Our history and our mythology are full of images of the daring one risking all by going out and conquering or enduring – somehow vanquishing – the person or experience that’s been seen as enemy or danger, and returning home to be celebrated by all.
Given this, it’s no wonder that (especially in situations we find really challenging) we have a tendency to see ‘problems’ as being outside of ourselves, and either focus on overcoming or changing that situation ourselves, or looking to others to find a solution and save us.
I’m not making any of us wrong here. This is conditioning that’s deep in our biology.
But what if there was a different way? What if at this point in our consciousness as humans, we are being invited into a way of being that might at first blush seem counter-intuitive, but if we pause for a moment we can see holds possibility that’s intriguing and might be worth exploring further?
The Princess and the dragon
Image courtesy of Chris Dien www.chrisdien.com
I was struck by this possibility recently when I discovered Jack Kornfield’s retelling, in his book After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path, of a Swedish story of the Princess Aris.
As a result of her parents’ misfortune she was betrothed to a dragon. The Princess’ first reaction was one of understandable terror. But as she comes back home to herself, she sets out to seek counsel from a wise woman who understands the ways of dragons.
While there’s nothing that can change the Princess’ fate, the wise woman gives her instructions for her wedding night – she’s to wear ten beautiful wedding dresses on top of each other.
Following the wedding and celebration, the Princess and the dragon are in private. As the dragon approaches her, the Princess speaks as instructed by the wise woman. She tells him that before offering him her heart they must both properly remove what they are wearing. The dragon readily agrees.
Removing the first layer of scales, though not comfortable, is something the dragon has done before. But as the Princess takes off each of the layers of her gown, the process becomes increasingly painful for the dragon. Still, he continues. As he claws away each layer of scales, his skin and form change, becoming softer. As they both remove their tenth layer, the dragon is released from the ancient spell that cast him in dragon form, and becomes the Prince he truly was.
While I’m not one for promoting the ‘happily ever after’ myth, I do know the power and possibility of presence – of coming together undefended, heart-to-heart, as the Princess and Prince then had the opportunity to do. I love this wise and compassionate way of approaching the challenging situations we face. This is the different kind of response I believe we’re being invited into.
In any really good story, we can see parts of ourselves reflected in each of the roles
here – the Princess, her parents, the wise woman, and the dragon.
As I’ve reflected on this story recently, I’ve become aware of the need to be powerfully present – facing and peeling away some layers in my own life.
In the last eNews, despite not having completed the web page, I spoke of my intention to offer the next Relationship Treasures program in November. Even then, I was aware of the parts of me nervous that I might fall into my old pattern of ramping up the pressure in ways that aren’t life giving. But this program is SO in alignment with the big ‘yesses’ in my life I was sure things would fall into place. Going ahead felt like a no-brainer – I didn’t want to wuss out on myself, or on those who’d indicated they were interested in participating.
As the days went by, though I was aware of the need to attend to the necessary preparation, I felt called to attend to other things. The sense of pressure – with those internal voices saying “I need to do this!” – continued to increase.
It became clear that something was ‘off’, but I didn’t know what. One tool I used was the model below – a way of noticing and nurturing balance in the different environments of our lives, and the creative freedom that results when all parts of our lives are attended to, and the energy of our life force can freely flow through us into the world.
Noticing, Accepting and Nurturing Ourselves
in the Six Environments of Our Lives
© 2006 Maralyn Cale www.realizingrichrelationships.com
It gave me a framework for reflecting. Despite the rich-ness of my interpersonal environment, the delicious ideas readily available to my mind, the sense of being well supported in my spiritual journey, taking time to be in nature, and the few demands of caring for my physical environment, I noticed an increasing sense of exhaustion in my body.
And when, during the last Diving Deeper call I had a sense that something was feeling ‘off’, the need to explore what was really happening became an inner imperative.
With a fierce compassion and a deep curiosity I was present and allowed what was there to bubble up. It was sobering for me to realize that in my focus on all the exciting things I saw possible as a result of offering the Relationship Treasures program this Fall, I’d stepped over myself. I’d not recognized that just because something is possible, doesn’t automatically mean it’s optimal!
In peeling away those layers and becoming more intimately acquainted with myself, I recognized that in focusing my attention on what I wanted to create in the future I wasn’t able to be as powerfully present to those precious people who’d chosen to partner with me in Diving Deeper here now.
all, it felt truer to postpone offering the Relationship Treasures program until the New Year.
Having made that decision, I then needed to be present to other ‘inner dragons’ – the part of me that didn’t want to disappoint people, or look like I couldn’t make up my mind. There were voices in me that said “You can’t do business like this!”, “If you don’t offer this now, there may not be people wanting to be part of Diving Deeper in January!”
As those ‘shoulds’ and fears of scarcity arose in me, instead of turning away, I chose to practice accessing the quiet, powerful presence that Princess Aris demonstrated as she faced her uncertainty and still chose to peel away the layers of her wedding dress.
And the rewards of having done so are priceless. As the journey continues I can stand even more powerfully for the things I know in my bones I came to create more of in our world. I’m also even more clear as I claim and wield my own authority in making choices in my life.
I’m wondering about you. How have you commonly responded to the dragons (either internal or external) you’ve faced in your life? Do you feel any resonance with the idea that we might be being called to respond to challenges and uncertainties as the wise woman instructed Princess Aris? How does the possibility of responding like the Princess strike you? And what do you notice if you reflect on the different environments of your life – are there areas you see that might be calling for your attention?