Sunday, November 14, 2010

Once I Was a Jellyfish

The calendar year is sprinting to the finish line. Winter is blowing in off the Pacific. I am glad, because I need to turn in and do some interior maintenance, and the weather exactly creates the mood, the conditions, the search in this warm-blooded creature for some deep descending.

The last few seasons in the consensus world have been especially trying, for myself and literally everyone I know; the intensive changes in the Earth that a medicine woman storied out for me, years ago, are also in the human body and mind, underway and with exponentially increasing spikes of activity. I can see this from my "quiet place", as if I am somehow apart from it all. But I am not, we are not, and allowing all this energy to be itself is of the utmost importance.

Feelings of anger and fear are necessary for survival in the physical sense, so that we have the biological ability to defend against an actual attacker--some hurtling body with exposed teeth and claws, for instance. But chronic, ingrained fight-or-flight is something else, entirely--a habitual invisibility cloak that only blinds the wearer, or a shield with spikes turned inward. I have great personal experience with these methods of self-torture. Most people do, these days.

We don't really want to needlessly harm ourselves or anyone else, because it isn't efficient or healthy for the larger body that we, like cells, are members of. But this is what happens when we refuse to be aware of the flow of thought and feeling through us, and when, if we do become aware, we ignore or deny it. We are all incredibly sensitive creatures; insensitivity has to be "built up", reinforced and maintained. It actually takes a tremendous amount of energy to constantly keep our inner selves in a nascent, unexpressed state. Depression is the result, the last signal that serious attending is required. Not just attention, but attending, conscious participation, receivership and expression.

Becoming conscious requires spending contemplative time with the body, heart and mind, deliberately inviting the vast inner world to speak. Underneath the reactionary "reasons" for chronic anger-fear is a place where these emotions are doing their good work. We simply misinterpret the feelings as "negative"...understandable, since an unacknowledged emotion must twist itself into greater and greater knots, until it becomes huge in our field of feeling--huge enough that it can get our attention.

The best metaphor I can think of for what these feelings are at the "root" is a kind of clear, permeable container...a temporary boundary that is deliberately drawn, giving enough "space" to step back, back, back, through all the defensive masks we wear, falling deeper into and beyond all the layers we collect over the heart of ourselves, until we feel clearly from that place. Only from Heart are we experiencing the real origins of the symptoms of dis-ease. Anger and fear aren't brittle, negative, attacking entities at this depth--they are flexible skins in which to pause and be still. They allow us to consider how far down we want to go, and from which perspective we want to live in a world full of potential.

Imagine a reactionary human trying to stay afloat on the surface of Reality, which is like a winter sea of stormy change. Something with big teeth ate the surfboard. Tread water, fight the waves, look around for stuff to hang on to--this is life on the surface for a person who forgets that they are the ocean! Eventually, one is tired and terrified of drowning, feeling terrifically vulnerable to unseen forces, and incredibly angry at almost everything. This is the time to stop flailing, to allow the sinking, the pull of gravity into that scary unknown. Anger keeps you warm until you stop holding your breath, and fear keeps you alert as you descend. They are invisible definitions between this-feeling-here and all-that-out-there, including the surface that you can now gaze up into...where you view the patterns of rolling waves from underneath, which are somehow more organized, coherent, and beautiful from this angle...

Now, as many of us have discovered, you can breathe underwater. Your emotions abruptly shift into incredulity. How is it that a body can do this?! Everyone said that drowning was to be avoided, that it really hurt, that it leads to the Great Blackness...well. There is a great blackness--you can sense it beneath you. There is a feeling of pain, akin to the harsh release of what's known, mental and physical structure falling away. And you can stop your descent, right here. You can choose to live here, just below the blowing foam, still in the rough, familiar light of the outside world. You can even go back and forth, take trips to the surface on good days, duck below during storms. This is called coping, and is a good, natural skill to have.

