubt that this is a thread of consciousness that wheedles its way through everyone’s heart. “I hate people and here’s why,” is a foundation for many satirical, comical, and sometimes quite serious organizations, social media groups, and Youtube channels. The potential to hate others is always within us, a chord waiting to be strummed. All it takes is language or action. The same can be said, however, for the potential to love. Human nature is to sing all kinds of tunes and the circumstances of our lives would have us sing the necessary tunes to adapt to the necessary circumstances for survival.
My instincts and my callings ask me to sing the tune of the life I’ve lived and to do so from a space of compassion for myself and others. So here I am. Here we are.
I was not the kind of kid who liked mirrors, windows, or reflective surfaces. I don’t look like a gargoyle by any means, but the idea of looking into a mirror was one that for me represented distraction, vanity, and the kind of place where unexpected surprises weren’t a good thing. My mother once took quite a long time to do her makeup and we were often late to places, so I resented the mirror. That and I was always afraid something was going to be standing behind me that wasn’t actually there. It’s been one of my larger fears since I was a kid. That whole Bloody Mary game that kids used to play is a game I refused to play, not just because of the mirror but because I had seen enough ghosts and knew well enough how real they could be. Bloody Mary could stay at rest for all I cared.
Perhaps this is why my sister and I didn’t get along for so long. I didn’t like to face my fears.
My sister and I are thirteen months apart. I’m the eldest and once tried to jump on her while she lay helpless and newborn in a chair. It’s unlikely I was old enough to know the consequences of jumping on her, but she still claims I was out to get her from the start. Jokingly now, as we are friends, but we weren’t always. I hated her once with the kind of hatred that can come from just watching someone exist in the world. Just watching them move makes you hate that they are even alive. It’s horrible. People feel this kind of hatred all the time I think or I’m a really nasty person, either way doesn’t change that I was that once. My sister is the only person for whom I have ever felt such hatred and it took a long time for me to realize that the things I didn’t like about her were actually not things about her at all. Yes they were her behaviors, her actions, but the only reason I had for hating her was that these actions she took were actions I didn’t allow myself to take. The things I didn’t like about myself were the things I resented her for. She was loud and complained. I was quiet and read books. She was not great at school. I did homework on the bus before school. She loved people and parties and noise. I hated it all. Leave me alone in a room to create. She needed the world. I wanted as little to do with it as possible. She was so much my opposite I couldn’t see that what I hated about her was in me. It was so deeply repressed within me from never letting it out, that I didn’t even recognize it as my own.
In fact, it was easier to figure out with other people first. I believe, wholeheartedly, that all the things we hate about another person and other people are actually things we hate about ourselves. Every hatred for another person is a metaphor for a hatred you have about some aspect of your personality, whether that personality be whole and integrated or subconscious and segmented. The further someone else is from us in our social sphere, the easier it is to see the similarities we have with them and I think seeing the similarities I had with my sister was hard because they were similarities that informed a central thesis of my identity.
But how do we see the murderer on TV and his intentions within, how do we see the diva with her glam obsession and her perfume line, the man with nothing but a bag of aluminum cans and a beer, the alcoholic ex who you want to save from himself but can’t be with for your own sake…How do we see these people in ourselves? And why? Perhaps why is the first question, but I can only answer it with the simple platitude that by finding the demons of the world within ourselves we encounter the battleground of light and dark in a localized setting. Battling one’s own demons and winning allows one to see the game for what it is. Maybe I can paint a picture of the game later. Maybe you’ll see it. Maybe you do see it. Probably I’m crazy. The game is vast and as frustrating as any mind game you’ve ever played and the payoff is just a continuous discovery that there’s still another loose thread. Life is a game and it’s ultimately serious. It’s all suffering. Suffering is joy. It really does depend on where you’re coming from and where you’re coming from is where you’re going.
I was introduced to the concept that everything is a mirror of one’s inner circumstances by some kind of guru or podcast or new agey thought. Probably it was the Tao, or any other spiritual or religious avenue of study that held some grain of human truth. This attitude of acceptance of all is called Religious Pluralism. I’m not even religious, technically. I call myself woowoo. I kind of believe in a little bit of everything and a whole lot of nothing. I prefer to live a life in suspended disbelief, waiting to see what will happen next in this miraculous world I can only pretend to understand one small measure of.
I am certainly not the first to claim I am you and you are me and we are one. But I’m going to do my best to explain why I think so in more grounded terms than religion or spirituality.
