Monday, April 2, 2012

Living Life Out Loud

Do you have the sensation that life is at “the tip of your tongue,” but you can't quite reach your goals? Jungian analyst Marion Woodman says that this feeling of almost-thereness points to unresolved trauma. Often during a conversation, the awareness of something being at the tip of our tongues refers to words or ideas that seem to reside just beyond where our memory can take us. In the same way, repressed feelings of anger, grief, and fear can exist just beyond our memory, but their presence still affects us, and not being able to fully express and release them can result in the frustration of the full expression of our creativity. Being stuck is uncomfortable, but it also provides an opportunity to free ourselves to pursue the lives we want. And one of the keys to realizing our potential is to connect our psychic selves to our bodies, where both our creative energy—and the blocks to it—live.

Here is a technique I learned about some years ago in the pages of O (yes, the Oprah) magazine: Take a moment to breathe and center yourself, and then think about a situation or experience in which you are stuck—a feeling, a job, a relationship. Ask yourself: "If I could place this sensation of being stuck in my body, where would it be?" Then just sit and focus your attention on that specific point in your body, and see what thoughts and feelings arise, tracking the movement of the emotional and physical energies. It's a simple technique that can bring awareness to the unconscious feelings and thoughts creating the sense of stagnancy, and so bring you one step closer to animating the life that is waiting to be fully articulated.

When our psychic energy is freed from the grips of painful old emotions and ideas, our lives will no longer be at the tip of our tongues, but rather lived “out loud,” our bodies serving as a vehicle for the words, actions, jobs, and relationships that reflect our most authentic selves.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On the Other Side of Fear

Not too many nights ago, I was weaving my way through a winding, cliff-lined piece of Highway 1, awed by a shaft of moonlight shimmering on the placid face of the Pacific. I was contemplating the wisdom—or lack thereof—of my recent big move to California, when out of nowhere appeared —a deer! There it stood, smack dab in the middle of the road, jolting me out of my circuitous thinking and into a quick stop. Graciously, it left me plenty of room to hit the brakes.

While the deer did not hit my car, it did impact my consciousness. I felt like it was a bit of a cosmic whack on the head, the Universe asking me to sit up and take notice. It was not the first time I had been spooked by a deer since I moved to this neck of the Redwoods. Several nights prior, I was frightened by a deer rustling in the bushes near my house, an admittedly far less intimidating experience, but for someone who takes clues from the Universe, noteworthy, especially when taken in the context of the more recent roadside encounter. I intuitively felt that both events were signs. But of what? To find out, I worked with the deer as I would dream images, and contemplated the feeling that they triggered—fear—as well as the symbolism attributed to them. For the latter, I consulted Jamie Sams’s Medicine Cards, a divination system that draws on Native American ideas about the spiritual teachings of various animals.

According to Sams, deer offer a special lesson on how to handle the very feeling they had recently provoked in me—fear. Deer teach that it is a form of self-love to fully feel your fear. The key is not to hold on to it, but to feel it and (here’s the important part) gently let it all go. You create more chaos by fighting your anxiety, deer say. If you repress your fear or try to just make it go away by force of will, you may find it scrambling for your attention — as I did, on a dark, cliff-lined road. But if you approach it with gentleness, and get it out of your system, it will cause you considerably less trouble.

It was just the right time for me to recall this lesson. I was pushing through two major life changes: the loss of my longtime job and the subsequent move to another state. I needed to remember it was ok to be afraid.

Not yielding to the freak out rustling on the edges of my consciousness was actually preventing me from accessing the energy to create what I needed, such as a sense of stability. Like a deer caught in headlights, I was frozen—by my own resistance to myself. Sitting on the edge of the continent with no certain plans for the future deserved at least a robust “Oh my God!” So I let myself have a good, old-fashioned meltdown. And when I was done, I felt calmer, more confident, and creative. I even wrote this blog post.

My deer-friends made me stop and remember what all the wise ones know: Terror tenderly held eventually transforms into courage.


The next time you find yourself repeatedly running into a certain animal or person, ask yourself “Why is this happening?” It’s a simple question, but the answer to it may carry the power to transform you.