Children are the worst (and best) spiritual teachers

 

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Lean Into It / Sweet Chaos – By Stephanie Wild

Since 2008 I have been going through a very challenging kind of spiritual training. It’s called parenting. This training never really stops and there is no viable way to quit. Lessons can occur at all hours of the day and night, and are always different, often painful, stressful, exhausting, and very very challenging.

When she was a baby, the lessons involved a lot of sleep deprivation, confusion, anxiety and coping with the painful ringing in my chest every time my tiny master cried out. I likened it to the kinds of Zen where the master hits you on the head to make you pay attention. I have, for a long time, considered all of life to be about spiritual learning, and why should this most central, mundane, intense and special part of my life be any different. My baby was born into water with her eyes open. Still connected, it seemed, to the source from which she came. Newborns always appear this way to me: little Buddhas. Present. Totally in the moment whether they are crying or sleeping or staring into space.

As they get older they learn to be less present, but their lessons can teach us to be more present in the most challenging ways. Our children present us with out own incredible vulnerability and powerlessness. They give us the terrifying and agonising experience of being an impotent god. We don’t have magic wands to take away their pain and suffering, to change the behaviour of other children, to make everything okay. They lash out and push boundaries and try to manipulate us, and that is all part of their learning as well as our own.They reflect back to us our own inner-child.

The Moon represents the  inner-child in a person’s chart. The sign it is in indicates the character of the inner-child and the house placement of the moon indicates the focus and wider patterns of this sensitive, vulnerable, reflective and core part of us. Aspects to the Moon with other planetary bodies reveal our key challenges, opportunities and gifts. The Moon reflects our relationship with our mother, our own emotional selves, and also our children. On a similar note, I have written before about Parenting By the Moon, of observing the quick-changing moods as they reflect in relating to children, a practice I am often too busy to think about!

The Child archetypes of fairy tales can be mischievous, but tend towards the innocent.

They are easily tempted, like Goldilocks, the girl in the Red Shoes, or Little Red Riding Hood. They will easily stray from the safe path, their innocence and lack of awareness is sometimes startling.

The way we treat this child self is reflected in the stories involving evil step parents. Generally the children in these stories are presented as pure, good and innocent, the step sisters are the greedy, whiny ones. From an archetypal perspective all of these characters are parts of self. and in our daily lives we enact these patterns, projecting the interior into the external world.

We can be the Too Good Mother/Father archetype one minute, then, when our children push us to the brink of tolerance and we have nothing left to give we can too easily flash into the rage of the Evil Tyrant. We can even become children ourselves, in trying to cope with our children, putting them into a role where they must act as an adult because we have lost all control.

All of this is horrible, wonderful, challenging, learning

The lesson is always to be present, and;

  • Usually, to be patient. To be grounded like earth.
  • Often, to be like water, to flow with empathy and gently shape the situation.
  • Frequently, to be air-like, to use logic and reason, to encourage these faculties to develop in our children, when they are not too overwhelmed to think clearly.
  • Sometimes, to embody the passion and bravery – the swift action of fire – but carefully, because fire can also burn, and violence does not bring peace.

Parenting is the hardest job, and yet least socially rewarded job. As parents we are expected to do so many conflicting things – to be perfect, to be saints, to be disciplined, to be kind and generous and nurturing, to be strict and unmovable forces, to never give in or reward ‘bad’ behaviour, and yet to empathise with the struggles of powerless that our children face on a daily basis… and so so many other things. The impossible struggles might seem hopeless and pointless at times, but they do offer many many opportunities for learning and growing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Saturn finally leaves Scorpio: good riddance!

Saturn finally leaves Scorpio: good riddance!

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This is the last night of Saturn in Scorpio for this Saturn cycle. Each cycle lasts around 29 years, and Saturn is in each sign for over two years.

Saturn is the stern teacher archetype, associated with hard lessons, structure, challenges, age and death, among other things. Scorpio is the deep dark zodiac sign of power, fear, transformation, penetrating depth, life and death… the two together bring us face to face with our fears, our power-struggles and our own mortality.

I felt Saturn enter scorpio a few years ago. I was largely oblivious to astrological occurrences at that point. I only knew the basics, but I knew my Saturn return was coming up in Scorpio, so I had a vague idea that Saturn would be going there within the year. I was visiting a community as part of my PhD research and I found myself reading a random book, confronted with fears of intimacy and vulnerability. The thought occurred to me: Saturn must be getting into scorpio. A few days later, upon returning home, I looked it up and sure enough, it had gotten  there just at the time of my revelations.

I was expecting Saturn in Scorpio to be hard, but nothing would prepare me for how hard it was. Every major I’ve  feared was stirred up in a massive way, in uncanny synchronicity with exact transits. Some of the details are too personal to share, but let’s just say it has been agonising.  It has also been astoundingly rewarding. I have confronted patterns and aspects of myself that I had never been able to face or even recognise before in this long journey through the dark.

If you look at where saturn has been (where Scorpio is in your natal chart), over the past few years you may notice that this area has been under rampant transformation and restructuring. Saturday has been going through my 5th house, home of creativity, pleasure friendship, parenting and play. The 5th is often light hearted and gin but with natal Saturn there it lends a seriousness to my character. Incidentally, all of my Scorpio nice fear-facing challenges have occurred through these types of things. IT HAS NOT BEEN FUN. Saturn also squared my Leo Sun and is still in fairly close conjunction with my Mars at the end of Scorpio, giving me plenty of chances to release my power issues, inhibitions and helping me learn to stand in my own power.