Or...drop down a little more. Anger is gone, and only fear remains. The fear is basic and instinctual and part of being identified as a human being. There are great shadows down there, large unknown moving things, things that might be hungry for you, things that might be terribly different from what you feel yourself to be. All our nightmares and shadows are based on our perception of these bottomless realms. 

Perhaps one day, you just drift down...far enough that day fails you. But you find, to your amazement, that somehow you can see without light. amazing that fear is somehow absorbing away, like the skin which, a little deeper still, you no longer need...because you can feel without that, too. 

Some of us may find ourselves in the belly of a whale, spat back up onto dry land. Some may be persistent and patient enough to become nothing but an artifact on the bottom of the sea, and then all times, places and creatures...because truly, underneath this tale, that is what we are. Life is a story much deeper than this, told by a Self we will never understand, but must trust...and once you begin, you can never un-remember.  Arguing with reality, whether in the form of a storm, a death, an earthquake or a wave of unexpected bliss, is exhausting and unnecessarily fragmenting. We all have a sort of trajectory to the bottom/top, and there comes a point where one must simply become it.

There is no distance, then, between who we were and what we are going to be, really. The thin membrane of fear is already gone, an angel-jellyfish within our depths. 


  1. Very Nice! Love the imagery ...falling deeper into...the Heart... Allowing the sinking... Viewing the waves from underneath... - from the space of deep inner Stillness - falling all the way through...where everything is "dissolved" in the depths! Meet you at the "bottom" ? :)

  2. You bet, my friend...and then we'll begin the fall up! :)

  3. I didn't mean the "bottom" as in hit bottom :) Was just following your metaphor of falling into the depths of who we are... beyond the surface chaos etc. - into deep peace kind of thing :) The "bottom/top" :) Heart Giggles - Christine

  4. Dear Maria,
    Thank you for yet another post that has numberless many that I always have to loosen the mind up from the clutches to get even an ounce of what you may have intended.
    I so agree with having our thoughts/actions be in all ways for the benefit of the larger body that we are...You go on to say "Depression is the result, the last signal that serious attending is required. Not just attention, but attending, conscious participation, receivership and expression." If one is not in a situation where conscious participation can be had does that mean it is the 'wrong' situation? Is the thwarted inability to express from the heart in any way hampering clarity?

  5. Dear Leslie...

    There is no "wrong" situation, in my view. We all are as conscious as we are willing to be, and we all "know" when we aren't. It is perhaps habitual ignorance that I am trying to address, here...and by "ignorance" I mean ignoring invitations (by depression or joy) to go deeper, to get to know oneself more...both the local self and larger Self (which are not actually two).

    Clarity can be had in all situations, even when we feel "thwarted". I don't want to misinterpret what you are saying, here, and I'm not entirely sure of the context in which you speak...perhaps, if you'd like, you can email me directly at, so I can gain some...well, clarity. :)

    By "conscious participation", I mean with oneself, on the psychological level. I realize it is not always possible to have "conscious participation" by two people in relationship. One may not be able, for various reasons, to express from the heart to "another"--but we can always admit the truth of any situation to ourselves--the "facts" as they stand in relation to our consensus world, the thoughts we carry around those facts, the emotions these thoughts "generate", our attachment to these thoughts and feelings, and so on, all the way down to a different order of reality.

    It can seem like a tremendous amount of work, but it really isn't. What is so difficult is trusting ourselves...the rest is just "stuff". :)

    Big hugs,

  6. Oh...thank you for that beautiful response Maria. That makes a lot of sense. It seems I may be ignoring invitations by depression and fear to go deeper. Hmmm...there may have been some response to the invitation but it seems to get backed away from in an awful hurry and I'm not quite sure why. Something must get triggered in approaching that vulnerability (or that trust in ourselves as you mention)...or something.
    I, too, believe that clarity can be had in any situation and need not be overly complicated. Thank you for the e-mail invite. All of these combined (cave :) responses have been so much help. Seeing all of you 'around' is deeply nourishing to this heart.