Sunday, April 13, 2014
On exploring my inner shaman, and coming to terms with my inner critic...
Today I was asked to help facilitate a ritual of celebration and benediction at a seminar I attended this weekend. I had no idea what the ritual would entail, but I found myself agreeing eagerly before my inner critic kicked in. After a minute or so, I realized this negative voice was starting to bubble up, but I decidedly shook it down. I didn't have the patience today to argue with her, so I just trundled through the rest of the afternoon, waiting for the close of the seminar.
We all have this critic, this self-talk that goes on in our heads. It tells us we aren't good enough; or we don't have the skills for this-or-that; or that we would be found out to be a fraud; or that blah-blah-blah. This negative feedback loop is so destructive, and yet it can be so insidious in its commentary. We think we just bottle it up and it goes away, but really, we are just simply ignoring it. That critic is still in our subconscious, prattling on and on and on, and now it has become background noise in our head. It is the white noise frequency that we forget about, but it is still informing every thought, action, and word we think, do, or say.
My work with The Idisi has pushed me beyond the stifling of this inner critic, and instead into the scary realm of acknowledging its existence and dealing with it from a place of patience and power. Acknowledging my critic is not giving credence to what it says, nor is it "assimilating in order to transform" its hurtful words. Instead, the acknowledgement gives it (and really, "it" is "me") the space to be heard, the patience to hear its grievances, and then sending it out on an errand, or to coffee, so to speak, to give myself a break.
Amazingly, this works for me. The hurtful self-talk is indeed from myself, conscious or otherwise. I will never be able to full exorcise that part of my inner mind, but acknowledging it exists gives me a frame of reference to be aware when it rises up - to be aware when a negative thought-deed-word may not truly be from the best part of me.
This critic has bested me for a long time, arguing with me over vocations, friendships, family issues, education, and spiritual things. Almost always my critic plays devil's advocate for whatever I might be going through at the time, and devil's advocate for the sheer provocation of it! However, because of the chanty work I do with The Idisi, the need for neutrality and yet mindful presence, and the opportunity to open my piehole for bold singing - these facets have given a way for me to wrestle with my critic, and in the end, send her out for toilet paper (if only she would really pick up TP, that would be magic!)
I am now pursuing a degree in theology and pastoral ministry, which for a long time I realize my self-talk was telling me wasn't worth the effort ("You won't actually make any money, will you?") I am working with the Sacred Art of Living Center toward germinating a career in hospice and funeral chaplaincy, which was scoffed at ("What makes you think dying people will take you seriously at age 30, hmmm?") I am growing in a church community, which has been an absent part of my spiritual life for awhile ("You don't need church, nobody really likes you there anyway, they are just gossiping about you, etc.") I continue to sing and explore new sacred music, and hope to continue with The Idisi and our work for many seasons to come ("Your voice isn't gorgeous, it's just pretty basic. Plus who are you to give opinions to the others in the group who have more performing experience than you?")
So you see, in spite of all the negative feedback from my critic -I mean- myself, I have found a way to be patient and move forward with it. These are tools I learned from singing and being in community with the other women in The Idisi, and I hope I have helped facilitate their learning as well.
Back to today's ritual...there were elements of many religious traditions present, each one meant to give a blessing to each participant. Thankfully, I was not specifically offering the blessing, but engaging everyone in my element to partake in the way he or she saw fit. Long story short, I was meant to hold space. A lot of space. 70 participants worth of space. I realized, after the ritual, that had I not the experience with The Idisi holding song space for extended periods of time, I don't think I would have lasted very long in a healthy way. After the ritual, our main facilitator of the seminar thanked me for participating, and said "I knew it had to be you, because I knew you could hold the space reverently, and yet have a bit of levity to put everyone at ease when they came to your element."
I was so touched by her words, and so grateful for her confidence in me, I rushed home to try and put all the thoughts tumbling around in my head into this blog post, which indeed, has been a long time coming. Of course, my critic is sitting right here beside me as I work, but she is simply checking my spelling and punctuation, happy not to be relegated yet again to finding me some eggs or something.
(For those wondering, I held the "bread" of the communion table: a ritual cake made from corn pollen, water, oil of gilead, and healing soil from Chimayo, NM. Needless to say, I'm sure, there was a spectrum of reactions from "meh." to borderline disgust with the thought of eating dirt, even dirt of healing.)
~ a wyld woman named Cachel N