Compared with the last few years, Saturn in Sagittarius (philosophy, nature, expansion) sounds a lot more fun… but we’ll see about that!

Nursing the primal wound

Every now and then someone will treat you really badly, whether it’s accidentally, incidentally or intentionally, and trigger all this horrible emotional stuff, right? Maybe it’s your boss, your current or former lover/partner, your best friend, mother, father or child. Maybe the’re triggering anger, detrayal, anguish, fear. Maybe you react assertively or barely react at all but either way the feelings are there. The projections run wild: “That bitch!/bastard!/creep!/idiot!/scoundrel!” How dare they? We feel wounded, underneath all the other emotions. We feel hurt. We probably feel like the other someone else has hurt us and is doing us damage, but most probably, the damage has already been done – was done ages ago – and we are re-living it over and over, and over…

The primal wound is the center of all other turmoil.  It probably comes from the drastic post-natal separation from the womb or some other very early childhood trauma and every other painful experience has compounded it. It is what Eckhart Tolle calls the pain-body. He describes it as a tangled mess of wounded ego – of trauma, abandonment, betrayal, hurt, fear and general suffering. The pain-body is often dormant. We wander around living pretty sweet lives until something nasty happens and triggers all this shit.

The wound is primal because it predates narrative-memory, it is part of primary human experience.  It is the wrenching separation from the feeling of being connected, of being absolutely safe and warm, of floating in the center of the universe. It is so difficult for us to learn that we aren’t the center of the universe – at least not to everyone else – because everyone is struggling to learn the same thing. This traumatic separation triggers our base survival fear. We are terrified of our limitations, or our mortality, of our insignificance. There is only so much a young ego can take before it ruptures and becomes wounded.

Although it’s obvious that living life through this woundedness is not in one’s best interests, we can become awfully attached to our wounds and the traumas and dramas that inevitably surround them. We construct our identities around them: “I am so-and-so and I am ____” insert addiction/trauma/negative label here. We can even be proud of what we’ve suffered to the point that we refuse to stop suffering. Our woundedness gives us an excuse to opt-out of life-obligations, it gives us an excuse to be nasty because we were once treated that way. Really, you don’t need the excuse. If you want to opt-out, do it, if you want to be nasty, go ahead. Excuses are just more unnecessary justification. If you want drama, there is plenty to create and share. If you’re over it and want to move on then begin the disentangling process.

We feel justified in our suffering, in our anger, in our vengeful thoughts. Maybe we are justified, let’s assume we are, either way justification isn’t useful. If we just stay ‘justified’ we tangle the wound even more. We can hold onto all the crap. We easily get stuck. Let’s try something different. Let’s try disentangling from current projections and old trauma. Drop the other people from the equation for a minute. Good work. Now, what is left? That wound. Over the years it has been pushed down into the unconscious to fester, it has been covered over with all sorts of ugly and pretty things. It has become like a boil, an infection seething under the skin and this new trauma, this new trigger of pain/fear/anger has brought it to the surface. It’s not a pretty sight, but it is a chance to clear out the pus, clean the wound and let it heal.

Awareness is always helpful, like a flashlight in the dark. If we can focus on this wound – not in an unhelpful dwelling-on-it-going-around-in-circles kind of way because that will only get us more tangled up – but in way that is clear of projections, in a way that regularly cleans it out and wraps it in safe thoughts, in a way that occasionally squeezes out more of the pus until there is none left, then we can give it all the right things to heal. We don’t do the healing in our minds, we just remove the barriers. Healing is automatic in the right circumstances. To speed it up we can nurture ourselves. We can eat the foods our body really wants (not the kind our wound-wrapped-mind craves for comfort), we can move and stretch and exercise in the way our bodies prefer. We can create and be with friends and in nature and do all those things that feed us. We can listen inwards to what we really need instead of looking outwards into projections of happiness on the buffet-table of life that may be all empty-calories and no nutrient-density. A special kind of freedom is possible when we can separate ourselves from the drama and projections of the mundane world, and freedom can be terrifying too, but at least it’s not tedious repetitive cycles of pain.

Archetypes and Transformation

Archetypes and Transformation

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“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” 
― C.G. Jung

Archetypes are the personalities within the personality. They are universal characters that pop up in various forms all over the world: the child, the clown, the victim, the rescuer, the predator, the hag… They are characters in films; they are characters inside us.

When we start to work with archetypes we open ourselves up for transformation. Each archetype we meet consciously has the potential to heal it’s broken twin within ourselves.

If you are a woman who has trouble in relationships with men it is likely you have a distorted, unhealthy animus, the male part of self. Likewise for men, their anima may be damaged or undeveloped. It is likely that, growing up, we didn’t have enough good relationships around us or opposite sex role models. Consciously thinking about, writing about, and creating a healthy animus or anima can help to restore balance to the psyche.

There are infinite possibilities for growth and healing with archetypes. Ask yourself: what reoccurring problems am I facing? What archetypes are involved? Are they damaged or distorted? Where did this come from in my childhood? What would this archetype be like if it was healthy?