Continuing with our previous discussion of the connectedness of all things, I offer a personal experience. When I had finally had enough emotional suffering in my life, I attended my first men’s retreat high in the Colorado mountains. One of the things I had to do was to leave the encampment, seek out a place of solitude, and spend a day alone. I was instructed to journal my experience and to keep an eye out for a spirit animal…an animal who might resonate with my life in some way and who might bring me needed information. As the day progressed, I sat in silence, writing and watching for an animal to appear. Would it be an eagle, bear, wildcat, or deer… I wondered? As I sat there, an ant kept crawling up my leg and circling my thigh. I brushed it away. This happened again and again. What a persistent ant! I was getting irritated and kept brushing it off. Then it appeared, once again, but was carrying a dead insect in its mouth. It again circled my thigh. This time I let it stay and watched it continue its circling, while carrying the dead insect. Finally, it dropped the dead body on my thigh and scampered off of my leg and didn’t return to me. The following day, while reflecting on my solo experience, I journaled that I felt the ant had shown me that it was time to stop carrying the dead weight of my anger. It was time to let it go…to drop it. But how can I do that? I wondered. This question led me to primal work.
Later, after much primal work, I would come to understand the ant’s gift to me…that attention must be paid to the little things. That our healing gifts may come to us in little bodies.
I learned from Native Indian medicine stories that our traumas frighten our soul, driving fragments into hiding. I learned that these soul pieces must be located and returned to us, if we want to get well. This search requires hard work and some discomfort. It requires paying attention to information presented to us along the way, delivered by our inner resource…our spirit animal. It requires the presence of someone who can accompany us on this journey. Someone who can hold the circle safely.
These frightened soul pieces are sensorimotor artifacts. They represent the many survival reactions we experience when something is hurting us. And, like the soul, they do get lost. They hide in dark caves, apart from consciousness. Whenever we hear their calls, we feel anxious. We suffer. These feelings make us do chaotic things to ourselves and those around us. So long as these artifacts remain lost, we will continue to feel anxious and to suffer. We will continue to bring chaos into the world. Blocking those feelings only prolongs our suffering.
Each one of us has a spirit animal… an inner resource. It continually tries to bring us the information we need. But we don’t like the discomfort that the information carries. So, we try not to listen. Future blogs will discuss the many ways we have of not listening.
The willful search for these artifacts is aided by certain primal techniques that open a healing circle, into which our spirit animal can bring the information we need. But….we have to really want to go on that search, be willing to endure some discomfort along the way, and to listen carefully for the approaching spirit animal.
Paul Vereshack likens the primal process to a photographer who wants to take a picture of a wild animal. It is useless to try to pursue that creature. It will only run away. Rather, we set the camera up in a clearing and wait quietly and patiently. Eventually, the animal will enter the clearing and the picture will be taken. Quiet, willful attention brings us what we seek.