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All will be decided and there will be joy and there will be sorrow in equal measure, Homage to Dürer, gouche and watercolor crayon in altered book, 2020.
One of the participants in the first week of the e-course, Befriending Our Shadow IV, said, when asked the question, “what would the landscape of your shadow journey look like?” that she was at a precipice. I won’t go into the specific conversation that this led us to, but it made me think that the idea of the precipice is an evocative image for so many aspects of the time we are living in right now.
The world situation as a precipice
On the macro level, living on a precipice has been used to describe our world situation as far as climate change. Things are pretty dire from that perspective unless we do some pretty drastic changing as a world culture. But in other smaller ways, we are living at the edge of a precipice right now.
Greetings from a very warm place, Goauche and watercolor crayon in altered book, 2020.
That the seasons change was a precipice to our ancient ancestors
One is that we are at the start of the shift of seasons, which to our ancestors had dire consequences and brought fears of changes that they feared were irreversible. In very ancient times, it wasn’t really certain that winter would turn to spring, that the sun would rise again and that life would go on. The ancients had very powerful ways of coping with these fears, practices that helped and sustained them in a way that was deeply connected to the earth. We have largely lost these ways, but that is a topic for another article. Now, we know that the sun will rise and that spring will come again, we know these things, and yet, in our bones, some of those old fears are still there.
And for those of us, at mid to late life, our lives are at a precipice
And in another way, for those of us, like me, at mid to late life transition, we are at a different sort of precipice, teetering into old age. Maybe not just around the corner, but not as far off as it once seemed. Skills and competencies that we completely took for granted earlier in life, may not be as available now. Many of our support network may have dropped off for various reasons. We just don’t feel the same as we felt when we were younger. And, to top it off, the over-culture we live in doesn’t have a very affirmative, nurturing view of what it means to grow old. Instead of seeing aging as a natural process, with benefits and drawbacks, the dominant culture tends to equate an aging body and mind with an aging machine-that will ultimately break down and need to be thrown out and replaced with a new model.
What matters most is your perspective
Through all of this, what seems most important to me is how we think about the precipice. What does it mean to me, to you? And does it get you to change your view, when you are at a point of no turning back, when an urgent action is called for? What do I mean by this? Let’s say you are at that precipice right now. Take a moment and imagine that you are there. What do you see? I see a vast mountain landscape ahead of me. And I am on the top of one of those mountains, having reached a point in the road where there is no turning back but no way forward either. And before me is a long way down. What to do?
Ancient Bird Spirit Crone, soft sculpture, mixed media, standing, 19 x 12 x 7, 2021.
How fast were you going? This matters…
Several things matter here. One is, how fast were you going when you were on this road? This makes a difference. If you were speeding along at a break-neck pace, you may just go off the edge without even being able to stop. But if you were following a more deliberate pace, there is time to consider options. Such as, do I have alternate ways to move forward? Such as climbing gear, or maybe even wings? Is there help around, or help if I wait? What other resources do I have available that I might not otherwise have thought of?
How you are holding the thought matters
It also matters how you are holding this thought of “I am at the edge of a precipice.” Is it really a precipice or does it only seem like one because of the way you are thinking about it? This can be a tricky one. For instance, when I think about aging from a more loving, accepting perspective, I easily back off from the fears and start to see possibilities. I could go back and do this sort of reframe about the other precipices I was talking about earlier, but you get the idea.
Slowing down helps
To expand on what I said two paragraphs ago, it helps if you are going slow enough to be able to stop and assess the situation and make informed choices. This is a big one for me, because my mind moves very fast and sometimes this can get me into trouble. Sometimes we really are confronted with situations that require immediate action and resources. But it helps if we come into them with a quiet and spacious mind, well as much as possible.
What do you have to call forth from within yourself to best cope with this situation?
Also, it helps to have resources to call on, support networks, knowledge and information that can guide us as to which next step to take. But what I want to focus on here, and end with for now, is a reminder that you already have many of those resources within you.
What I mean by this is that you have within you a portal to tremendous source of strength and wisdom, if you can take the time to access it. We all have this within us. Some of it is immediately accessible if you ask. Some of it might take a little longer to become available. It may have gotten buried under unhelpful beliefs or fears. Here is where shadow work can come in handy. When we have the willingness and courage to reach down deep into ourselves, and paradoxically, this is also a place where we are deeply connected to others and to the earth, we begin to see that we have many answers right there.
How to access that portal? There are many ways but it is not very complicated. Mostly it has to do with listening. Listening to that voice within which knows the right next step. It is a quiet and very patient voice and easy to dismiss. But it is always there if you take the time to listen to it. The way there is also a topic for another article, but for some it is meditation, for some yoga, or slow walks or creative practices such as doll making. This is a huge topic and I am only scratching the surface of it, but I would love to hear your thoughts. More coming soon.
NOTE: I have been sorting through and organizing my gallery page here on my website. It is a work in progress. In this post, I have included some paintings in handmade and altered books, something I have been inspired to do over the past couple years. I will be finding a way to add these to the gallery page as well eventually. I find that the paintings are a wonderful way to find inspiration for my doll making. One of my greatest inspirations has been the work of and classes with the wonderful, Fonda Clark Haight, especially her Down Deep class.
I've been making dolls for about ten years now. I believe that dolls serve as representations and reminders of the best part of ourselves. I am excited to share with you here my learnings about new methods and techniques for doll making and healing. So glad you are here!