Change is the means by which things happen. It is a transfer of energy from one thing to another, from one intent to another intent. It is happening constantly, inside and out. The human being often ignores it, refuses the call to change out of fear. Fear becomes a block to all that is and all that will be. Expose fear for what it is and find the key to reluctance so that you may free yourself to finally move into the changing realm where everything flows and constantly becomes what is possible. Get into that realm, the realm of all possibility. Go with the flow!
When it’s time to make a change, to move forward in life, to take a leap, to start something new, or finish up something that has been dragged out for a long time, there is usually a backlash from the psyche.
Reluctance arises, doubt arises, fear arises, worry rears its ugly head and for a moment, or longer, there is hesitation. Just as dawn struggles to pierce the dark of night, so does new life struggle to emerge from the dark of the self. Often our old demons, so familiar, reliable, and comforting, come to our aid, begging us to stay with them, to stay as we are.
“Why change?” they say. “You’re fine as you are!”
I became well acquainted with my personal demons during my recapitulation. I realized how long they had been in my life and how stuck I had become because of them, afraid of everything. Worry and fear were always nearby to step in and rescue me from doing something new, from changing anything about myself.
Even if we really do want to change, it is often very challenging to take that first tentative step toward what we know will bring us closer to the transformation we so desire. During times of change we get to experience how our demons work to entrap us, enticing us to remain in the safety and comfort of their arms as we face what scares us the most, new life looming on the horizon!
Just as we are about to take a leap, trusting that life really can be different, our demons can step in and drag us back into our habitual comforts, freeing us of the anxiety that surrounds any great leap into new life. Instead we are coveted and protected by our demons, as they bring us back to the familiar, to that which we may hate about ourselves but which comforts us too.
I often had to deal with my worry demon. It would bring me a perseverating worry-rant of financial ruin, an incessant tale of an inability to make enough money, worry over all the bills piling up, worry over the mortgage to be paid, the studio rent, things the kids needed. The lists were endless, even when there was no reason for such worry, even when I was financially doing well, with plenty of money in the bank, these worries would and did rise up like the old demons they were, intent upon ensnaring me.
I started to see how they came just as I was about to do something new, to take control of my own life and my own destiny, to start a new venture, or to leave someone or something. Those worry, fear, blame or shame demons could pop up so fast, speaking with such rationality that I would easily fall back into believing what they told me.
Much like an addict I’d let them take me spinning off into oblivion. Later I’d realize how hypnotic they were, how they had taken me from awareness of the present moment and lulled and dulled me for a long time with their old tales. Numbed by them I could lose hours, days, weeks, while I struggled to do what I knew I needed to do in order to move on in my life.
In the final throes of breaking away from those demons I learned to appreciate them, but also to recognize them a lot quicker so I could avoid them. I faced life more squarely, became less afraid and less frightened by change as I continually pushed myself forward, as I dared myself to keep embracing new life, no matter what happened.
Gradually, as I finished the recapitulation of my childhood sexual abuse and shed the symptoms of PTSD that had also been a big factor in my life, I learned that life really did like it when I dared myself to do something new, that life was eager for me to live more fully. Eventually those old demons left me alone, for I had no energy left for them, it was all going elsewhere.
As long as we entertain our demons, as long as we open to them, they are eager to entertain us. But as soon as we see what they really do to us we can begin to reject them. Instead, we can begin to take responsibility for creating our own life, the way we want it, even though each step forward may be full of anxiety. And then our demons, as they realize we are no longer interested in them, go away.
Life, I realized one day, was not going to meet me if I did not go out and meet it. Rather than blame others for what had transpired in my life I became more daring and life became more exciting. Sometimes just going to the grocery store was the most daring thing I did in a day, but with persistent work on myself I started to go other places, to do other things, and after a while life was no longer so frightening.
When I met life, it met me too.
Still doing it. Still meeting life, and it still meets me. As I said to Chuck last week, “Let’s not waste a moment. Let’s go have fun!”
A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries
I am about nine years old. It’s summertime. I go outside to ride my bike, which is parked in the front yard of our house in the bucolic, rural area in New York State where I live. Just as I reach out to the handlebars I pull back in utter disgust and fear. Some unknown green creature with long legs and wings and a fiercesome looking face is perched on the right handlebar. I almost touched it! What is that!
It looks prehistoric, something I’ve never seen before in my life. I am overcome with fear and nausea. I whack it to the ground and step on it. Shaking, I stand there and look at its crushed body lying on the ground, oozing out disgusting slime, more sickening to look at than when it was alive. I can only feel that I had just saved my life!
At the same time that I feel this I also know that I have just killed a fellow creature and I feel really bad about that. I tell myself I was frightened by it. It looked prehistoric, like a scary small dinosaur, and I couldn’t help myself, which is true, I just reacted and killed it. Instinctual fear drove me to kill.