I’ve experimented with what happens when I do not treat myself well to find others did not treat me well either. And, when I treated myself well, things went well. And I did it enough, this back and forth, that I have complete faith in the power of self love to generate love in all of one’s bonds, but here’s what I mean by self-love:
Confidence: I have the confidence to stand in front of an audience today.
Self love confidence: I have the confidence to stand in front of a crowd today because I’m allowed to speak up sometimes. Remember I said I was a quiet kid? My silence was a form of cutting out the impact I made on the people around me, a retreat to a place where I could watch life like a movie or a book, see the characters’ lives play out, analyze. Letting the little girl speak up by trying out public speaking as an adult was a form of self love. It nurtures a part of the self.
Watching and analyzing are not participating. And it’s kind of creepy if you put it that way. I was distant.
Anyways, letting myself talk was a form of self-expression that offered a neglected part of me acknowledgment and a function. My voice. But I wouldn’t learn that kind of self love until later.
Hero Confidence: I’m getting on this stage to stand in front of an audience today because my friends have encouraged me, my family raised me to be strong and brave. Because I love them, I’m going to pretend I’m confident and stand in front of an audience. May I use my voice for the good of myself and others. Let it make an impact that heals.
There’s this moment where opportunity knocks and you can open the door and walk through into another state of being, a different perspective, but only if you close another door behind you.
Get up on the stage and set aside the meek, self-doubting, wretched, wanton thing you can be. Cast away the mask of your victimhood. You cannot hide behind it anymore. That is the door that closes. That is the cost of knowledge. Once you know, you are responsible for being better than you once were or you have chosen, as I once did, to ignore the call to adventure, and your world is a flowerless grey landscape built in the land of the dead, for the dead lack meaning, drive, purpose creativity, soul. I don’t know shit about stability. But the call to adventure is something I feel in my bones. I didn’t have money, gear, time, to go backpacking through Europe…but I had books. They are hardly the same thing, but one will lead into the other eventually. Watch.
Tahoe is a natural wonder. I didn’t have to go further than my backyard to be running through the woods, over creeks, catching the peek of a coyote’s ears over the meadow grass, the shuffle of a bear against a tree, the eye of a porcupine in a flashlight beam dislodged from its home when they built the house behind us. Literally, my back yard.
In the same back yard where we had sweat lodge–I was seven or eight–I was on the porch looking out towards the woods where we ran every day to play and a massive bear came barreling down the hill towards the deck. It was followed by two cubs. The black bears in Tahoe are mellow and fairly accustomed to people which is not a good thing. They become accustomed to people and break into houses and get euthanized because they officially become a danger to people. A fed bear is a dead bear. Be responsible with your trash.
This bear barrels haha. Seriously though, it’s coming right at me and I’m not moving. I’m not even thinking.
I’m not very tall at this point, maybe just slightly taller than the railing on the porch and the bear is running towards me but looking backwards at it’s cubs, past the sweat lodge in the back, towards the steps. It turns mid run, sees me on the porch, and is a mere three feet from me when it makes a hairpin u turn away from the porch and speeds off in the opposite direction, kicking up dust and dry pine needles and followed through the woods by its two cubs.
To be honest, I don’t actually remember if there were cubs or if they are details I have since inserted into the memory. I’ve seen bears and bear cubs enough times that perhaps I have confused some memories. I do, however, remember the dust and how close the bear came, how large its face was and how odd the connection of the head to the body, how fascinating it was that such a large creature could turn so quickly. Those details are clear.
I wasn’t afraid until afterwards.
I had stood my ground against a bear without a peep and I wondered only afterwards that the situation could have ended very differently. It was, perhaps, external dissociation. It was the same state of mind I would learn to go into on the soccer field a couple years later. Call it dissociation or adrenaline. I call it suspension of disbelief. For a moment, I abandon the framework of my current reality to embody the hero self who gets by on instinct, luck, knowledge, and love, courage, selflessness.
Selflessness is a weird word that has come to imply a sort of exaggerated meaning I think. I do not believe in giving up care for one’s self in order to care for another if they show no desire to defeat their shadow selves, but I do it all the time. I think selflessness is a state of equilibrium of identity with the internal and external, in which one understands that they are a voice among many, supported by and supporting many. Being selfish actually cuts off resources because it is a threat based delusion of lack that is being acted upon to create the unwanted state of lack which the act of being selfish is a reaction to in the first place. (More on that in the previous post). That is, one fears something, acts on that fear, and the fear becomes manifest.
