The Serpent: Healing My Symbology

This evening in my meditation I found myself gently rolling my head.  Clockwise, then counter clockwise.  My mind was clear.  The movement felt good for my tense neck and shoulders.  There were a few moments that as I moved, my movements reminded me of a snake.  In fact, when it first occurred to me, the word, “serpent” popped into my head.  Creepy right??  But, what if its not creepy at all?

I began to journal.  Honestly, I wanted to push the notion of identification with a serpent out of my head and focus on other things.  I’ve been thinking lately about the concept of dualistic thinking.  This box so many of us operate in.  It’s a framework that says life is “us vs them” with comfort coming from feeling like one is a part of an inner circle.  Once that is sensed their is a deceptive reassurance that one’s thoughts are all correct and that person feels justified and vindicated in thinking those outside are wrong.

My context: I am a white, middle-aged, southeastern American woman born in a small town and into a southern American Christian world.  So, the value I ascribe to certain symbols are different than say a middle-eastern man or south African woman.  If you share my context you will likely have already picked up on and experienced a sense of discomfort or unease or morbid curiosity when you saw the title of this blog and the reference of identifying with a serpent.  Why?  Because in my culture that is colored by the Christian Bible and the fact that we claim a savior who was Jewish our minds immediately refer to the negative connotations of the serpent in the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation the snake is given a bad rap.  Really bad.  In fact its image often represents Satan.  The ultimate adversary of God and tormentor of humankind.   In Genesis there is a prophecy that the offspring of Eve will bruise or crush the head of the serpent.  We understand that offspring to be Jesus Christ and the serpent the devil.  Only twice in scripture is the serpent presented in positive light.  In Genesis the serpent is called, “more crafty, intelligent, cunning than any beast” and again while the children of Israel were wandering in the desert looking for the promised land there is an instance where “fiery serpents” entered the camps and killed and made sick many people.  In order for them to be healed from this attack they were instructed to look upon the image of a serpent that had been crafted from brass.  Needless to say I grabbed onto the positive symbology.  More importantly…I allowed my mind to explore the biological characteristics of snakes.  I’m very blessed to have done so and here’s why:

  1.  Growth-when it comes to growth in humans or animals the visual of that is so subtle you really can’t see it happening.  Except when it comes snakes.  The growth of a snake involves shedding it’s skin and that is something everyone can see.  Can you imagine your skin coming off every time you have a revelation, make a good choice, learn something new or celebrate another birthday?  Awkward.  Scary looking. Startling.  Right?  Additionally, it puts the snake in a very vulnerable position.  But growth spurts do that to us too right?  It usually isn’t pretty when we shed old ideals, behaviors, patterns, etc.
  2. Right before the serpent enters it’s first scene in the Bible where it is cursed for cajoling the woman into eating forbidden fruit that her eyes may be opened to the reality of evil as well as good, it receives a rave review.  It is said to be the most crafty and intelligent and cunning animal elevating it’s intelligence above all other beasts.  To me this is very moving.  My childhood and adolescence held a running theme where my intelligence was constantly questioned.  When I got in trouble the first words I heard from my grandfather was, “stupid, silly damn thing.”  My grandmother’s words were a little less harsh.  She would immediately say something to the effect of, “well you should have KNOWN better.”  Because, all kids come automatically knowing right?  And finally during the times when my mother orbited my life and we fought she would always say, “you’re not even old enough to have an opinion.  You have no idea.”  Now as an adult I find myself in a pursuit to be one of the greatest minds in history.  Yeah, I know.  My ability to “correctly” perceive and righteously act has hijacked the relaxation and fun and ignorant bliss I could have experienced thus far.  I developed this obsessive umpire in my mind.  Every moment of everyday I have discovered that I am judging each moment as either good or bad and I’ve robbed myself of simply being.
  3. Had I never known this context I have found myself in, a white, southern Christian woman, I may have been conditioned and introduced to the imagery of the snake as the epitome of wisdom, a master of growth, a symbol of success, a representation of healthy sexuality, an expert hunter.
  4. As I allowed my mind to open to these truths and additional meanings I began to feel a sense of pride rather than unease.  I am…wise.  I am one who is always growing and requiring more of myself and determined to stretch.  I aspire to be a symbol of success, one with healthy sexuality and an expert hunter or provider for myself.  I am serpent-like.  My nimble movement inspires.

