Emergence

The dragonfly perched on the sun warmed granite of the bench… more than I am allowed to do, as it  still has to be drilled and fixed immovably in place. I was precariously perched on the edge of a flowerbed, camera in hand, watching my son hand-feed the huge sturgeon in his pond…not exactly comfortable, but perfectly placed to watch the fascinating creature that had come to visit.

My son’s garden is in the town and we live in an area with little natural water, so every dragonfly we see here is exciting. This year, with the pond’s new and more open aspect, we have seen more than usual, from the tiny, iridescent demoiselles with their velvet-dark wings, to the big hawkers, but this was the first darter we had seen here. With its stained glass wings and deep red body, it was a beautiful visitor and one that showed no inclination to leave.

There are over fifty different types of dragonfly and damselfly in Britain, some of which are now on the red list as endangered species. Like many other insects, they are suffering from changes in land use and management as well as the problems cause by pesticides. It would be a tragedy to lose any one of these gorgeous creatures, each of which play their part in our lives as part of the balancing act of Nature.

They have been around an awfully long time. Their ancestors, the griffinflies with wingspans of up to thirty inches, ruled the insect kingdom around three hundred million years… long before the advent of the dinosaurs, when humankind was no more than a whisper in Nature’s dreams. Today’s dragonflies have changed little since then, so in many ways, they are a glimpse of Earth’s distant past.

In England, they were once known as the Devil’s darning needles, and it was thought that if you fell asleep by a summer stream, they would sew your eyelids shut.  This old legend, at least as it now stands, sounds like the kind of tale you would tell to youngsters to stop them lazing in the sun instead of working, and yet, to the Zuni, dragonflies were messengers between man and the gods. Perhaps, as eyes closed in dreaming can also see across the boundaries of reality, the two stories are not as far apart as they might at first seem.

I watched the brilliant little creature exploring the garden… a whole new and undiscovered country  for a being so recently emerged from the world in which it grew. Dragonflies hatch in water and spend most of their lives there as larvae, only emerging at the end of their lives as the glorious winged beings that delight our eyes. They can live years as larvae, just feeding and growing, before their transformation, but most live only weeks as dragonflies.

I think this little dragonfly was but newly emerged as he seemed content to be still and gather strength from the light. I couldn’t help thinking how beautifully Nature illustrates our own journey when we see the similarities, rather than the differences, between the lives around us and our own.

Most of us spend the early parts of our lives ‘underwater’. For many of us youth can feel cold and dark, a time of insecurity and fear that only takes on an alluring sheen when seen through nostalgic eyes. The earlier parts of our lives are about learning to survive, both physically and in society.

Many feel themselves lost, tangled in the choking weeds of suppression, victims of circumstance or the control of others. It is only with age that many of us begin to emerge as our true selves and it can be a struggle to break free of the shell that life and conditioning has built around us.

We may then cast around, looking for a place our new self can feel at home, seeking a new path or direction to replace old habits and outworn patterns… until we realise that all we need to do is to be still and gather strength from the Light. When our wings have dried and our true colours glow, then, perhaps, we can be our true selves… and the latter part of our lives may teach us how to soar.

Rattling the chains

“It’s what’s called a floating floor,“ had said the workman who had come to remove yet more chunks of my son’s wet room, “but that will mean absolutely nothing to you,”
“Actually, it does.” Not only is the term fairly self-explanatory, but I was heavily involved in the gutting and redesigning of my son’s home. Had I not known before, which I did, I would certainly have learned about floating floors back then when we had ripped the place apart.
“Oh,” said the workman. “I just assumed…” Yes, he had. And why would that be, then? Because I am a female? And a middle-aged one too?

It was on a par with the other workman engaged to do some maintenance on Nick’s decking, who condescendingly explained to me, several times, how wood swells when it dries in summer and shrinks when it is soaked by all the winter rain. I too had shrunk… from correcting this misapprehension, for I too had made an assumption… that it was a simple mistake and that he really did know how it worked and had simply said it wrong. It was an assumption that would cause havoc with my son’s woodwork…

Making assumptions seldom works out well. My son is very fond of the old saying about what happens when you assume anything, yet we are really good at taking things for granted where other people are concerned. Even with open minds and the best of intentions, we almost automatically work out what we would think, know or do if we were in what we perceive to be their shoes. The trouble is, we are not… our perception is partial at best, faulty at worst and we have no way of knowing the entirety of another person’s experience and knowledge, nor do we have their character. All we are doing s projecting our own onto theirs and expecting it to fit.

We are just as good at making assumptions about ourselves… and often get them just as wrong. The surface levels of the mind are in constant dialogue with each other,  and at least one of those levels is replete with what we think other people will, or might, think of us. Much of this comes from a learned, but  often erroneous, perception of who we are.

“A real man wouldn’t do that…”
“Women can’t change a tyre/put up shelves/lay bricks.”
“You’re too old/too young/too fat/too slim to do/wear/be that.”
You’ll never be able to/be as good as/be good enough to…”

These and a thousand other negative judgements, most of which are blatantly untrue, are picked up from many places as we grow up and grow older and colour our opinion of ourselves. We assume them to be true, even when there is a niggling doubt about their veracity. They can be crippling, often to the point where  we begin to believe they are true and never make the attempt to prove otherwise, even to ourselves.

If the judgements and assumptions that others make about us and superimpose upon us are based largely on how they would behave in a given situation, why does it never occur to us that the perceived flaws that they are projecting onto us may, in fact, be their own?

Those who feel they have no control over their own lives may try to control those more vulnerable than themselves. Those who feel that they are not good enough will often pass that feeling on to those over whom they have authority. It is not necessarily deliberate… it  is the ego’s mistaken attempt at self-defence.

Maybe, if we could see beyond the accumulated assumptions about ourselves that we have simply accepted over the years, we could be and do far more than we think. Why should gender or age define our talents or how we allow ourselves to express our personalities? Maybe confident curves would totally rock that little black dress…and maybe that dream you have held in your heart is no so impossible after all.

It makes all the difference if you have someone who believes in you… someone who is ready to support you as you try and celebrate the attempt as much as the possible success. A little genuine encouragement and belief can make the improbable possible. But we do not all have the blessing of a supportive friend or partner in our lives. Or do we?  Well, maybe we could.

There is one person who is with us every step of the way, from the cradle to the grave and who knows our story better than anyone else… and that is our self. We are never wholly alone, no matter how lonely we may feel; there is always a part of us that exists at a deeper level than the surface chatter of the mind. If we can free ourselves, even a little, from the chains of assumption and judgement that we have accepted from others, we can learn to believe in ourselves. And that makes so many things possible.

The Mystery Schools, from ancient Greece to modern schools like the Silent Eye, have always taught that we should learn to know ourselves. It is a common misconception that this simply means learning to know our own faults and weaknesses so that we can address them and make progress as human and spiritual beings. It also means learning to know and embrace our strengths, gifts and talents…celebrating our lives as whole and entire beings. Works in progress, whose faults are part of the unfinished learning process and whose gifts show a glimpse of the spark of true beauty that can be ignited within each of us.

Change can begin at any point in our lives by challenging the assumptions about ourselves that we have accepted over the years. Next time you say ‘I can’t do that…’, ask yourself ‘why not?’. Is there a practical reason… or do you ‘just’ believe that you cannot? Belief in yourself is a door that only you can open, and when you do, others will believe in you too. You may even find that they always did.