In facing the bear, if I were afraid of the bear attacking me and had run as though the bear were going to attack me, I might have triggered the bear’s instincts and it may well have attacked me just because I had run. Instincts are essential to living and clear instincts come from a clear mind. Instead of giving in to the fear, which wild predators can sense in prey, my mind became curious. Curiosity was literally fear transmuted into another emotion. The story could have been, “Holy shit I’m going to die this bear is attacking me.”
Instead it was, “What is this bear doing? It has no idea I’m here. What will it do when it sees me? It’s a lot bigger than I thought it would be. Oh it’s seen me. Look how fast it turned around.”
I started to approach my fights with my sister like my encounter with the bear. I watched with curiosity and let go of all expectation and I started to see her struggle with communication was what led to her frustration and where she found it necessary to communicate with others I found a route to communicate through art, though I didn’t start sharing that until much later. We were both frustrated for the same reason–we didn’t know how to communicate what we wanted and needed, nor were we able to compromise for our lack of communication.
But watching the bear out of curiosity teaches you about the bear, what motivates the bear, what it’s thinking about when it looks behind it to see if the cubs are following, and how it’s surprised because either it didn’t see you there on the porch or it didn’t expect you to still be standing there on the porch. If it saw you on the porch before and expected you to run, it expected you to be defenseless. The fact you are not running could mean you are in fact, not defenseless. The bear changes it’s mind.
Fear is the opportunity to become curious. I believe this is what Sun Tzu meant when he wrote: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Fear is a lens upon which one looks at the world to see his or her inner demons. Curiosity, compassion, and bravery are the lenses which defeat the demons.
The idea of selflessness, I think, is that one understands the self as a contribution to one’s people, one’s culture, and one’s time and also accepts the self for what it is in its time amongst its people whether one’s people value that or not. The key, I think, is to do so without resentment or hatred in the heart. I resent and hate all the time and it’s exhausting. Learning to let it go is a constant exercise in forgiveness for myself and others, overcoming shame and guilt, and learning from the downs. Nothing good has ever come from being mean to others on my end. The karmic backlash is almost always instantaneous. That doesn’t mean I’m not mean. I have a mood disorder remember? I’m really mean sometimes. Not violent. Just brutally honest and generally impatient with unmotivated people. I have no business giving a damn what motivates people so I’m working on that story. Like the sweat lodge, we are one voice in the dark, lighting up the universe with sound, much like the intro of Tolkien’s book of Genesis for middle earth: The Simarillion.
But just because I believe we’re all one doesn’t mean I think we should all be the same. In fact, back to mirrors, I think the more opposite and strange and terrifying someone or something seems, the more one has to learn from it. There’s an element of potential recklessness in that statement that deserves addressing in a moment. But first…
In this translation of The Art of War, Sun Tzu writes:
“Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
My sister and I fought so much that I had to learn how to diffuse an argument quickly so I could be left alone. Motivations entirely selfish. I had books to read, things to learn, places to go. She could have been my partner in crime (metaphorically of course) but I wanted nothing to do with most people and did not generally enjoy company other than the company of a cousin and a couple of friends. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy company. I liked to watch people and be among them but I didn’t like to stand out or stand up or be apart from them in any way and being amongst people reminded me of how painfully, awkwardly shy I was. I came to understand projection, or the mirror of the self within the other, when people started interpreting this shyness as being stuck up.
It was quite the opposite, the result of a low self-esteem because of my social awkwardness which I made up for by excelling academically and in whatever activity I poured myself into. I was good at things and people thought I was a snob because of it, but it was lonely. So I started to fuck up. Kind of like Sandra D., “lousy with virginity,” I moved into the world of what looked like adulthood with booze and bars, sex and eventually drugs and rock and roll shows, college and no college, men, no men. Life.
My twenties felt like a game of career and values roulette. I see the masks of identity I hid behind like Barbie’s various outfits and roles. Punk rock Hippie human. College drop out human. Waitress alkie human. That guy’s girlfriend human. Student. Occupation. Belief system. Political leanings. Labels I tried on to try and fit inside of where other people resided with those labels too and I could be comfortable within my tribe.