As a psychology student, an empathic person and aspiring professional counselor it is important to me to be relatable.  I want people to feel open to me.  And, I feel like one of the greatest medicines or gifts I can offer to myself…is healing my symbology.  I want to take all the disowned and shamed symbols and revive them.  I want to give them new meaning and the place of honor they deserve.  On a practical level I want to not immediately have a negative connotation of someone who perhaps loves snakes or brings up dreams about morphing into a snake in their dreams during a counseling session.  Healing my “seeing” better ensures my ability to be an agent of healing in the lives of others.

This year I have plans of shedding life-long patterns.  And, I’m going to be honest and warn you.  If you know me well, if you follow me on social media there are going to be times my shedding is visible.  And, that may look weird or make you uncomfortable.  But, I am determined to stretch.  I am determined to enjoy the feel of a new skin.  One that is more pliable and more suited to the joys of experiencing growth.

So, starting off 2020 I’ve healed at least one symbol and made new room in my mind and heart to better understand the world around me.

I am serpent.  And, I’m healing my symbology.

Snake shedding skin

Below The Surface

I think one of the reasons self-hatred is so sneaky is because it’s not something that the ego will allow. Or, if it does allow it certainly won’t allow you to consciously acknowledge it.
 
My childhood and adolescence was very disempowering. I was given no scaffolding to grow. I was taught that my feelings didn’t matter and that I wasn’t capable of having an opinion.
 
While I didn’t really think that I believed these things as an adult my behaviors and boundaries have told a different story.
 
Sitting quietly. Allowing my mind to explore and acknowledge some bad decisions I’ve made that I knew would cost me peace and physical health has been very empowering and transformative.
 
In these times of meditation I’ve been able to go below the surface of my loudest thoughts and beliefs into the deeper places that are harder to sound. Places in my mind that are like long abandoned, dusty, ancient libraries. This exploration is like walking into a room where no one has been in millenia. It has a stillness that is unfamiliar. It feels profound. It stirs a curiosity as to why it’s so unvisited. And, therein lies a powerful truth. Noise. Loudness. Disruption. Turmoil. Discord. Those are the things that get attention. And why is that? We are wired for self-preservation. Whenever anything threatening comes up that is where all of our focus goes. Unfortunately, our modern lives operate on the premise of scarcity even though we are surrounded by abundance. More is always being required of us. More hours at work. More patience because someone or something is always trying us. And, we find ourselves in a rhythm where we exist in operating in the loud areas of our minds.
 
Yet there is better for us. There is a richness we are sacrificing. There is wisdom and love and understanding that we are exchanging for desperation and fight or flight. We are pushed to perform everyday of our lives and the concept of just “being” is becoming more foreign by the day.
 
I am determined to spend more time in this transcendent and quiet place where there are messages of empowerment. I’m tapping into a confidence in my long neglected inner compass. I’m positioned to honor my intuition. I’m becoming comfortable enforcing my boundaries. I’m feeling hopeful and eager and optimistic about uncovering the hidden aspects of me and all the ways I’m going to be strengthened by these discoveriesThe mind

 

Our Layered Presence

In 2019 I began to be able to present. After years of debilitating anxiety I’d finally healed enough that I could show up at work, out with my friends, doing my hobbies, and at my workouts in a mindset that wasn’t consumed with thoughts of, “ok, how long can I stay before my heart starts racing uncontrollably and I have to leave and be embarrassed?” Being able to be mentally present for the people and activities I enjoy and the responsibilities required of me was invigorating. I began to actually observe myself being in the moment as though I had a bird’s eye view or out of body view of myself. And, the joy this brings me is indescribable! Observing myself being in the moment is both fascinating and freeing for me. It gives me the ability to measure and solidify the progress I’m making towards being the unbothered happy person I want to be. It untethers me from the falsely perceived notion that I have to worry to be valuable.

In my meditation this morning I was exploring my empathetic ability. My goal for this part of my nature is to instruct it and inform it and educate it in order that it might be a blessing to me and not a curse or vexation that creates an unbearable emotional burden. If you are an empath or an empathetic person you can identify with the exhaustion that can come with this if you don’t stay in balance and honor your boundaries.

