When reality challenges image — how do you present to the world?

“I was like a chocolate in a box, looking well behaved and perfect in place, all the while harboring a secret center.” ― Deb Caletti, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart

“I am looking for the one I can’t fool.” ― Kamand Kojouri

How we are and how we are perceived often differ. There are many reasons for this, but the striking truth is that image and reality are often skewed

I have written before of the labels we place on ourselves and those others bestow upon us. This idea of image versus reality arose again in my conversations and thoughts and has me asking a few questions.

A friend and I struck upon a shared observation recently, that we’d met people who (and this is not limited to this field mind you) label themselves as spiritual and dress the part. We observed the wearing of certain adornments, clothing of a particular style, adopting coiffed dreadlocks or making radical statements by being unwashed or going unshod in public.  This attire and this façade of course have nothing to do with the level of spirituality one possesses but I wonder if it has more to do with aligning oneself where and how one wants to be perceived.

Let me explain.  For many years I have marvelled at the disparate views people hold of me compared to my own view of myself. Yes, yes, I know we judge ourselves harshly but that’s not what I am talking about here. Mostly everyone I come into contact with draws the conclusion that I am quite prim and prissy (yes, it’s a burden). Once they get to know me they can’t quite match my potty mouth and my beliefs with the external presentation.  I’ve never understood it, I don’t see the disparity.  People have repeated things like:

“I can’t believe you can say that word and get away with it.  It seems so unexpected coming from you. If it was me people would expect that language and be offended.”
or
“I would never have thought someone like you would have a faith.”
or
“Really, you have crystals and signing bowls?” (If only they knew the half of it.)

I’ve never understood it. I’ve looked but can’t see the elegance and poise I hear described.  Now, I certainly dress in a particular way to go to work that is far different to how I choose to dress at home.  But even in social settings people have shared the same opinions.  I don’t see the façade they do. I feel the inner messiness is clearly reflected externally.

So, back to our friend with the dreadlocks presenting as a deeply spiritual, connected person, and hey, maybe he is, who am I to judge?  Apart from personal choice and comfort, on some level the projection is a façade.  A costume. A symbol.  Yet, look around the room at the grandmother in her twin set and pearl earrings and that big dude dressed all in black with the tattoos they are not projecting an image that screams “I’m spiritual” but they’re both highly skilled channels and mediums and have a deeper grasp on universal and metaphysical truths than most.

As I ponder these scenarios the questions rise.

Why do others interpret our image in particular ways? 
I guess that’s conditioning. Labelling seems a natural human tendency. The need to pigeon-hole creates a level of certainty and comfort. Certainly, some of us adorn ourselves in ways that help others identify us how we want to be identified rather than misreading us and forming beliefs about us that don’t align to who or what we are. In both of these situations we draw upon some very strong and often unconscious archetypal symbols here.

Why do we/ how can we believe one thing to be true of ourselves, yet others see us in a totally different light?

This one stumped me for a bit then two more questions dropped in and I suddenly realised something I hadn’t before.

Do we create an image to reflect who we are? Or do we create an image to protect who we are?
And there it was. I have done the latter. My wise friend’s words came flooding back – he was curious about how I present to the world and what lay beneath the surface.  He touched on things being undiscovered and undisclosed.  I realise I have made an unconscious effort, from a very early age, to project a certain image to the world to protect myself, believing and knowing on some level others wouldn’t understand the truth of me.

It’s a curious and interesting concept to ponder and one we should all be aware of.  There is so much more to a person than their external image. We know that and often forget. Reality often challenges image. In your meeting of people remember the iceberg effect —the little bit we see does not adequately reflect all that is under the surface. Similarly, is the little bit you reveal reflecting what you want the world to know of you?

 

 

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Finding your true north in a crowded world

Ritual is the passage way of the soul into the infinite.   Algernon Blackwood

In our society many of the old rituals have lost much of their power. New ones have not yet arisen.    R.D. Laing

Each year it’s the same. The new year rolls around and the tabloids and media are brimming with the latest trends, top ten things to help you get fit, be happier, smarter, more likeable. What we really need is less input. What we really need is less information, fewer overwhelming statistics, fewer fads to follow, superfoods to eat or workouts to try. What we really need is some simple rituals.

Rituals? I don’t mean dancing around naked under a full moon. Though you could if you were inclined. I refer to small practices that hold meaning for us. Small truths we can return to daily, weekly or when needed to replenish us. Practices or customs that allow us to step away from the constant focus on the physical and material. Everyday rituals act as compass points that bring us back to ourselves, not our personas as mother, executive, fitness fanatic. But truths that help us shrug off all the labels and hats we wear and remind us of who we are under the layers of societal silt. Small, everyday rituals allow us to settle into our skin and know who we are.