I searched high and low but I had no idea where to start or even what I was looking for. It just always seemed like whenever I thought the boxes and the labels were exactly what they should be–this job, this lifestyle, this belief system to create this kind of person in this kind of life–there was always something off. No matter how good life became, or even how terrible, it was never terrible enough to give up, nor good enough to give up the search. I believe this emptiness is the call of the hero self to become self realized…the call to adventure.
I adventured through jobs at first…probably still am. The jobs I’ve had include:
Movie theater attendant, grounds keeper, book keeper, waitress, cook, grassroots voice on behalf of The Nature Conservancy, SPLC, and ACLU (that person who stands on the sidewalk and advocates for the rights of trees, starfish, and LGBTQs), door to door salesperson of solar panels, clerk at a liquor store, bartender, caterer, psychic palm reader, tarot class teacher, writer, editor, instructor of English, house cleaner, property manager, clerk at Barnes&Noble, Renaissance Fair actor. How do these all fit into one person? It amazes me that we are capable of putting on so many masks.
It amazes me too, the way fear changes how one interprets the mask. The lens through which one views the mask is a reflection of one’s thoughts.
Those who interpret shyness as haughtiness do so from a place of insecurity instead of understanding. That’s how I tried to understand it anyways. If it appears to them that I am looking down upon them because I’m not summoning the bravery to talk to them, make eye contact, or be fully present. Their interpretive lens is one that comes from an assumption that others will look down on them. It has nothing to do with my intention. They are interpreting my actions through their own narrative framework.
If I were the bear approaching and they were eight year old me, they would run and I would gobble them up.
The story they are telling themselves about me is a threat-based, persecutory delusion. I tell these kinds of deluded stories about other people all the time. I just told one.
I just told a story about what I think people think about me and, to be honest, I don’t think people actually think that much about one another at all. A lot of people are busy thinking about themselves, myself included.
Anyways, does it really doesn’t matter what the fuck people think about you? It actually does. It’s a part of our survival instincts to care about what people think and to try and be useful to our community. So maybe it used to. Does it now? I don’t know. I don’t have answers.
What do you think about you?
I think people tell stories like these to themselves about other people all day long without really focusing too much on its significance in shaping how we view the world.
Did you hear about so and so? They say she did this, blew him, quit her job because blah blah blah, and she was mean anyways.
Gossip is contagious. It gives me the same feeling of agitation I get from watching a binge worthy TV drama.
Try this. Next time someone starts gossiping to you, offer a perspective that paints the subject of gossip in a different light.
Did you hear Chelsea ate a cheeseburger off the floor?
Yeah. Did you ever hear about the ten second rule?
Humor is a good way to diffuse that shit too. But it’s amazing what happens when instead of offering a listening ear to the hateful, you offer a voice to the voiceless. Sometimes the gossip will simply stop talking to me altogether when they find I don’t feed the energy they are looking for. Fine by me. Sometimes I’m the gossip and someone stops feeding my energy and I go, “Oh. I’m being an asshole.” Sometimes I keep right on being an asshole because I feel like it and then get back on the right track when I get a hard enough kick in the pants which sometimes looks like an overdrawn bank account or just general misery. Misery loves company they say.
I’m not even close to perfect. I’m a fucking mess.
But I believe that consciously telling stories about people that are not based in fear, but rather in love, is like facing the bear in curiosity and watching it run away instead of running away out of fear and getting eaten. I would rather believe in people and their ability to rise to the call of the hero and see that in them than believe we are all out to get one another. At the same time, sometimes I fucking hate people. I believe hatred is fear of the self. Therefore the battle is always with the self and actions and thoughts we cultivate to craft the lens through which we view the world. The crafting of the lens is the action of following through with choice based on the perspective one has of what has happened, what is happening, and what might happen.
Imagine this: Next time you absolutely hate someone, ask yourself what you are afraid of becoming?
Next time you are faced with a choice ask yourself: Am I viewing this situation out of love, curiosity, and understanding, or fear?
Actions born of fear make the illusion manifest.
Actions born of faith make miracles.
Having faith in people’s ability to be better than they are might be total stupidity, but this is what I live for I think. I love people and I want people to believe in themselves because I see people who are held back by the mere fact of their insecurities all the time just like I was. I see people whose suffering is the illusion of fear in which they are trapped. We fear winding up nothing and so do nothing and so become what we fear.
I’m here shouting now, using my voice. The way out of your cage, your prison, your boxes, your instincts that tell you to run, is the way out of fear. And the only way out of fear is to dive straight in, for it is in facing fear one becomes brave. Without fear, one cannot be brave. They exist alongside one another and fear is a choice just like bravery.
