Don’t Drive the Scorpion Ferry

notastatementaboutuThere’s an old tale I love about the Scorpion and the Frog. If you don’t know it, it goes something like this (although I’m taking some liberties): Once there was a scorpion on the bank of a stream. He called out to a frog, “Excuse me! Could you give me a ride across? I can’t swim!” And the frog said, “Dude, you’re a scorpion. I’m not giving you a ride. If you sting me, I’ll die.” And the scorpion said, “If I sting you, you’ll drown, and I’ll die, too.” This made sense to the frog, so he said, “All right, climb on.” Halfway across the stream, the scorpion stings the frog. With his dying breath, the frog says, “Why have you done this to us?”, and the scorpion says, “Dude, I’m a f&cking scorpion!”

The way people treat you is a statement about where they are on their journey as an evolving human being. It’s also subject to change; a scorpion may not always be a scorpion. The main thing to grasp is that it’s not a reflection of anything lacking in you. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll remember the much-older man I dated when I was seventeen. He was seeing other women for the three years we were together, and although I could never prove it, I always felt it. (I confirmed my fears once). And at the time, I took it as a sign that I wasn’t enough. Not pretty enough or “something” enough to keep him interested solely in me. And I spent so much time over the course of those three years feeling awful about myself. I was hooked on this interaction, and convinced if I could just be enough for him, then I’d be happy. I didn’t realize that his inability to be faithful had nothing to do with me, or that a person who’s lying and sneaking around is ultimately having a painful relationship with him or herself. When you respect yourself and are making choices that are aligned with what’s true for you in a conscious and kind way, you’re not going to lie. And I think if you’re like most people, the tendency is to take those times we’ve been hurt, disappointed, neglected, betrayed, or even abused, personally. Hurt people hurt people, as the saying goes. A person can only be where they are, working with whatever tools they’ve got. What IS about you, is what you do about it if someone isn’t treating you well. Sometimes we get caught up in relationships with lovers, family members, friends, or colleagues. Maybe things start out well, but over time the quality of the interaction deteriorates. Or circumstances change and you observe responses you wouldn’t have predicted. If you have a pattern of participating in relationships with people who treat you badly, then it is time to take a long, hard look at why. It’s about something. Identifying that something is the key to your freedom. Your deepest pain is your greatest teacher.

There are lots of frogs in the world, but there’s no other frog just like you. If you’ve been swimming in shark-infested waters too long, hiding in shadows and making yourself as small as possible out of fear, or some idea that you’re not lovable, or enough, or worthwhile, I hate to say it, but you’re going to have to turn around and swim directly for the mouth of that shark. Otherwise you’ll never rest. You’ll keep running the Scorpion Ferry, becoming harder and less hopeful with each ride. Being a hopeless frog sucks. I know, because I was one. Letting yourself get swallowed whole by the shark of your fear is not a fun ride, but it won’t kill you, either. If you’re still hanging with my Moby Dick-Aesop’s Fables-Life of Pi metaphor, then you probably already understand the Willa Cather quote, “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” The Dark Night of the Soul is a storm. But it’s also an invitation to know yourself, truly and deeply. To heal and liberate yourself from your pain, so that the next time a scorpion calls to you from the bank of a stream, you’ll be like, “What up, Scorpion? You need to get your ride from a shark, my friend!” Sending you love, and the strength to swim toward your pain if you need to! You are enough. Amazingly enough. Ally

Watch out for Selfish Cider

whenyouwelcomeA number of years ago, a close friend of mine was dating a man in the “spiritual community.” I have to admit, the first time I met him I got a bad vibe. He seemed arrogant and pretentious, and I was worried for my friend. But as you do in those cases, I kept my mouth shut and hoped for the best. Telling your friend you don’t dig the guy she’s mooning over is a recipe for trouble, and a great way to alienate someone who’s probably going to need to lean on you in the not too distant future. Plus, it was only a dinner, and I was hoping I was wrong. Maybe he’d been nervous, or didn’t do well in social situations. Maybe there was a whole side of him she was seeing that I couldn’t have glimpsed in such a short meeting.

About six months later, he went to an ashram. She called me a few times from Chicago, saying she had an intuition that something was off. He happened to be passing through L.A. on his way back home, and she asked me to have lunch with him, which I agreed to do. At lunch, he told me he had “connected” with a woman at the ashram, and had a deep, spiritual experience. When I asked him if he meant he’d had sex with her, he laughed and said, “Yes, if you need to be so crass about it.” When I asked him how he thought my friend was going to feel, given that they were in a monogamous relationship, he said he was a “mysterious and enigmatic creature”, and that he’d had to “honor the truth of what he was feeling.”

This was not, and is not, the only time I’ve encountered this kind of thinking amongst those who talk about being on “the path”, and it’s one of the things that gets me fired up. “Honoring your truth” doesn’t mean you’re justified in doing anything you want, it means you acknowledge what you’re feeling and communicate it when necessary. You sit with the feelings without acting on them, especially if doing so will hurt other people. If it turns out your feelings are an expression of a deeper truth, then you make changes so that you’re free to act on what’s pulling you, whether it’s another person, a new job, or a different way of being, but you act with compassion and consciousness. Sometimes it means you understand it’s just not something worth doing, that the cost will be too great.

Sitting with your feelings without acting on them is a sign of emotional and spiritual maturity. It’s a recognition that you are not your feelings, that feelings are not facts, or as the beautiful Pema Chodron puts it, “You are the sky; everything else is just the weather.” Lots of emotions feel overpowering, especially rage, jealousy, lust and despair. But you don’t have to be ruled by those feelings, and you really can’t be if you’re trying to live your life in a conscious way. I get sad about this, because I think many people who are seeking some healing run into this kind of thinking and either follow it, or are turned off by it (as am I). It’s twisting a beautiful practice into something ugly, and it’s a good reminder to be discerning about where you look for healing and guidance if you need some, and not to think one stinky apple ruins all the cider! Sending you a ton of love, as always, Ally Hamilton