Sometimes healing sucks: Chiron rising, the problem with progress, and Inanna in the underworld

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Collage by Stephanie Wild

The problem with the idea of healing is that the narrative of progress does not always fit well with reality. Life is both a process of growth and of entropy, and many many other things. I find myself, amidst this life, focusing always on getting better – on progress, healing, renewal.

Chiron, the asteroid symbolising the wounded healer, was rising at the time of my birth. It sits in my 12th house, in Gemini. Chiron conjuncts my North Node, linking it closely with my learning in this life. I still have a lot of unpacking to do around understanding these prominent aspects of my chart but I can tell you what it resonates with so far in my life.

Chiron rising conjunct my North Node for me coincides with a life focusses around healing and teaching. As a young child I felt a deep hopelessness at my atheist upbringing. I developed a paralysing phobia of death due to phychological abuse from about age six. Around that age I also had a kind of spiritual epiphany – a vision of connectivity – of people holding hands over the world – a sudden deep understanding of empathy. These are all very 12th house themes. My childhood trauma seems to coicide with early Pluto transits – adding to the death themes. Around the age of 12 I developed depression which I spent many years working through – with counselling, shamanic work and various kinds of paganism (in my teens), and then meditation, copious affirmations, hypnotherapy, energy healing, more counselling and writing (in my 20s). I have done so much healing: food/nutrition based healing, yoga, journalling… basically every kind of healing I came across that resonated in order to try to deal with chronic illness and chronic fatigue. A huge thread through my life story has been healing in one form of another.

By now, in my early 30s, I would expect to be really good at it. I have a couple of decades of actively seeking out, learning and participating in healing processes – and teaching them as well. But life is full of challenges – difficult transits like Chiron squaring my natal Neptune and also (simultaneously) Neptune squaring my natal Chiron. Going through journeys of losing faith and re-growing it, the pain of psychological dying giving way to the pain of psychological rebirth. So much healing.

Healing for me has taken on a very different process, in recent years. It is no longer about crystals and guided visualisations as it was in my teens, or about re-programming my mind with beneficial thoughts and tracing back my past life lessons as it often was in my 20s. Post Saturn return, my healing process is mostly about journalling and paying attention – cultivating my ability to listen to deep intuition, and also every form of self-care that makes sense to me. Astrology, a language I began to learn in my early 20s, has been very useful to me in understanding the learning that I am currently going through – every transit is surprisingly relevant to my life, and the knowledge of the transit’s lessons, challenges and opportunity helps me to get the most out of the difficulties.

Sometimes healing sucks. Probably, most of the time. It is hard. it is painful. It often requires trying multiple things that don’t work before, hopefully, we find something that does. I like to use metaphors for the psyche based on biology and ecological systems: some wounds require intervention in order to heal – we must clean out the pus and muck, untangle and separate ourselves from the things we are caught up in, remove psychic splinters. Other wounds need to be rested in order to heal – too often we think of ourselves as we think of doctors – as active agents of healing, however the real healing is not an active process, just as doctors themselves do not heal. In order to heal, we must remove all obstacles to the healing process which is a natural process.

When I am going through painful healing processes my main coping strategies for this kind of thing are going for walks and journaling. Also – doing all the things I know that help me to take care of myself – which are not always the things that are easy and comfortable. When I am going through a difficult time I want to stay in bed and eat junk food but that leads to feeling worse! The problem with knowing all about healing is that you have high expectations for yourself and want to feel like you are progressing. The processes of healing often don’t feel like that. It can feel hopeless and hard – a big struggle with no clear light at the end of the tunnel.

Sometimes healing sucks because it doesn’t feel like we are making progress at all – and we feel like we should already know how to deal with this shit by now! Sometime the fixation I have with progress – with always getting better – just makes me feel worse. Awareness of this allows me the opportunity to release my grasp on the fixation with progress. I do not need to be always getting better. Life is a process that will always lead to death – ageing and entropy are inevitable if we life long enough. There is still so much to accept here. These topics can be terrifying psychological terrain to tread. When we do stumble upon them the dread sets in, we have stepped towards the shadow, across the boundaries of light and into the underworld.

In Sumerian mythology, Inanna’s descent into the underworld provides a wonderful metaphor for the suffering and pain of such a journey. The goddess Inanna is often archetypal linked to Venus, the divine feminine aspect, the goddess self. Inanna journeys into the underworld to meet her sister Ereshkigal. To prepare for the journey she dresses elaborately, with lapiz lazuli, her garments represent her power, but along the journey, each of the seven gates she passes through force her to remove her garments and jewelery,  piece by piece stripping her of her power. These are the snags along the dark path we tread into our own shadows. When she reaches Ereshkigal, the dark feminine archetype, Inanna is naked. Ereskigal and the seven judges shout at Inanna and murder her. She is hung on a hook. Three days and three nights pass before the god Enki helps to resurrect Inanna. She is reborn, just as we may be when we emerge from deep painful healing, cutting away the deadwood of our lives, clearing space to make way for new life to grow.