I argue that to believe in people is the braver choice. What does that even mean?
Back to Sun Tzu:
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
I hated my sister because she was everything I did not want to be, which meant she stood for everything I feared becoming, which meant the potential to become what I feared was within me but was most visible within her.
I didn’t hate her at all. I hated the reflection of my fear realized in her which meant I didn’t see her at all, I saw myself in her.
I hated her because she was causing me to face my most repressed fears every day just by looking at her.
I believe all hatred comes from this place of hating the potential within one’s self to become what we fear. I believe if you hate someone else, it is because you do not know yourself.
“If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Notice how knowing the enemy and not the self is not an option. One must know the self in order to know another. One knows the self and the enemy, or one knows neither and suffers always as greatly as one wins because the two, the love of self and enemy, are inextricable. The self is the enemy projected onto other people as much as it is the self we give to people.
Compassion is the ability to temporarily suspend disbelief in the wrongness of another’s identity in order to understand how someone else sees the rightness of their identity. Intolerance, then, is an inability to suspend disbelief that stems from the fear of losing one’s identity or, essentially, a fear of being wrong.
Therefore, admitting one can be wrong is essential to compassion.
The best way to access the place where suspension of disbelief is possible and one can face the bear is to face one’s fears–especially the subconscious and hidden fears which motivate our instincts–otherwise one’s fears will always color one’s interpretation of the world, one’s world will be haunted by fear the conjurer, and we will instinctively run from the bear and be eaten.
I don’t mean go skydiving.
I mean look at yourself in the mirror. Who are you really?
I knew myself, my potential, and saw it realized in the actions of someone else the likes of whom I never wanted to become, only to later try that mask on for size and see that I was missing out.
Often our deepest fears about ourselves hold the richest treasures. But subconscious psyche diving isn’t for the faint of heart. There are ugly truths about the self at the depths of everyone’s subconscious.
My sister and I would later become thick as thieves. It turns out the parts of myself I was hiding are the same parts that manifest in symptoms of a mental illness we share. I discovered I could be as mean, as depressed, as loud, as reckless, as outgoing. It turns out, I would later understand that in hating myself and seeing that self realized in my sister, I had lost the potential for a comrade. In hating pieces of myself I didn’t even know were there.
And instead of being a good big sister I left her to face the world alone.
When I got emancipated and my family moved away and I went to do those things I said I was going to do and be that person I said I was going to be, my parents were still moving their things from the house in Tahoe to the house in the foothills and I was still moving my things out of my teenage bedroom and into my room rented from my boss. We were all busy becoming the way the world, or at least my world, dictated become. There was an emphasis on self-sufficiency, of lack of trust in others, of making it on one’s own.
And I left her alone.
She ate every pill in the house. It must have been later, after they’d moved. I just remember hearing my sister had tried to kill herself, that she was in a psych ward, and I remember thinking that if she was capable of doing that, I didn’t know her at all. I’d lived fifteen years with her and had no idea who she was.
I wrote her an angry letter, telling her how selfish she was–a letter rationalizing all the irrational things. It is the same thing people do when they tell the anorexic to just eat and the depressed person to suck it up.
She didn’t respond at all, but she would tell me later when we learned to love each better, how angry that letter made her, that at one point she wanted to live just to get revenge on me for writing it. She would tell me later when she would also reveal to me that people thought I was stuck up because I was shy. In hating my sister I had limited my perspective about who I was in the world to one that was comfortable but untrue, or at least, only partially informed. My sister knows a lot of things about the world that I do not understand. She knows how people work, what motivates people, when someone’s trying to get something, when they’re being genuine or fake. She was busy living to understand these things while I was busy reading to understand them. The theoretical understanding is not the same as the applied knowledge. She always seemed afraid, but she was braver because she lived it instead of reading about it. She might have seemed dumber because she didn’t read, but my ability to read social cues was elementary. She might have seemed weaker because she couldn’t just suck it up and do as she was told, but maybe she was stronger because she couldn’t just suck it up and do as she was told.
From her perspective, I was just as vile as I thought she was. Did she feel this way every time I looked at her? This small, dark, twisted, ugly, rejected thing? And how would it feel to know your big sister treated you like that? And your parents? To come into this world wanting nothing but to communicate only to find that doing so too often or too loudly will make people tune you out?
