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Abduction

January 18, 2011

A skiff pulled up to the beach, and three rough-looking men jumped out. They grabbed Estella and dumped her into the bottom of the skiff, and pushed off. They pulled unevenly at the oars, sending the skiff zigzagging out toward the open ocean, where a black ship with dark sails hove to. Estella was frightened; none of these men were the one she saw yesterday, and they looked very different from the people in her village.

 

 

When the unhealthy masculine takes over, it feels like an abduction; we are possessed by a force that does not have our best interests at heart. Other fairy tales and myths reflect a similar abduction of the negative masculine. In the myth of Persephone, she is abducted from the meadow where she is picking flowers by Hades and taken to the underworld. At the beginning of Grimm’s tale Fitcher’s Bird (or The Feather Bird), the wizard, disguised as an old beggar, approaches a house with three beautiful daughters to ask for food, and “when the eldest girl came out and offered him a piece of bread, he only touched her and she was compelled to jump into his sack.”

How susceptible are we to that touch? If we are raised in a patriarchal culture, it’s likely we are like the daughter and compelled to jump right in. We may first need to develop awareness that we have been taken. In Fitcher’s Bird, the first two daughters each separately meet the same terrible fate (death), and the third finally finds the proper way through. This is common in fairy tales and it is true in life as well; it often takes a few times before we realize that we have fallen again into the same trap. It is also instructive about the true nature of the dysfunctional masculine; despite what might appear to be a friendly and giving exterior, the reality is quite the opposite.

Notice too that there is always furtiveness and deception behind these abductions. Hades waits until Persephone has wandered far from her mother, the goddess Demeter, and the others in the meadow before snatching her away, so no one even knows where she has gone. The wizard disguises himself to gain access to the daughters. In our tale, they take Estella hurriedly and in early morning, when no one will see. We find out too that the stranger turns out to be an intermediary; we never see him again. He is simply an agent, a respectable looking fraud acting on behalf of the shadowy side. Still, he is an aspect of that shadow, a go-between who helps ensure that the dysfunctional masculine can take over.

How do you become susceptible to being taken over by the unhealthy masculine? How do you know when you have been taken over?

Deception

December 6, 2010

The next morning, Estella’s mother woke her at dawn, dressed her in her best outfit, and handed her a basket. “Go down to the water and collect seaweed for our meals today. Make sure you get a lot, we don’t have much else to eat.” She gave Estella a quick hug and pushed her out the door. Dutifully Estella went down to the water’s edge and began collecting seaweed.

There’s a certain type of deception involved in the parent’s attitude the next morning. They don’t explain to Estella what they have done, they send her on an errand, one she has undoubtedly performed many times before. They omit the real reason for sending her to the water, substituting for it a plausible sounding one—they need food. Even though Estella knows the truth, she still does as she is told, and begins to collect seaweed. What she is sent to do seems necessary—it has to do with survival after all—but it is all a ruse in service of the loss of power.

This type of deception can be hard to see while it is happening. In the midst of it, we think we are harvesting, ensuring our survival through the hard times. We are dutiful, doing what we think we should to survive, while that sense of duty may come from the part of ourselves selling us out. After the fact, we might see the deception more clearly. Still, there might be small clues we can look for, ways that we can know that all is not as it seems. For Estella, the clue is the incongruence of going to collect seaweed at the beach in her best outfit. It is sometimes these details that can raise the flag that something is amiss.

Has there been a time in your life when you didn’t tell yourself the truth (or the whole truth)? How did that loss of integrity lead to a loss of power? Is there any area of your life now in which you are deceiving yourself in some way?

On the Border of the Unknown

November 23, 2010

“Send her down to the water’s edge tomorrow morning, early. A boat will be there to pick her up.” Estella had crept underneath the window and heard the whole thing. She was sad, but thought surely her parents knew best.

The stranger tells the parents to send Estella to the water’s edge. This is a boundary space, not land, not sea, something in between. It marks the beginning of something new; a boat will pick her up, so she is going on a voyage. As I noted in “Blissful Beginnings,” the water’s edge can also symbolize the borders of our knowledge. The sea represents the unknown, the unconscious, the mystery. Her loss of power takes her to the borders of what she knows, and sends her out into the unknown. Her future is uncertain.

The loss of power creates a fundamental break with what life has been previously. Things will never be the same again; once the loss of power and, in Estella’s case, innocence occurs, we can never go back. The only way is forward, into living without that power and, if we can eventually realize our loss, into reclaiming it.