We are good at celebrating the light and success – we also need to learn to honour death, to sit with pain, understand anguish, to embrace struggle, and to accept the inevitable, when it arrives.

 

 

 

 

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Projections: love and the Mirror of Erised

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In the first book of Harry Potter (Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone) Harry stumbles across a mirror late one night when exploring the Hogwarts castle. He is instantly entranced and fixated. He seeks to return, night after night, to stare longingly into the mirror.

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I have been thinking a lot about crushes, fixated infatuation and the feeling of falling wildly in love as metaphorically like the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter: it shows people their heart’s desire but is just an illusion. Harry sees his parents. Ron sees himself winning the house cup etc.

Many people have wasted away in front of the mirror, longing, trying to get what they want out of it… Voldemort sees himself using the philosopher’s stone to become immortal. At that point what Harry wants most is to find the stone and not use it. It appears in his pocket.

We see a beautiful illusion in another person. Maybe it is the child inside ourselves teaching out for reunion with a parental saviour. Maybe it is the happily ever after Prince rescue that feels so close to a death wish with heavenly afterlife.

On some level we want to surrender to oblivion and not to have to do so much. Life is exhausting. We are weary. Everything is hard. But maybe the equivalent of finding the philosopher’s stone our my pocket is discovering a hidden nugget of truth or deeper self awareness.

Relating to other people is often a process of navigating projections.

A similar reflection of relationships is represented in Osho’s Zen cards:

7 of Water: Projections

The man and woman in this card are facing each other, yet they are not able to see each other clearly. Each is projecting an image they have constructed in their minds, covering the real face of the person they are looking at.

All of us can get caught up in projecting movies of our own making onto the situations and people surrounding us. It happens when we are not fully aware of our own expectations, desires and judgments; instead of taking responsibility for them and owning them, we try to attribute them to others. A projection can be devilish or divine, disturbing or comforting, but it is a projection nonetheless–a cloud that prevents us from seeing reality as it is. The only way out is to recognize the game. When you find a judgment arising about another, turn it around: Does what you see in others really belong to you? Is your vision clear, or clouded by what you want to see?

In a cinema hall, you look at the screen, you never look at the back–the projector is at the back. The film is not there really on the screen; it is just a projection of shadow and light. The film exists just at the back, but you never look at that. And the projector is there. Your mind is at the back of the whole thing, and the mind is the projector. But you always look at the other, because the other is the screen.
When you are in love the person seems beautiful, no comparison. When you hate, the same person seems the ugliest, and you never become aware of how the same person can be the ugliest and the same person can be the most beautiful…. So the only way to reach to truth is to learn how to be immediate in your vision, how to drop the help of the mind. This agency of the mind is the problem, because mind can create only dreams….
Through your excitement the dream starts looking like reality. If you are too excited then you are intoxicated, then you are not in your senses. Then whatsoever you see is just your projection. And there are as many worlds as there are minds, because every mind lives in his own world.

Osho Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing, Chapter 7

Just as Osho says: look at the back, look at what’s really behind the projection.

Stilling the mind and the secret power of mental traps

Collage by Stephanie Wild http://stephanie.me.uk/

Collage by Stephanie Wild http://stephanie.me.uk/

Meditation can yield spectacular insights about ourselves and the nature of the universe. It also often brings awareness of the patterns we repeat in our minds. Time and time again, we find ourselves alighting on thoughts that look suspiciously like loops. These are the backing tapes of the conscious mind and they often go something like this:

anatomy of a mental trap

These traps often focus on current situations in our lives, work worries, romance worries, issues of powerlessness and frustration. These are the ‘problems’ that are the easiest to fixate on, but more often than not the fixation results only in stress, in an escalation of tension, in the metaphoric banging of heads against brick walls, and not in anything remotely resembling solutions. As Einstein said:

We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.

The worry often seems to emerge out of nowhere, or from the stillness of meditation itself. The bored mind, in uncharted waters stalks its next dopamine fix: “This is a problem… I should do something.” This rarely ends well. In fact, this kind of bored mind is not particularly good at coming up with solutions. Solutions often come from somewhere else entirely, some deep unknowable unconscious room… [or other more appropriate esoteric metaphor].

Anyway, with meditation, the idea is to go on dropping out of these traps, right? So they emerge and we recognise them and then go back to whatever practice we were attempting. We go back to focusing on our breathing or whatever. But sometimes there is actually a great opportunity here to deepen awareness, to deepen practice and to go meta on this stuff. Sometimes it happens accidentally. The conscious/beta mind is being dropped, the repetitive patterns of tension/traps are recognised and then we catch a glimpse of a bigger picture, of a bigger pattern.

The normal conscious beta mind can’t really do this, you need an altered state. But when you do get a glimpse here it is a beautiful and rare moment of clarity, of seeing the forest for the trees, of realising that most of the time we are just looking at a couple of pixels out of a massive screen and interpreting the world from a ridiculously narrow perspective. It’s interesting that it is the traps themselves that often provide a gateway for this kind of experience. The tension they create – the tension of contradiction – provides a platform for noticing… and a potentially transformative space.