I’m reading Entering the Castle by Carolyn Myss. It’s part of the curriculum for a class I’m taking called “Foundations of Mysticism.” Most of my reading is done on the stairmaster (doesn’t everybody do that?), but Myss’s book is by no means stairmaster reading. When I read it, I have a binder with a prompt sheet, my laptop open for discoveries I make along the way, a highlighter, a pen, backups of both in case I’m sitting on one and can’t find it–a whole arsenal of castle supplies. Myss, like mystics before her, uses the castle as the sacred space to get to know your soul in a deep way that trumps DISC profiles and cracker jack personality inventory.
It’s an intense read, filled with contemplation and meditation, while I’m moving from room to room with Myss as my guide. Finding that quiet time in a house of four (five if you count the dog) isn’t always practical. When I go to my meditation spot upstairs, castle-ready, it inevitably times out with my boys playing basketball in the garage below with their rap music pumping so hard it makes my floor shake. My soul can barely hear itself think.
Not that I’m complaining. The metaphor makes me laugh and is hard to miss. It’s hard to hear your soul in a very loud world filled with to do lists and people all around. And yet, it’s important to me–potentially the most important thing I’ll gain here on Earth–to be clear that I am living in each moment the life which fulfills my purpose. That takes going beyond to do lists (though I do so love to distract myself with those!) and into the castle.
One thing Myss talks about that I find a bit annoying is “reptiles.” She’s using imagery, obviously, with the intention of facing those things you’re afraid of, most likely without the intent of actually facing live reptiles. However, one of my reptiles happens to be live reptiles. When I was still in diapers, I walked over to my friend, Laurie’s, house next door in the country where I lived. She wasn’t home, but I noticed this oddly-colored garden hose coiled so neatly. I touched it with my foot and it sprung up and latched onto my achilles. (Talk about symbolic.) I started to cry, and dragged the snake home behind me, and into my house. My dad, who never got too wound up about anything, took me outside and calmly killed the snake with a shovel. I don’t remember the pain. I just remember how startled I was when the garden hose struck me and how scared I was that it wouldn’t let go.
Lately I’ve been thinking about this. I like to think I’m pretty fearless, but I find myself scouring the ground in the summer for snakes. If my husband said he saw a rattlesnake, I’ll usually stay inside for a few days. So I’ve had this feeling I would come face-to-face with this fear, and last weekend, I did.
There we were shopping in Hot Topics 75% off sale on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley with the kids. We see a man in the store wrapped in a boa constrictor and I back up about 20 feet and take a picture. He turns around and says, “Wanna get a real shot?” We start talking, and I switch into interview mode, asking him everything I could think of about his relationship with this snake. People started holding the snake. My heart was pounding. “Can they smell fear like dogs?” I asked.
He totally could have been lying, but that was good enough for me. I ducked my head and let him put the huge snake on my neck and shoulders. I was terrified. Things that surprised me were how heavy it was and how I felt its spirit. This was not an evil animal as I had created in my mind so many years ago when I was betrayed by the garden hose snake. It was gentle, and playful (it kept sticking its head in the hanging shirts and trying to knock them off) and powerful.
I felt proud. I could check this off my “Face your Fears” bucket list. And, metaphorically speaking, I think I will look at “reptiles” hereafter in a whole new way.