What did I know about her?
What did I know at all?
Facing one’s fear looks like admitting one knows nothing. Facing one’s fear looks like curiosity. Facing one’s fear looks like innocence, trust, vulnerability, honesty, and integrity. Facing one’s fear is knowing the enemy within the self so we can recognize it when it pretends to be another, name it, and bravely look beyond it to the truth.
Fear and hatred are self-sabatoge.
Luckily, the inverse is also true.
Care, attention, kindness, honesty, vulnerability are self fulfilling.
You get back what you put out, that old rule of three.
I used to think that this meant if I put out thirty dollars I’d get back ninety or if I gave out kindness I’d get back kindness, but the rule of three plays off subconscious intention as much as conscious action. If you put out thirty dollars with the intention of getting ninety back, you’ll probably lose a hundred dollars if a part of you doubts. If you befriend someone with an ulterior motive to improve your own self image, you are doubtless being an asshole.
And a part of us always doubts. And a part of us always wants. And a part always hates and a part always loves.
Which one do we feed when? Are they all valid?
One would say feed fear in times of trouble, perhaps, but maybe love and understanding are more powerful deterrents. Probably loving my sister would have made childhood easier for both of us. Probably being afraid of the bear would have ended in disaster.
The most powerful stories of the Hero’s Journey are about the overcoming of fear with the power of love.
Jesus surrenders his life to God, opting for faith and love instead of fear.
Harry’s worst fear is a dementor: the embodiment of fear itself. He overcomes his fear by recalling his mother’s love.
Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear…is fear itself.”
He gave this inaugural speech at the height of an economic crisis we call The Great Depression, and continued later in his inaugural speech with this:
“The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing.
Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.”
Now is the time, when our nation is twenty-two trillion dollars in debt, to take the actions that “apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit,” so I write here that I may go into the world with these reminders on my fingers. This NPR article says, “‘Other than the period immediately after World War II, the only other time the average deficit has been so large over so many years was after the 2007–2009 recession,’ the CBO said last month.”
That recession was caused by a bunch of wallstreet guys and bankers giving out loans to people who couldn’t afford them to get commissions where money wasn’t going to come in to temporarily live out something good wolf of wall street style. I think back on my first memory of the butterflies, imagining capturing them all for one flight across town only to soil their wings with the oil on my fingers and kill them all forever.
Let’s look at this through the eye of fear thing from an economic perspective. Peter Schiff is an economist who predicted the 2008 economy crash and explains the balloon economy we are in well enough for dullards like me to understand on a basic level. That and I saw what the bubble burst in Japan did in the eighties because I read a Japanese comic book about a character in the eighties and there are empty, half constructed or abandoned hotels on the coastline of Miyazaki, where I visited, to demonstrate a bankrupt economy’s lack of resources. The buildings were too expensive to tear down. So they stood abandoned. A bubble is no joke and the one we’re in is the largest in our civilization’s history. Schiff also says that, “…the free market does have a cure: it’s called a recession, and it’s not fun, easy or quick. But if we put our faith in the power of government to make the pain go away, we will live with the consequences for generations.”
His recommendation is to go into the eye of the storm in order to heal.
I’m not here to convince anyone of anything. These are just examples I’m using to relate an experience that convinced me along the way, among many other experiences. This is just one way of many ways to follow the journey of the hero.
The mirror: a tool for new perspective, overcoming fear, building compassion.
I have not seen in my lifetime a person who took power without pride, personal profit, or in recognition of the falsity of material wealth in the public sphere. The goal is not perfection. It is an attempt to be better than we are despite the fact that we probably will fuck up.
Isn’t that the same idea as the Christian God telling me to do his bidding but that I will always sin?
The language is different, but the meaning is the same. I am not afraid to admit the truths apparent in things that make me uncomfortable just because they make me uncomfortable. I do this in the name of love.
Fear is most powerful when we are most vulnerable. Therefore bravery is most effective when we are most at risk of failure. My refusal of the call to adventure had cost me greatly and it was now time to heed the call. So I chased the things that made me vulnerable as a promise to never again let someone I loved down.
For although I vehemently despised my sister, I also loved her more than anyone in the world. It’s funny how all things lead into their opposites.
I think that’s what Schiff was talking about. It’s not a market cycle. It’s a natural cycle. Every cycle has an inverse and must experience that inverse cyclical for health. This is a concept I relate to very well, since the way my mind functions is labelled cyclothymia: Moods that move in cycles.
