Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Facing my dragons

"'Staying real' is one of the most courageous battles we’ll ever fight." ~Brené Brown

Andromeda by Toshiyuki Enoki

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a three-day silent retreat called Befriending Dragons. Through the course of many hours of meditation, repetitive sessions of chanting, journal writing, mandala making, and Shamanic Journeying, participants were drawn into the darker, often hidden parts of themselves – where the dragons await.

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which the retreat drew from, dragons awaken us from delusion, help us tap into creative potential, and give us strength and courage. They also represent the Shadow parts of our nature – what we are afraid of, ashamed of, deny, or have difficulty confronting and integrating into our lives. Although throughout the retreat I questioned if the practices were actually “working,” and guiding me into those dark corridors of the soul, it seems that what was uncovered during those three days continues to work on me in subtle, yet powerful ways.

The vow of silence began around 7:00 pm the first night, followed by a series of meditations, creative art-making and ritual practices to bring us into the realm of the unconscious and the intent of the weekend. As we silently completed a fire ceremony and headed to our cabins to go to bed, I found my mind so distracted, I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned and felt deeply restless. My legs and torso burned so hot, I wondered if I had some kind of fever. Although I drifted in and out of consciousness, I never fell deeply into sleep. But at one point during the night, I had the following dream:

I am lying in my cabin bed, and a dark, shadowy female figure is standing beside me. She is looming over me, mouth agape, sucking the life essence out of me – like the soul-sucking Dementors from Harry Potter. I can feel my own soul being pulled out of me and it’s terrifying, but I am under some kind of spell. I am paralyzed, unable to stop her or scream for help.

Although I later learned that the dream was a kind of Night Terror, or perhaps an instance of Sleep Paralysis, the fact that it occurred on the first night of a retreat in which I was facing my dragons had strong meaning to me, and I began to ask myself some key questions: What am I afraid of? What is being taken away from me? What part of my essence am I afraid to let out?

Over the course of the last two weeks, these questions keep surfacing as I encounter difficult situations where I need to voice my truth.

In its most basic form, the word “truth” makes me think of honesty, facts, and what is real and reliable. But the origin of the word, according to the Oxford Dictionary, has to do with “faithfulness” and “constancy” – and this has a deeper resonance for me. “Truth,” for me, means being faithful to myself and to my personal values, even if they’re not popular and regardless of what’s going on around me. It means not forfeiting my own opinions when I think someone else knows best. It means speaking up even when what I have to say is unpleasant or “ugly,” even if it’s something others might not want to hear. It means asking for what I need and being clear about expectations and intentions. Sometimes it’s easier to silently judge a person or situation rather than take responsibility for my own needs, but I’m realizing how much energy and creativity is wasted when my truth is withheld - I will never be truly fulfilled that way.

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” ~Brené Brown

“In order to voice the soul, we will have to balance our inner experience with our outer one.” ~Sue Monk Kidd

“To be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves.” ~Clarissa Pinkola Estés

It seems we are at a pivotal time in the world when old ways, habits and rules no longer apply, and we are searching for something real, yearning to face ourselves in all our various dimensions: dealing with the things that inspire as well as the things that bring pain; navigating power imbalances in relationships; speaking up when things don’t feel right; and finding ways to voice the stuff we would rather keep inside – frustration, anger, hurt, upset, disappointment, sadness.

Finding the courage to really speak those harder truths means that all parts of me are seen – and there is a deep vulnerability in that, so I tread gently. But as I am further away from the life that was based on “shoulds” and “supposed tos,” the more I feel aligned.

The small steps I have taken so far remind me that when I speak and stand up for my truth, there is almost always something to be gained. And this has given me just enough confidence to let the dragons out to play.


  1. SO true & very well written... Loved this..:)

  2. Thank you for allowing yourself to be so real and raw in this post. It is beautiful in its terrifyingness. I agree that this is a time where old containers are falling away and we must open to the hallow gord. Let life energy flow into different forms or no forms at all. This will be something! xo

    1. "Let life flow into different forms or no forms at all." YES!! I love these words, and they are certainly true for me right now. We are at the edge - hopefully we will have the courage to let go.

  3. beautiful
    absolutely beautiful

    love and light

  4. You are totaly right, wise and truth words.
    Thanks for sharing!