They were scared people looking for some safe; scared people looking to make sense; scared people living with the very same enemy inside the walls that lived inside me. The only difference was they hadn’t been raised up Lady Wild so they didn’t know you just sit with the ugly and the discomfort till you know how to use it right. Emma – Genesis 2: The Passion of Emma Ray Earle
Though I am writing this month’s Goddess Speak from an area of spectacular beauty, last night I was momentarily surrounded by a group of people who triggered off paralyzing feelings of “less than” in me. It’s been a long time since I felt that way and it was enormously painful. I’ve been in the work for over 40 years and know exactly what familial programming this is rooted in. I also know in my heart, my head, and my soul that I am not less than and that there is nothing wrong with me. I went down to the gazebo alongside the brook, put my face on this jagged, hurting piece, hugged her into me, and found myself sharply aware of my otherness. I missed my friends. I missed my circle of soul sisters I love beyond all reason. Every time I get together with them I am seen, I am heard, I am understood, and I am loved for who and what I am, warts and all.
When I first got sober back in the 80's, I was sharply aware of feeling less than. Recovery, for me, has been about uncovering who I truly am. This is a life long process and not for the faint of heart. Healing is not for the faint of heart because it challenges everything you've been programmed to believe about yourself. As I held this “less than” feeling piece of me, I knew from the depths of the pain that I was undergoing an initiation of some kind. Initiation changes your frequency; initiation opens you to new frequencies; initiation alters your path. I sat alongside the brook gently rocking this hurting piece of me. She felt like me after college, when I first got to New York, and was so sure I wasn’t as good as everybody else, even though I acted like I was. Her feelings, what she believes, grind hard against what I, the wise woman, know in my heart, head, and soul to be true. I don’t deny her feelings or mine; I hold the tension of the opposites. Probably the most important thing I’ve ever learned is to hold the tension of opposites; to point blank refuse to jump to it’s this or that, which, in more instances than not, cuts off needed processing at the knees. I flashed on my early days in New York, the incredibly cool group of people I wanted so desperately to be a part of. I’d twisted myself inside out to be as cool, sophisticated, and blasé as they were. I’d sacrificed what I knew in my gut to be true and I was ashamed but it would still take a year before I had the self-esteem to cut the chord. I flashed on the current people triggering the “less than” in me, and I knew it was exact same theme. I wanted to belong, to have what they had, so much so that what I had suddenly paled in comparison. It was like everything I’d ever done over the past 20 years was rendered null and void in the span of one dinner. “Oh, you poor baby,” I thought. “I love you, I love you so much.”
When the inner treasure that is yours, that each of us was born with, pales in comparison to another’s externals, it’s because ego is serving an external image rather than the internal truth. I think of ego as the sacred masculine; I think of soul as the sacred feminine. The healthy ego serves the soul, not as slave but as compliment, in the exact same way the God serves the Goddess in the craft. She is the law, He is the right arm of the law, and the only law is love. Being a conscious human being is not about destroying ego, it’s about right use of ego.
For me right use of ego became a definite possibility when I started healing and rebuilding my self-esteem using affirmations. In the first “Nature of Personal Reality,” class I took back in the 80’s, the teacher explained that the point of the affirmations was to remove our self-esteem from the invalidating paradigm. We are programmed to judge ourselves against externals, arbitrary social ideals — cultural, educational, and beauty — to determine our self-worth. He insisted that our affirmations include the following: I am beautiful, sensual, intelligent, and powerful. The first time I did affirmations, the sun rose in my chest; and as I listened to the rest of the students in the class I gut knew each of them to be beautiful, sensual, intelligent, and powerful. No one was more, no one was less; we were all equally radiant. It was an astounding moment. Acknowledging the soul truth in me allowed me to acknowledge the truth in others. I was devastated a few month later when I had a day my affirmations didn’t work. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the feeling affirmations gave me. I remember thinking, “Oh, what’s the use it always comes back to this.”
What I know now, after years of therapy, sobriety, and magick, was that I’d bumped into an unconscious wound. Affirmations, when they’re done correctly, trigger off whatever is in the way of the ever-deepening reality that affirming oneself creates. Wounds that remain unconscious live in shadow where they continue to grow and fester. The wound has to be made consciousness. I tend to think of making conscious as accepting — this happened, this has been the result. I can’t change what happened. I can change my response, but not by denying or sugar coating the feelings around what happened. To disavow the learning that feeling, all feeling, holds shuts down the path to the humane.
Sitting alongside the brook, the wise woman in me hugged her hurting self a little closer. I closed my eyes and gave over; young hurt and ancient wisdom ground even harder against each other and the pressure in my heart was intense. Then came the release. A burst of radiance, light everywhere, radiant light, and in the release something new, as of yet unformed, was born. When I opened my eyes I was more apart of living, breathing life than ever before. I could feel the pulse of the earth; Her pulse was mine and mine was Hers. And I was reminded once again that the Goddess contains everything, not just the easily digestible. A little later when i went out for a hike, I found a perfect blue jay feather directly in my path. I leaned over to pick it up and when stood a yellow and black butterfly fluttered so close to my face, I could feel her wings against my cheek. The totem meanings of both made me smile.
Some thirty years ago, Wise Joe told me that wounds were eternal; we just get better at managing them. I remember being appalled at the idea; that I was doomed to feel less than, like there was something wrong with me, for the rest of my life. What I know now is that programming is programming; sure you can change your programming but the scar of old programming remains. And when it gets ripped open, it hurts like hell. I don’t think it matters how long you’ve been in the work, or how adept you’ve become; anymore than I think ugly, uncomfortable feelings make you less spiritual, less holy, further from source, whatever you want to call it. If you're human you're going to get triggered and it makes virtually no sense to beat yourself to a pulp over it. No one is born knowing how to beat themselves to a pulp, it's something you're taught, it's something learned. Every time you beat yourself up, directly or indirectly, you're colluding with whatever/whoever taught you this horrific skill. The good news? Anything learned can be unlearned if you're willing.
To be spiritual is to treat self and others humanely. To treat self, all feeling, and process with tenderness is a humane action. So the next time you think, is this spiritual, ask is this humane. If it's not humane, it's not spiritual.
Live loud, love fierce, and suffer no fools. Katherine Manaan
writings for the soul....writings from the journey...writings for whole being...experience, strength, and hope..of love, by love, for love.