I have written before about the void a lack of religion has created in our daily lives. Many of us would not recognise or admit this. But I believe the constant seeking, looking for more, trying to have more, be more, do more is a result of a shift in our society away from community, ritual and ceremony. If you aren’t particularly interested in returning to dogma inspired worship you can enrich life with some everyday rituals.

Ritual is not to be confused with routine. We have routines that help stave off chaos: we rise and eat breakfast at the same time each day, we catch the bus from the nearest bus stop, and we go to the gym or yoga on certain days of the week. Routines keep us on track and make us feel in control. Routines provide structure and order and allow everything to run like clockwork. Routine is good; it reduces decision-making and ensures things get done. It can also strangle and constrain. Rituals, while also offering a stabilising anchor in the craziness of an overcrowded life, are gentler, less rigid and bring a sense of mystery and, dare I say, magic to life.

Ritual strengthens me spiritually. You may prefer to think of ritual as providing a sense of belonging and stabilisation. Ritual brings the beauty of life back into focus. Ritual reconnects us with the natural world, the inner world and rewards us in ways status, money and the latest HIIT workout cannot. In essence, ritual provides time out from daily routine, it helps us re-evaluate our path and provides us with ways to author our own lives.

Certainly some rituals may become habits and thus thought of as routines but the distinction is always there. Rising early to watch the sunrise could become a habit but the ritual comes from being present and enjoying the sights, sounds and the emotion of the moment. Soaking in a bubble bath each Friday could become a routine but the ritual comes with the intention for the week’s worries and stress to recede as the bubbles pop. Other everyday rituals might include investing in our loved ones by setting the table, serving a meal without television, phones or distractions but a focus on conversation and listening. Lighting a candle on the anniversary of a loved one’s passing. These small practices enrich us.

Like many, I suffer when my inner world is ignored. I love tarot, astrology and psychic stuff. I am also a realist. I work in the mainstream, need to address people in a range of settings so I understand and respect conventional societal norms and boundaries. I don’t have the luxury of casting off and living atop a mountain to brew my potions and commune with the elements daily, though I am invested in developing spiritually because it makes me whole points me toward my true north. With this in mind I’ll share a couple of rituals I have been practicing in the following posts that aren’t too ‘woo woo’ or freaky that help create balance in a crowded, information driven world.  Do you have some you could share?

A year of inspiration. Inspired by: Sunday Telegraph January 7, 2018

Flux

 

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My heart is in flux
The silver moon is waning.

My thoughts are disturbing
The ground is shaking.

My body is rebelling
The seasons are changing.

My spirit cries out
The earth is turning.

Gaia draws me to her bosom
The Masters lead me to my spirit lodge
The Ancestors share with me their wisdom

I am held
I am supported
I am loved.

I am lost
I am crazy
I am uncertain.

Isis opens my eyes, Venus my heart
Wild, ancient beasts deliver courage
The Saviour cleanses my spirit

I am whole
I am complete
I am enough.

I fear to go forward
I hesitate
I stumble.

I am reminded
I am renewed
I am set forth.

Trust the tempest shall pass
Know the wisdom of nature is beckoning
Believe you are on your path.

Ride the waves,
Negotiate the barriers,
Enjoy the detours.

Life is rich and wonderful, strange and mysterious.

Look back, for just a moment, see the landscape you have painted?
Delight in the tapestry you have woven.
What beautify lays in the fabric you have embroidered?

Celebrate all of life.

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“Why do we forget our purpose?” she asked.

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The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.  Eleanor Roosevelt

A friend posed a series of interesting questions this morning and it got me thinking.

She asked:  Why don’t we remember we are spiritual beings having a human existence? Why do we forget that love lasts forever and do the attachment thing and grieve for family, friends, pets and even people we don’t know when they die?  Why don’t we remember our purpose?

Great questions.

I think to be human is to experience life deeply. If we love deeply then we grieve deeply as well. Grief and attachment may come with the passing of a loved one or the crumbling of a relationship. I think it’s okay to feel these things. Isn’t that why we are here? The problem comes when we are consumed by them. When we can do nothing else in the face of the broken relationship or death of a loved one.

I think each of us instinctively knows when we dwell too long in that place of distraction. As time goes on we become better at unattaching, we become better at forgiveness, we become better at letting things roll off our back and getting on with life.  Each of us has our monkey if you will. There are particular things that trigger us and gnaw at us and make us momentarily lose sight of our peace and purpose. With focused attention on our spiritual development these triggers have less of an impact.

I have been working on my spiritual development for the last ten or so years. Am I there yet? No way! Why? Because I’m not consistent. I get caught up in the busyness of life and let my spiritual routines slide.  It’s no wonder I sometimes feel like I’m back at the beginning. When I do realise this I just pick up where I’m at and begin again. I ask spirit and my guides to help me on my way back home to myself.

What are your thoughts on this interesting topic?

Snakes, spiders, wallabies and chimpanzees.