As I meditated, my mind open and free from thought the word, “past” came to me and I instantly understood a new direction unfolding for me concerning practicing presence. You see our presence is multi-layered. We can be physically present but our minds far away. Sometimes we can be physically present and somewhat mentally present as well but still be distracted. Our minds kind of tune in and out and away from what is important in the moment and so we miss out on the energy of that moment. And, like myself, for those of you who suffer from panic disorder or some other anxiety disorder, you might find yourself being able to be present without panic. Which is nice even if it’s that’s all we can experience! But, what about our past? What about the negative experiences that have shaped us? Are we bringing that with us? I am. And it colors every moment. The moments I am now enjoying with a new freedom from anxiety are still nuanced by hurt.

If you are an empathic person you probably realize you have keen intuition. Others probably sense this about you as well. As an empath, intuition is one of our greatest gifts. It’s a wonderful tool. It’s like an enhanced compass that can benefit not only ourselves but those we care about. But, it’s true ability is only realized when we can be present in the moment from a place that is not filled with the wounds of our past.

I had to ask myself this question. “Is my present moment being dictated from the wounds of my past?” The answer to this was quite revealing. The truth is, yes. For example, I am aware that when I am speaking with men I feel a deep sense of skepticism and distrust just below the surface of my awareness. I know this is because from childhood thru adulthood I was frequently wounded due to the actions/inactions of men. But, can I really allow this to color my every interaction with every man I am around? No. It keeps me from being the best version of myself and it hinders my ability to serve my fellow humans in all the ways that I feel called.

I’ve talked quite a bit about symbolism and primordial imagery in my writings. As my eyes were closed and I was listening to some frequencies for my meditation the image of the ocean lapping onto some sand came into my mind’s eye. I recalled that during my times at the beach watching the waves wash in and out I could always see a sinking imprint of the water into the sand after it had gone back out to sea. In other words while the water had receded there was still a trace of it that remained to sink into the sand and that is what kept the sand wet though not completely submersed. That is what our moments of presence are like when they are still being colored by the past. We may not be completely under water but there remains this constant lapping of an imprint that is ever sinking into the depths of our moments.

Maybe for you it’s not anxiety, or the past that color the moments when you’d like to be present or are required to be present. Maybe it’s something else altogether. Whatever it may be I encourage you to get in touch with yourself. Delve through the layers that are you as though you’ve just opened a secret door to a mysterious and endless vault of treasure. See what are the first things you’re able to grab ahold of when the door of you opens and work with that. You never know the discoveries that can be made that will unlock greater levels of freedom and happiness.

The Moon On My Left And The Sun On My Right

Lying in the grass. The moon on my left and the sun on my right.

Each brilliant on display

And I’m reminded of the beauty of contrast every day.

But, I can’t get myself out of the way…

 

Martin Luther where is our future?

Cause I think we need a suture

See we’re bleeding out because of clout

And there is no balm in Gilead

Can’t you see you’ve been had?

 

Awakening to resolve

Means you’ll have to involve

All the parts of you that they’d like to solve

Either that…or devolve.

 

The culture that is pressure

Calls for revolution without measure.

 

The moon on my left and the sun on my right

Looks like mere inches apart according to the span of my hand.

But, it really isn’t about my hand is it?

Rather what I give it to or what I can see through

That is what counts.

And the revolution mounts…

The revolution mounts.

Insipid Sky

The stars were flung
The chords were strung
The moon was hung

And day turned into night turned into day turned into night
And the timing wasn’t right

The birds have sung
I climbed a rung
And filled a lung
With the breathe of you
And the other I filled with dew

And these days have rolled on in to night
And the years have passed by
And here I am caught in between
Looking into the gray
As I release a sigh…sigh.

I wonder why.
Why after all these years it’s always the same.
Pain upon pane upon pain upon the panes of my life.
I wish they were stained glass or chartreuse or something.