Estella hears the exchange between her parents and the stranger; she has crept underneath the window even though she was sent outside to play. Her connection to her intuition tells her something is up, but she doesn’t fight what she hears. She is quiescent; she has not yet won enough consciousness to know for herself what is right or wrong. She blindly trusts. We, too, might overly trust our mind over our heart or gut, giving it authority without questioning the rightness of what it says.

Where in your life are you at the ocean’s edge, staring into the unknown?

Where have you allowed your mind to take over decisions? How might you find a way to balance the mind’s knowing with that of the heart and gut in that area of your life?

Selling Out Revisited

November 16, 2010

Since posting about the Stranger, I’ve been reflecting more on the idea of selling out and how we end up in a position where the stranger can convince us to do so.

Growing up female in our culture, there are ways our power is diminished through the ways society is actively turned against the feminine. By the time we are teenagers, we have received the message countless times, in many different ways, that as women we need to look a certain way, act a certain way, and be a certain way, in order to be acceptable. If we do not conform, if in fact we can’t because we don’t naturally look the way we are supposed to or it is against our nature to act in the way we are taught we should, then we are told we will not get what we want or need, and ultimately we will not be happy. Of course, we have to buy into these messages in order for them to have any affect on our power; yet many of us do because how can we escape when they surround us? As children we are socialized through what we take in from the culture around us, which includes not only our parents and those close to us, but also our teachers, peers, and the backdrop of all our lives, the media.

This applies in a much more general sense as well, of course. Any time we buy into belief systems that limit us, we sell ourselves out to a vision that is not authentically who we are. When there is any area of our life that we are unhappy with—career, finances, relationship—we can look to see what underlying belief we have about that area. We might believe that we don’t deserve a great relationship, or that we can have a career or a relationship, but not both. Perhaps we believe that it isn’t possible to make money doing something that we love, or that making money itself is not spiritual and should be beneath us. When we believe an idea that limits our power, we sell out to a smaller vision.

The stranger in Ocean Rose is the instigator of the sale. That stranger for us might initially have been someone in our lives, but now lives inside of us. As Kristi pointed out in her comment to the previous post, the stranger might also show up repeatedly in different forms in our lives. In this case, he or she can also be a catalyst, helping us see the pattern we are in and waking us up to the need for reclaiming our power.

The Stranger: Selling Out

November 12, 2010

On a day that began like any other day a well-dressed stranger came to town. He stopped at Estella’s house (for that was the girl’s name) and spoke to her parents, while Estella was sent outside to play. The stranger offered to buy Estella. “I will pay you well for your daughter, and you will have no need to scrape by for food any longer. She will be well taken care of.” Her mother and father thought the stranger was nice, and what a relief it would be to have some money! Besides, they reasoned, Estella will be much better off with this gentleman.

The perceived path back to ease and comfort for Estella’s parents comes in the form of a stranger who offers to buy Estella. Who is this stranger? Is he a devil or an angel? Or both?

The stranger is that unknown element that enters our life at certain times, an element we must find a way to interact with. It’s a newness, a strangeness, and it keeps us on our toes, makes us wary and aware. Do we trust it? The stranger seems to provide a solution to problems facing us, but at what cost? How high is the price we pay for the easy way out that the stranger offers?

The stranger offers to buy Estella. The parents think it through, reasoning that they could use the money and justifying their desire by saying their daughter will be much better off. It’s reason, thinking, that sells the child, the authentic being, not heart or gut. What would the heart or gut have said in that situation? What happens when we make decisions based solely on one part of ourselves—rationality—at the expense of others?

As children, we can experience this loss of power through being “sold out” to ideas about how we should behave: children should be seen and not heard, children should behave certain ways. Children encounter many shoulds, and anyone who has spent time around small children knows that any shoulds have to be imposed. In their free flowing beingness, free from the shoulds, children naturally point out to adults the discrepancy and distance between the flow of being and the impositions of culture and society. The culture’s shoulds are often imposed out of the sense that the child will be better off, and in some ways, this is true. Rules and customs are necessary for us to live with each other. The challenge is finding the right balance between teaching how to get along while not shoving down a child’s natural spontaneity and authentic being.

As adults, we continue this loss of power through selling ourselves out to ideas about how we should behave, how we should live, or to situations or people that we give up something to without choice and awareness of what we are gaining in return.