Sometimes when we had bad dreams, my sister and I would sneak into each other’s rooms and tell stories to comfort one another. I was terrified of the dark and was more often than not wound up in her room in the morning after some night terror or ghost encounter or perhaps just a hallucination from lack of sleep. I don’t know. But as much as I didn’t want to like my sister, I greatly loved presence in my life, at least in some ways.
In the eyes of a strata-based, individuated, single mother household in which mom was a woman in the workplace who had to climb the workplace ladder with two kids, it appeared that what would be good for me as an adult would be the ability to take care of myself and to never rely on someone else. I figured out how to take care of myself and others emotionally because emotions made me uncomfortable and I wanted them to go away as soon as they arose and an acknowledged emotion is an assuaged emotion. Emotions were messy. They disrupted the tranquility of my mind and I watched them control the people around me like they were possessed not realizing that stuffing my feelings down and showing no emotion meant I went into puberty with no emotional intelligence and had no fucking idea how to handle emotions that came from hormonal changes.
I was a weridly logical and fantastical kid who was not at all prepared for becoming female in all its muchness. It has taken me a long time to embrace the awesome power of femininity and to use that power for good instead of for personal gain. It also took me time to see that, in the archetypal sense, emotions are the intellectual landscape of the feminine. Emotions like hatred, pride, anger, fear, resentment, jealousy, rage, smallness, not enoughness, vulnerability, and vanity are doorways into their opposites. One may take the way around and do well enough. One may whether the eye of the storm, on the other hand, and witness the awesome and unimaginable transformation of perspective.
I judged women who were girly girls for being vain, only to find that they were much kinder and humbler than I was.
I judged people who were handed their futures for saps when my future was coincidentally handed to me and I was taken for a sap.
I judged the people who stayed cooks their whole lives only to realize I’d been a cook my whole life.
I judged being a cook as a bad thing only to find I love it.
There is something about going away from what we love and coming back around to it like this from a different angle, physically, mentally, spiritually or metaphorically, that enhances the depth of love. It becomes steadier. Sturdier. Truer. The boat rocks all the time still but one is thrown in the water less often.
If one denies the call, they are stuck in the lesson and it comes back later, sometimes much later. If one fails to meet the demands of the call the lesson comes back later. If the lesson isn’t learned in this lifetime, we accrue karma and come back to this earth plane in another lifetime, perhaps as something else, to learn the lesson. That’s Buddhist, right? I like the idea of it. But then I think about how we treat birds and fish and pretty much the whole planet and realize it would fucking suck to be a polar bear today. If I’m going to learn lessons, let me learn them with opposable thumbs so I can do something about it. If the economy is going to heal only through a recession, why stave off the inevitable and make it worse? These are things I know nothing about. Just metaphors.
And then, go figure, I answer the call only to find that for me, the best way I’m able to do anything about anything is by sitting down with my opposable thumbs pinched to my middle fingers, pointed up on the knees, meditate, breathe, sit in prayer to whatever you believe in. Write.
I didn’t want to write from a place of illusion. And then I found the mirror meditation.
As I think I mentioned, I was quite terrified of mirrors and the dark. After moving home at 25, I meditated one night on the idea of identity I think. Whatever it was, I pulled a tarot card, an Oracle card actually from the Isis Oracle Deck, which has a strange story of how I came by it and where it went, a story for another place.
The meditation asked that one sit in the dark in front of a mirror with a candle and directed one to look one’s self in the eyes for as long as you can tolerate. Then write the experience down. Do that for a week.
After a week I was no longer depressed, afraid of the dark, or mirrors or myself for that matter. My sister and I grew closer. It was a profound experience and I would recommend trying it from a place of curiosity, self discovery, forgiveness, love, and bravery. If you are afraid, you might do more harm than good but I believe in the cyclical nature of things and that whatever you’re avoiding will come around in some way eventually if you follow the Hero’s Journey, because the Hero’s Journey is the call to face the self. I can’t say what might be missed from not trying the mirror meditation, as I have tried it. I can say, it’s bizarre. Psychedelic without the drugs. Healing. For someone with cyclothymia whose mood moves with the natural cycles or along with her circadian rhythms (sometimes we are called witches), the mirror journey might be a good one to take when you are feeling lost in the self. Like anything, overuse of a ritual or tarot, medicine or money, will result in a lack of efficacy.
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