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Since the new year began many friends and acquaintances have had either dreams of or incidents involving animals. A friend had been seeing spiders on a regular basis, then one jumped onto her dinner plate (you can just imagine the hysteria that created at a dinner party), she also had a fox cross her path that same night while driving home. Another friend saw a white python in a dream, an acquaintance retold her dream which featured four wallabies and a chimpanzee and another has dreamt of dragons and seen dragon images, ornaments etc as she goes about her days.

A lot of people, and not even particularly spiritual people, are noticing the animals that present themselves and are asking questions about their meaning.  Sometimes there are messages for us in these moments. You can do searches on the internet to find out spiritual meanings of particular animals and that’s a great place to start. Read what you find from several sources and notice what really resonates or stands out for you in what is written. Take that information and see what aspect of your life it pertains to.

Another method of working out what message may be contained in your interactions with the animal kingdom is to ask yourself what that animal signifies to you. For example, I’ve had several close encounters with birds lately. Five huge pelicans flew very close overhead while I was on the beach, later that day I was able to get very close to a pelican – when others tried he flew away. While in the bush one day I happened upon a chorus of currawongs, high in the trees. I stopped to listen as the song was magnificent and I slowly started to see there were up to twenty birds sitting low on branches, not singing but also not shying away from my presence. Instead, they seemed to follow me as I moved on my way. I have birds that wake me in the morning and birds that have flown directly across my path, so close I could  feel the breeze from their wings. In these instances I ask myself what is the message here? To me birds represent flight, freedom and unconscious self-expression. So my message was to stop holding back and run with the project I had in mind. It was also about knowing it was safe to speak openly about my project and ideas.

Signs and messages come to us in many forms. You don’t have to be a cheesecloth wearing, incense waving hippy or a gypsy fortune teller (no disrespect intended to either hippies or gypsies) to believe or to benefit.  Be on the look out, be aware – what is that song that’s playing over and over in your head trying to tell you? Did a headline in the paper hold the key to a question you’ve long held? Did you turn the television on to hear a story, see a program about a problem you’ve been trying to solve? Life can be fun and if we are open and aware we can see signs and recieve guidance from the most unlikely sources.

Transformative Talk

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Are you ready to speak your truth, give up fear and risk judgment to share your authentic self? I did just that this week and the outcome was stunning!

In truth, I can be my authentic self in some circles. In others, like the corporate arena in which I work, I haven’t been prepared to speak openly, frankly and in detail about my spiritual orientation. Sure I’ve shared small tidbits over the years and people regard me as a bit alternate and label me a tree hugger (their words, not mine). Many know I’m into healthy eating, opt for chemical free products and spend large amounts of time in nature and visiting sacred sites. Some know I like crystals, have made my own healing drum and read tarot cards. But I have never been comfortable revealing the depth of my spiritual self to my colleagues for fear of ridicule and judgement. The bottom line is, I didn’t want to defend myself to people who I thought simply could not or would not understand.  Until this week.

What was special about this week you might ask? Nothing? Why was I all of a sudden ready to disclose? I don’t know; but this is what happened.

I was at a conference for educational leaders.  We were training in cognitive coaching and I was partnered with a gentleman I’d met the day before. To practice we had to share an issue or situation we were facing. For some reason the only one that came to mind was my waning passion for my work and my desire to move out of the education sector and full-time into my business.  In the process of our ‘coaching session’ I revealed I wanted congruency between my work and my spiritual self; that I no longer felt comfortable in the corporate environment and that I passionately wanted to help people in meaningful ways.

I gained some great clarity in that session about my future but the real learning came on our way to lunch.  We continued to talk and Randall asked me about my spiritual beliefs. Without hesitation I revealed to him I was psychic, that I could feel energy and received messages mainly through clairsentience and claircognizance. I have to admit, it did sound a little odd coming out of my mouth in that setting but it was liberating at the same time. To my surprise and delight Randall never wavered, never smirked, never shrank from me. Instead, he revealed that he was a fan of Eckhart Tolle, that he practices being present, that he understands the impact negative energy has on me and, (this is the kicker) that he had been looking at the aura of our presenter throughout the day.

I can’t begin to tell you how wondrous that moment was for me. Over lunch we continued to bond, not by sharing our spiritual journeys but by sharing snippets of our family life; significant moments with our children and partners. I can’t remember a time when I was more comfortable or more candid with someone I had just met. I feel, after that thirty minute lunch break, that I have known Randall for many years and that we are now, in some way, inextricably linked.

That conversation was transformative. More specifically, my initial disclosure of my spirituality paved the way for a real conversation to take place. If we were all a little more willing to be authentic in any given moment, we could open ourselves up to, not judgement and ridicule as I had feared, but genuine, sincere and transformational interactions with others.

Wishing you many wondrous and transformative conversations with those you meet.

Shannyn

2012-01-21 003 006       “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anais Nin