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For several months, I’ve been attending “Imagine Hope Peace Circles” facilitated by Larry Nusbaum. Larry, a physician, musician, artist and peace builder, has developed a deceptively simple yet powerful set of guided questions to help us get in touch with our inner guidance system. I’m constantly astonished by the surprising guidance I receive whenever I do them. It involves asking a sequence of simple questions with instructions to tap into our body, breath, emotions and imagination, and pay attention to the very first thing that comes to us. The second part of the process provides an opportunity to dialogue with any image or symbol that spontaneously arises. The instructions guide us to “note the first thing that comes to mind even if it surprises you.” One of my most powerful experiences with Larry’s questions led me to an illuminating dialogue with “Black Bear” who offered some very unexpected insights on fear, power and love. She told me that fear isn’t just fear of the monsters in our own basement, but also fear of our own power. She also told me that love includes fierceness as well as tenderness. In the spiritual journey, we often counterpose power and love - thinking we need to just reside in our heart centre and ignore or even suppress our power centre - as if power is somehow “lower”, “ego-based” or “less enlightened”. For Black Bear, mothering and warriorship walk hand in hand. "Be big and own your power. Don’t be alarmed by your growl. I am unexpressed energy inside of you." "I am power that goes with nurturing love. It’s not a choice of one or the other. We’re not opposites." "...the shadows you're afraid of...always look much larger when projected on the wall. Remember the finger monsters you used to make as a kid?" So grab a cup of tea and take your time to savour what Black Bear has to say to you as She did for me. Cate’s dialogue with Black Bear ( “C” and “B”) C: Hmmm, you were an unexpected visitor. What brings you to visit me?B: I'm your fear. I'm your primal fear. C: Are you real?B: You think I am. You take darkness and turn it into fear. C: Isn’t that normal?B: To a young mind it seems logical, in the only logic you know at that age, which is survival from danger and threat. This is primal logic, beyond connection with the rational mind. It gets wired in by association. C: Please tell me more about this fear.B: This primal fear mostly stays underground until you tap into it or it gets triggered outside. However, it’s always operating in the background like the hum from a fridge. You may numb and tune it out but it’s running continuously. C: So what are we going to do about this fear?B: Who says we need to do anything about it? C: B: What do you mean by dealing with it? Sometimes humans think the way to deal with things they don’t want is with violence and suppression, like shooting me, for example. You’re the one who came to me for this dialog. Aren’t we meant to deal with this fear? C: That would seem harsh!B: Such violence is never far when you humans think fearfully in terms of threat. C: But you are scary! B: Let’s question that belief. C: Didn’t you B: And growly. Don’t forget that! want me to be scared of you? Isn’t that why you’re big and hairy? C: Oh I see you have a sense of humour too. B: See, I can surprise you! C: Ok, let’s deal with this “dread” thing. I don’t like feeling it. I don’t like feeling there’s a monster lurking in my basement.B: Yet to ignore me and pretend I’m not here is also a disservice to your Self. C: So what do we do about this impasse?B: I like the way you’re including me in your question, as if we’re co-creators and have some answers we can arrive at together. C: So what are B: Let’s look at my strengths. There’s much of me you want and would benefit from. your thoughts on an approach to this? C: Beyond your scary exterior, you mean? B: You wanted a mama bear warrior for yourself to protect and nurture you. I’m a mother. As a mother, I’m not just soft and cuddly. I defend my young ones, my family, YOU. So don’t put the blame for your fear on me. I can protect you from your fears. Look at the shadows you’re afraid of. They always look much bigger when projected on the wall. Remember the finger monsters you used to make as a kid? C: Oh, that B: Maybe you bought that idea. is a good analogy. So, if these are all phantom fears, then why do I hang onto them? Isn’t there something I should be afraid of? C: But saying my fears aren’t real doesn’t erase this dread I feel in my body. What is this dread?B: You think you’re going to be “swallowed up”. C: By what?B: By the darkness. C: What darkness?B: The void. C : I don’t want the void. It seems there’s nothing I can deal with in that nothingness.B: Do you really think so? C: I do.B: Those are your thoughts. C: Fine, but you’re not giving me any reassurances.B: What am I supposed to say? I’m not your babysitter! C: But you just said you’re a mother and protector! What kind