The stars were flung
The chords were strung
The moon was hung
And I am stung

By your silence
By your apathetic violence

Empathy, Toxic Shock and Grounding

All of these words came to me today in my meditation.  If you are an empathic person you understand that the ability to “feel with” those around you can be very draining.  And, after a while that draining can be damaging.  The climate of America 2019  is one of hurry and busyness and the work that really counts…rarely gets done.  Here’s what I mean.  In the hustle and bustle of life we often find ourselves exchanging our energy, our emotion, our focus and our time for things that do not sow back into our lives in  meaningful ways.  Sure our bills may (or may not) get paid due to our busyness but our sense of peace, our health and relationships suffer.  Now that is just in speaking about busy lives.  But, what about busy lives that are filled with trauma, toxic people, unfulfilling work environments and the like?  It’s doubly hard to put your hand to the plow of each new day knowing that on top of the pressure to produce you also have to appear to be “fine.”  If this is a prolonged state of being it leads to “toxic shock.”  I think you probably gather at this point I’m not talking about a bacteria that needs to be treated with medication.  But, it is something just as sinister.  And, it does require treatment.  Follow me?  When we go through prolonged periods of stress our nervous systems can develop inflammatory patterns and lose it’s seamless ability to flow and heal us the way it once could.  Restoration is needed and in this hurried society that is hard to find.  And, that is why I’m thinking on the verbiage of “toxic shock.”  It’s a place where our nervous systems, our mental and emotional health and physical health all become affected. In short we go into shock and end up living in survival mode.  We do just the necessary things to survive because to do more means more energy expenditure.  Think about when someone shocks a pool.  This is what I’m getting at.  The level of chlorine becomes so high that it kills off all things organic.  In the same way, stress if left unchecked can rise to levels that kill things within us.

When I think about empathic people I get the visual image of dark, rich, healthy soil.  A medium in which you can grow just about anything and know that whatever is produced will be hardy and abundant because of the material in which it was cultivated.  Have you ever wondered why you attract people who feel so draining to you?  It’s because replete attracts deplete.  And, I am convinced that once someone who is depleted learns how to focus the energy of their empathy towards themselves true healing and replenishment take place.  It is in that place that we are most effective and equipped to help the depleted people in our lives.

The practice of grounding has been popping up in my daily grind.  I hear people mention it.  I’ll see an article on social media about it.  My mother will suggest that I do it and so on.  My mother was the first person I’d heard about this from.  We have ended many of our conversations with her saying, “Zett, you need to go out and get you some cool mountain air and walk around barefoot and let your feet feel the earth.  It’ll be good for you.”  Albeit I didn’t understand at the time what she meant and I paid little attention to it because I used to think some of her free spirit ways were hokey at best. But, here I am at forty and I’m desperate to ground.

We understand that all things are made of energy.  ALL.  Rocks, water, human beings, the cells that comprise us, the sun, the moon, the shops in your city, and the skyscrapers in New York.  Big to small all things are energy.  Just as a tree sends down it’s roots into the earth so that it’s energy mingles with the energies of rocks and soil we can also benefit from planting our bare feet onto the earth and allowing pent up energies to flow through us and discharge.  Empathic people are like lightning rods.  But, if we do not have a ground then all the negative energies that hit us end up stuck in us.  Like a lightning rod is grounded to render an explosive charge harmless, so in grounding we are able to disperse the emotional turmoil of life as it enters our system.

But, what if it’s too cold or there are no good opportunities to get my bare feet onto the earth?  Grounding doesn’t have to be just finding some grass to walk around in.  It’s any practice that brings you back to your center.  It’s any practice where you can feel the scattered and fretful parts of you coming back together in harmony.  This can be in prayer, breath work, or anything that helps you find your center.

Questions I hope you’ll ask yourself and that I am asking myself is:

  1.  Am I remembering that I myself am earth and that I reside in an energetic container?
  2. In what ways am I feeling led to ground myself?
  3. What are some ways to ground myself?
  4. Have I been experiencing toxic shock but putting the acknowledgement of it out of my mind because I’d rather address seemingly more pressing things?
  5. At what point will I begin honoring my own emotions as opposed to juggling the emotions of others?

 

Here’s to grounding.  Here’s to just being.  Here’s to being successfully and healthily empathic.

 

 

Meditation On Fire And Empathy

After a long running series of crises I realized that I needed to take control of my feelings as an empathetic person.  I understand that feeling the feelings of others has been very toxic and defeating for me.  But, I’ve never thought deeply enough about having options when I am bombarded by other people’s emotional traumas.  Can you relate?

