I’m used to working on communicating with other people; gods know I’ve gotten into enough situations through miscommunication that I could stand to pay better attention to what I hear as well as what I say. However, the Air work has reminded me that communication also exists within, my relationship with myself. In some ways it’s easier to communicate with other people. Other people eventually go home, go about their business, and take their problems with them. However, I have the (unenviable?) task of living with myself 24-7. Since I’m a vivid dreamer, I don’t even get a break when I sleep!
Okay, it really isn’t so bad as all that. However, I can be pretty tough on myself. One thing I need to remember is that life and personal evolution are not competitions. Too often in my life I’ve angsted over my deficiencies because I’ve compared myself to other people (whether I knew them or not) and found myself lacking. And that’s really not fair to me. I put myself up to such high standards that I can never meet them. That generally leaves me (predictably) frustrated and feeling pretty bad about myself, which additionally is an incredibly unproductive way to spend my time. It’s not even a fun way to relax.
A good example is tonight. I’ve just started reading Mircea Eliade’s classic Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. I’m only in the first chapter, and I’m reading about all these impressive initiations that various shamans in other cultures have had. For example, some shamans became shamans by curing themselves of serious illness. I look at myself and realize that I haven’t even managed to successfully cure a headache. I tried grounding the illness in my stomach, and all it did was make my stomach hurt more. Granted, there were some things that I could have tried that I haven’t yet–I haven’t even attempted asking Bear or other totems for active help in healing, other than in my evening prayers. However, tomorrow I have a doctor’s appointment to make sure that there’s nothing really serious going on, since it’s been going on for over a month.
Should I admit defeat because I’m going to someone else about my illness? Should I just scrap the whole idea?
Believe me, the thought crossed my mind for a moment. But then I realized, with a little reminder from the spirits, that I am not a shaman in the middle of early 20th century Siberia. I am a shaman-in-training in the middle of 21st century Portland, Oregon, and I am in a very different cultural and geographic situation, never mind the deviation of my experiences from that of an Evenk shaman.
And that’s where I had to sit and talk to myself. One thing I’m in the process of doing is separating out what I think about myself versus what other people (generally people close to me rather than random people) think about me, as well as what I think about myself as a consequence of what others think of me. As social creatures we’re conditioned to be tuned into the thoughts and feelings of others as a way of maintaining some form of relationship and conformity. However, in American culture this awareness is often tied in with some serious insecurity issues. Therefore, rather than seeing interconnections with others as mutual support systems, some people may see these interconnections as methods of controlling others as a way of bolstering their own confidence, amassing power or even releasing pent-up negative emotions that could be vented more constructively. The negative impressions from abusive relationships of all sorts may take years, if not the better part of a lifetime, to undo.
In my own case, I’ve had to recondition myself to realize that being flawed isn’t the end of the world, and that I shouldn’t strive to be perfect just because I may perceive others as having fewer flaws. I got picked on a lot as a kid by my peers, and that left a few deep emotional scars that told me that even the smallest blemish could lead to abuse. Although I’ve done a lot of healing on that particular element of my past, and discovered that there are, indeed, excellent people in the world who have risen above such pettiness, I still have that pattern of perfection-as-protection to undo in its entirety.
And so that entails communicating with myself, rather than bullying myself. I consciously watch what I say and how I interpret what I hear for signs of that behavior pattern, as well as a few others. Otherwise, if I neglect this conversation, I miss the very important messages from within. It’s all well and good to be in touch with the spirits, and with the people around me, but if I am not in touch with myself, then I’m missing out on some of the most important information given to me.
My Air month hasn’t even been going for a week yet, and it’s already been a tough one. Earth kicked me in the stomach, and Air is rattling through my head (no, not like THAT), and both have shaken me up to the internal environment that is ever crucial to improving my work with the external environment. The true test, of course, will be how well the lessons stick, and how much permanent change for the better comes out of all of this. All in good time; it’s not a race.