of mother are you?!B: Do you think I’m supposed to meet all your needs? C: Are you luring me in on false pretences, telling me you’re a mother and then denying me the comfort I need?B: That’s your projection. C: Oh boy, now you’re throwing the kitchen sink of psychological terms at me.B: What is it you want from me? C: To take my fear away.B: I AM your fear. C: Oh right, you did say that earlier. So how can you be my mother then?B: You already know the answer to that. C: I do??B: Yes you do. C: Are we going to go back and forth like this like ping pong balls?B: You just need to admit what you know. You're ready. C: Ready for what?B: For the truth. C: What truth? The truth of what?B: Of your fear and how it’s always been mixed with love. You feared the one you loved and depended on. It put you in an impossible bind. None of this means you didn’t love purely or were ungrateful. But you felt disloyal to admit this mixed thing. You tried to whitewash it into a sanitized version of your relationship. C: But I did know that to some degree. I did admit that to myself.B: You still thought you were wrong to have the fear. You saw it as a weakness of sorts. Sometimes you think you’re not stronger than your fears. This feeling either brings you down on your knees, or you try to avoid it altogether. C: What am I to do then?B: Face it. C: What does that mean? What am I supposed to face?B: You. C: Me?? Am I scared of me??B: Yes. C: What?? How so?B: You did not learn from example about the proper use of power. As a result, you don’t trust your own power. C: Afraid of how I’ll use it?B: Afraid of how you’ll use it. And also ironically, afraid that you don’t have enough of it. You point to fear as proving that very point. You point to fear as what’s keeping you in your place. C: So are you saying I have power I don’t recognize or use?B: Yes. I'm an excuse to keep you from feeling like a powerful being. You also subconsciously think you need me to put a “necessary brake” on you because you don’t trust your power, but you don’t usually see this. C: So what are you trying to teach me?B: About claiming your own power. C: How am I supposed to use my own power?B: For service. C: In the world?B: Yes. And it starts inside – with your own empowerment. What this means is claiming your own authority. Only if you do that, can you inspire others to do the same. C: I B: Yes, but there’s more to look at. have been working on claiming my authority. C: Can you elaborate?B: Yes. You’re allowed to growl!! C: Are you saying to get in touch with my anger?B: Those are your words. My words are “ lust for life”. It can take the form of anger, but I'm really talking about raw life energy. By the way, I actually prefer to think of “anger” as “setting boundaries”. My real point is stop playing “nice girl”! C: I don’t want to be mean.B: That thought is an example of how you’re not trusting yourself – like how some women say they don’t want to be “too assertive” because they might be called a “bitch”. C: Am I trying to be too nice?B: You had an image of yourself as needing to be nice. It was an overcompensation. Like the way you also used to think you didn’t “do enough” for others or “give enough”. You also tried to compensate for your gifts of being introverted, self-sufficient and having a cool level head. You feared people would think you weren’t “sensitive” or “loving” if you didn’t act and look “nice” enough. C: Ok yes, I do see how I thought these various traits of mine could be seen as negative and make people not like me.B: Your razor sharp mind is a gift. You can use it wisely. Don’t deny your anger. If you do, it’ll leak out in covert ways like sharp comments or defensiveness. C: Ok that’s good advice. What else do you have to tell me?B: Turn your energy into fuel. Don’t keep it bottled up. Like me, go out and claim your territory. Be big and own your power. Don’t be alarmed by your growl. I'm unexpressed energy inside of you. I also want to congratulate you for taking a great wise hibernation over the winter. That’s part of my medicine. I’m a master of managing the energy of cycles. I know when to rest and when to be active. C: Well this is all very illuminating! Please tell me more about your gifts.B: I am revered by your country’s Indigenous peoples. They know my wisdom and sacred medicine. I will speak to you as a Caucasian woman who can also learn from me. I am fierce and I am nurturing. I protect what’s dear to me. Otherwise I leave others alone. I don’t provoke unless provoked. I am the “paradoxical mother” combining “scary” things with “loving” things. You’ll never see anyone as tender with my cubs as I am and no one fiercer than I am when I defend their lives. I am power that goes with nurturing love. It’s not a choice of one or the other. We’re not opposites - teddy bears and growly bears. I don’t have just one face. Just like the Goddess doesn’t have one face, but many. C: Thank you for this dialog. I actually feel calmer now that I’ve met you.