Empathy is a gift.  Not everyone has it.  And for many who do they’d rather not have it.  Empathy when used appropriately is meant to be very life giving and refreshing.  It is like a life line that can be thrown from one human to another to help give clarity in the midst of struggle.  But, sometimes as empathic people we find ourselves caught in a vicious cycle of throwing life lines to people who don’t want them.  You read that right.  Some people want to drown.  It’s part of our brokenness.  And, when we are constantly tossing life lines our arms get tired.  See where I’m going with this?  At some point we will run out of life lines if we toss all we have.  And, then what’s left for us?  What’s left for the people in our lives who would readily grab a hold of the line we throw them?  At some point as an empathic person we are faced with the decision of helping at the cost of our own sanity or closing ourselves off in an effort to preserve ourselves.  We find ourselves exhausted, disillusioned, disappointed, and not helping anyone.

I’ve been describing to my friends the situation I have found myself in as an inundation of unrelenting crises.  I’ve felt out of touch with reality due to a deep sense of despair because the life lines I’ve thrown have been despised.  And so as a business person, a friend, an aunt, a daughter, and all the other roles that make up my life I’ve had to cover over the trauma I’m experiencing in order to not be seen as out of control and sad as I really have been.  Have you experienced this pressure?  There are consequences for weakness am I right?  If I’m too tired or unwell to work I lose business.  If I’m too tired or unwell my relationships become strained.  Then comes the pressure from the loss of business and strained relationships and so there is a cruel momentum that builds.  And, at the root of all of this is this seeming libelous nature we have of feeling deeply.  It’s time to take back our power.  It’s time to protect our gift.  If we are to thrive and use our gift of empathy to make the world a better place we have to stop ignoring and glossing over our conscience that is screaming at us because we are prioritizing everyone but ourselves.  I am worth my own priority.  You are worth your own priority.

On the element of fire.  As a metaphor and in a lot of proverbial talk fire is often used to describe crisis and devastation.  You might hear someone say they are, “going through the fire.”  As I read about this foundational element I understood the principal that fire essentially brings back to the beginning all material matter to it’s basic element.  Can you remember who you were before the fire?  Do you remember having a particular vibrance or degree of focus that you simply do not have now?  Can you attribute the loss of vibrance and focus to the pressures that surround you?  If fire brings back to the beginning all material matter to it’s basic element then that means it has the power to return us to our core.  It can serve to bring us back to who we were before the crises.  I don’t know about you but I liked myself better before I became divvied out to people who didn’t value me or my offer of help.

It has occurred to me that with everything burned down to the ground around me it is then that I can begin to discover that which is waiting to be created.  It is when the soil is blackened by seeming destruction that it finds the nourishment and clarity for new life to spring forth from it.  Out of blackened soil and ashes sprouts of green renewal come.  There is a poignant contrast that death serves and life serves death which ultimately serves life.  Feel free to read that again.  Fire is the energetic fuel that burns the way for new growth and new expressions of life to happen.

The questions I’ve asked myself this morning and that I hope you will ask yourself particularly if you are an empathic mess is this?  Do I believe in my passions or am I sabotaging myself by spending all my best energy on rescuing others because I do not value myself the way I should?  What passions when fueled properly in me burn the brightest?  What is the fuel or passion that burns the cleanest in me?  Remember our bodies can function on junk food and health food.  When we are burning dirty fuel we may be going but we won’t be going far or feeling well while we are journeying.  What passion causes me to burn cleaner and longer?

For me that passion is self-expression.  It is in expressing myself that I feel a sense of freedom, confidence and a restoration of what has been stolen from me by fear.  Today I am meditating on fire and as I survey the blackened earth around me I look eagerly for the green and tender shoots of a potential life I may not have gotten to experience had it not been for the fire.  The soil of my life is at peak perfection because of the burn.  With all things lost and the ground cleared I can with great expectation imagine what lies beneath that has been waiting to be created.

She Doesn’t Miss A Detail

Tusks and bone

Release of the moan

Dry and weary and looking like leather

Eyeballing the sky for the curious weather

Its liable to roll on through or blast on by. Either way, she’s likely to cry.

June bugs, May flies, Whippoorwill schmooze.

Dancing in the woods in chalkboard shoes.

She doesn’t miss a detail.

Picture taken on Signal Mtn in Tennessee

Wild Sprouts

Wild sprouts

They’re everywhere

We will never run them down

They’re our’s to clown

Let’s drink em down

And stagger about

Feeling stout

We decide to pout.

It can’t be long

They’ll be all gone

What will we live for then?

Image by Polish artist: Zdzisław Beksiński

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