Years later I read about the praying mantis being an endangered species. It was then that I realized what I had killed that day. To my nine-year-old eyes what I saw was much larger and more frightening to behold than a real praying mantis ever was. At the time I had never seen such a thing and so I could not place it. It frightened me so much that I had to kill it. This was a reaction to the unknown. Sometimes an instinctual reaction crushes the harmless and the innocent in a primitive instinctual projection based on unfamiliarity.
A few years after this incident, when I was about fourteen, I was out with friends. We had come upon some wild grapes. Reaching into the tangle of vines to pick a nice bunch I suddenly felt something clinging to my face. I could not pull it off. I thought is was just a grape vine caught in my hair or something. I asked my friends to help get it off me. They pulled back in horror and screamed!
None of them came to the rescue so I grabbed hold of it, a sticky something clinging tightly, and pulled it off my face with all my might. I held it up and found myself staring at the weirdest creature I had ever seen, even weirder than that praying mantis—a walking stick! It was big enough to cover my entire face. It had straddled my nose and mouth and eyes, stretching from forehead to chin. It must have looked like I was wearing some kind of strange mask.
This time I held the strange creature in my hands long enough to get a good look at it. I’d heard of walking sticks before but had never actually seen a live one. This was huge! I stared at it, freaky though it was, and then placed it carefully back onto the grape vine. Now every time I see a walking stick I am reminded of this experience and I once again remember how I held in my fear and disgust and just looked at this curious creature who shares the world with us. He got to live because I did not let my fear kill him.
In the first scenario I encountered my killer instinct in an automatic reaction to the unknown in the guise of the praying mantis. In the second scenario, although I was equally terrified, I did not react instinctively but instead paused long enough to allow consciousness to work with instinct to mediate and calm my fear, saying, “take a look at what this is and then decide the proper action/reaction.”
I do not judge my nine-year-old self for killing the praying mantis, it’s just where I was at the time. Now I try to live with consciousness as much as possible, pausing, like my fourteen-year-old self did with the walking stick, asking myself pertinent questions: What is the right thing to do in this situation? What is the right thing to feel? What is the right action to take?
We all have killed something at some point in our lives. How many mosquitoes, flies, and pesky bugs I’ve swatted at over my 65 years I don’t know, but I have certainly whacked quite a number of them to death out of sheer annoyance.
At the same time that I admit to that kind of killing, there is another part of me that would never knowingly harm another living thing, but sometimes she’s just not available when I need her. Sometimes the fearful me still steps in and just takes care of business.
A blog by J. E. Ketchel, author of The Recapitulation Diaries.
A phobia is a fear and fear is a control. And something that has control is powerful, keeping you from experiencing life to the fullest. And experiencing life to the fullest requires living without fear, so that you may know peace of mind, heart, and body, so that you may experience the kindness, compassion, and love of being human. Face your fears to the fullest and let the fullness of life become fully available. Imagine if everyone did that! Now that would be powerful!
This year, a bunny has set up refuge in our backyard sanctuary, affectionately called Camp Ketchel.
As we descend the hill and go into our screened abode Bunny sits totally still in the grass save for its mouth, which always seems to be munching, food or not. Bunny lets us pass within a couple of feet, clearly relaxed with our energy; we are not the danger.
The danger is all around, however, be it the fox family that lives very near, or an owl, or perhaps even the occasional eagle that makes its rounds. Death is but an instant away. This is nature. This is nature’s deepest truth: we are all stalked by the greatest predator of all: death. No one escapes.
In the meantime, Bunny eats, ears perked, always alert as it forages food for survival. Bunny has a friend, perhaps its mother who no longer accepts the role; all must take responsibility for their own lives.
Bunny engages friend in play. They pause in their eating and spring several feet into the air, jumping over one another in pure abandon, their customary alertness to danger momentarily relaxed. Play is part of nature, as important as eating and protecting. The bunny’s playful moment might indeed be the predator’s opportunity but that doesn’t matter, nature’s imperative to play must be enacted, regardless of cost.
Humans are animals as well. Though we hide behind a mote of reason and civilization, the truth is that the predator is always stalking. Despite all our medical genius no one and nothing can change our ultimate appointment with death.
At a primal level, the animal within us is well aware of this truth. On a primal level we are no different than the bunny, always watching, waiting, listening for the predator’s knock. Hence, anxiety is, at least on some level, a normal primal feeling in everyday human life. To think this shouldn’t be would be to deny our human animal reality. We may indeed be spirit beings who will live in infinity, but our animal selves will most assuredly die.
But let us learn from Bunny as well. As important as it is to be on our guard, it is equally important for us to completely release our guard and relax into pure play. Nature absolutely demands this of us. We must play with abandon to fulfill our animal nature.
We must allow ourselves to breathe deeply into the abdomen and break the constriction of rigid fear. We must completely relax our muscles, going deeper into calm and utter joy in our animal being. And when we are called back to alertness and fear, we must acquiesce and be present to it.
This opposition within our primal selves, of fear and play, can only be resolved by allowing ourselves to oscillate between each pole, flowing in accord with the true nature of each moment.