Remember too that my fundamental stance is that it is necessary for this loss to happen, this disorienting dilemma to take place. Without it, we could never realize what we have lost and go through the trials to regain it. Thus, there is no point to blame or shame or guilt or pointing the finger. The parents aren’t to blame, the stranger isn’t to blame, Estella is not to blame. It is what happens, and in its happening, we find out who we really are.

Do you recall a fundamental loss of power from when you were young? What about more recently, how have you, or how are you, selling yourself out and losing your power to a person, situation, or even internal voice? Who or what is the stranger within you?

Hard Times

November 5, 2010

One year, the rains stopped, the fish disappeared, and the village fell into hard times. Families struggled to feed their children off of meager catches and what they could gather from the land.

The loss of power begins with a lack of balance; the village has fallen on hard times, there is little water, little nourishment. When survival is at stake, it is much more difficult to maintain a focus on authenticity and integrity. We just need to eat. This isn’t an issue for the small heroine of our tale, but for her parents, it is.

In our times, this survival mentality may exist even within homes that are well-stocked with food. It is a mindset that can exist within any material conditions, from total abundance to complete lack. It can also arise from a lack of balance in our lives that is not directly related to the amount of food on our shelves. If we are working too much and have no time for nourishing ourselves in other ways, we might find ourselves in a similar place.

When in this mentality, as we shall soon see, we are much more susceptible to selling ourselves or others out, taking the easier route, the one that seems to lead back to feeling more secure.

Where in your life are you out of balance? Can you recognize the survival mentality within yourself? Are you aware of times when you act out of it? What happens in these times? Where is your focus?

End of Bliss, Beginning of Becoming

October 15, 2010

But this story isn’t about her bliss, for what kind of a story would that be? No, her bliss only lasted a short time, and this story is about what happened to end her bliss and begin her becoming.

 

We all begin in a state of bliss, our undifferentiated selves, still in touch with our power. There is no story in this state, however. Our becoming, our growth, begins when that bliss ends, when something happens that snaps us momentarily out of it. It’s often a disorienting dilemma, to borrow a term from transformative learning—something happens that provides evidence that the world isn’t the way we thought it was. We are stopped short with a realization that the world isn’t safe, or that our parents aren’t who we thought they were, or that we aren’t who we thought we were. That event may, to our adult thinking now, seem small, even tiny, but to our selves in bliss, it was huge, tearing us away from what we knew.

It can be easy to see this losing of our bliss and innocence as a bad thing, something that shouldn’t happen, that we should protect our children from at all costs. But is that true?

Without this loss, there is no story. There is no becoming. The disorienting dilemma that causes us to lose our innocence can be the beginning of a transformation.

Transformations can sometimes seem like taking a step (or two) backward. At the beginning, and sometimes through much of the process, we may feel like our life is falling apart. When we can stick with it, though, we find that falling apart is just one step toward putting together a more integrated self.

Do you recall the disorienting dilemma that ended your bliss? What happened that made you realize that the world wasn’t the way you thought it was? Can you recall other disorienting dilemmas in your life?

Blissful Beginnings

September 25, 2010

Long ago, before the wings of time were clipped, there lived a young girl. Her life was a blissful existence with her parents in a small fishing village next to the sea. Her playground was the water’s edge, the beach with it’s daily offering of playthings, the rocks and tidepools with their fanciful creatures.

I have always loved the shore. Perhaps it is from growing up on one, perhaps it comes from the symbolism of a coastline—that area where the seemingly endless and fluid ocean meets the intractable and solid land. It’s a boundary area. I once heard someone use coastline as a metaphor for knowledge. If what we know is an island, and what we don’t know is the ocean, then as the island expands, so does the coastline, the boundary between what we know and don’t know. The amount that we are aware we don’t know grows at the same rate as the amount that we are aware we know.

The story begins in this boundary zone, the space where vastly different elements and qualities meet; water and land, fluid and solid, mutable and immutable. Not only do they meet, they co-exist, creating a magical place that lends itself to ideas and possibilities. The horizon far out to sea, the vast sky above, the unreachable depths, all transmit a sense of mystery, risk, and potential.

This is where our heroine begins: as pure potential. It is where we all begin, in blissful innocence, playing in the abundance of our environment, unaware of anything beyond the miraculous manifestations of this moment, and this one, and this one. Everything is new, unknown, waiting to be discovered and for us to discover it.

In this state we are in touch with our power, completely and naturally; yet it is not a state in which we are aware of being in touch with it. We are unconsciously in alignment with the source.

Do you recall a time of blissful existence in the boundary zone of infinite possibility? What was it like?