A year or so ago, I had a dream.
I dreamed I was standing in a grove of wide-branched, thick-leafed trees. It was nighttime. Between the dark of night and the thick of the trees, I stood in darkness. No moonlight or starlight made its way through to my eyes. The darkness was deep, yet not at all frightening. Rather, it seemed to hold me in a kind of embrace not possible in daylight. Perhaps in the darkness all is allowed to simply be what it is. Perhaps.
As I stood in this darkness, my eyes fell to the ground and I saw that I was standing amidst a sea of white snakeskins. They were scattered all around me. The whiteness of the skin was seemingly brilliantly white against the beautiful darkness all around me.
I’m normally afraid of snakes – an old phobia that’s gotten much better through my life, yet still remains to a lesser degree. But, as I gazed upon the skins, I felt no fear even though I wondered where all the snakes were.
Just this past month, I co-facilitated a retreat at Feathered Pipe Ranch called Waking the Inner Teacher. One of my co-facilitators was Michael Lennox, an expert in dreams. I shared the dream with him and in response Michael suggested I see the skins as coming from one snake, and that this one snake was me. I was the snake shedding all these beautiful white skins, and I was doing so by coming to trust in the darkest of the dark places within.
Over these past few months, especially since returning from my time in Montana, I’ve been in the throes of another shedding. I don’t really know exactly how snakes shed their skins, but I sense it isn’t an entirely comfortable process. I know the shedding I’ve been going through hasn’t been comfortable or easy. Yet, something deep in the soul pushes and prods – gropes to find its way through the darkness out into the light.
I’ve written about The Project, how we all have one, and how when we take it off and set it down, we can breathe in a way we’ve never breathed before, and we feel a kind of freedom we’ve longed for. The Project is made up of all the beliefs you’ve taken on about who you are supposed to be, how you are supposed to live and look, even what work you are supposed to do in the world in order to be successful and conform to familial and cultural expectations.
I liken The Project to those protective aprons the dentist places on you when you have X-rays. It’s heavy and protective against rays being projected onto you, and when they take it off, you feel light again.
As I shed what feels like a deep layer of old outworn identity, I feel this lightness, and a kind of joy. It feels simple. It feels unencumbered by the heaviness I’ve carried around me almost all of my life. I now see why that heaviness was there. Like the X-ray apron, this heaviness was a form of protection, but it was also a reflection of the world in which I was raised. I’ve seen how I took on the look and feel of the world in which I grew up, thinking that’s what the whole world was like – because as a little one, that was my whole world. I was a child of the late-fifties and sixties and there was a lot of heaviness not only in my family but in the world at large.
So much of the hard and stern ways of the structure we live in were actively engaged during those times, ways we are seeing pronounced today in the rigidity of our political and corporate structures. Conditioned masculine and feminine ways of being kept, and keep, many people trapped in suffocating gender roles.
Children are very impressionable and the daily impressions of their world become set in the psyche as the way things are…until the soul pushes and wriggles and finds its way out of those old impressions. This is what I’ve come to see so clearly over the last few weeks. And even though I knew this intellectually for a long time, until I could be with everything that was stored in my body – impressions, emotions, events, beliefs, energies – and allow them to be revealed and move in the ways they needed to in order to be free, I couldn’t come to know this new skin. Or maybe it’s more an original skin that was covered up. It feels that way.
The playfulness and lightness that are here feel pure and innocent, while at the same time there is a new sense of maturity, a sense that holds a kind of responsibility that feels right and good.
This new and supple skin seems to delight in the simple (yet entirely magical and mysterious) experience of being alive.
While dancing last night, I was taken by a sense of awe at the ability my body has to move in the ways it does, by the way small white lights looked lining the walls of the room we danced in, and by the way each of us dancing seemed to find our own unique movement and expression while listening to the same music. All very simple everyday things lit brightly by eyes that have been opened to the blessing that it is to be here, alive, in this body.
I know that the whole world is in a big transition. Both our individual and our collective skins are being shed and its not at all comfortable. But something in us knows we’ve outgrown this old way of seeing the world through eyes of separation, distrust, and sternness. Much of our societal tendencies reflect a belief that play and pleasure, softness and compassion, creativity and giving, are weak values to live. Yet, these very places of tenderness that we’ve tried to protect by hanging onto our old skins are what we must embrace again if we are to know our wholeness and humanness, and we are to truly understand (even the slightest bit) the gift it is to be human and to live our lives as an offering to life itself.
We women hold a way of being the world hungers for. It is what we are when we stop trying to be what we are not. We are not men.Our bodies hold offerings we must now live if we are to survive as a species.