Hard Choices & Hard to Hear Advice – Animá & Students’ Quandaries
I’ve often considered the ways in which the contents and methods of our teaching differ from most others, especially on the occasion of losing even one of our dozens of Animá course students. At such moments I am painfully aware that I likely had seen it all coming and could have salvaged the relationship, ensured their continuing donations and lasting admiration by simply allowing them to subscribe to an appeasing untruth uncountered and unchecked, stepping back quietly as someone indulges in poetic rationalization or clothes self-compromise in spiritually toned self denial, or acts as if transcendence and self denigration were honorable mechanisms and goals, or seems to apply only to others an insight meant also for them and us all. With only a degree of withholding and some comforting words, I might never had the few drop out, or leave a counsel session nonplussed.
It is difficult at the onset, to promote a practice that is based on response-ability, that leaves no one off the hook, hears no excuses, expects us to be true to our natures, honor ourselves and further our purpose without fudging, evading or excusing, a way in which we cannot define ourselves as victims no matter what hardships are set upon us because we are conscious decision makers and co-creators of our world and reality. We leave it to religions to afford the security of being saved, for our time here requires our own solutions, and life on earth is a call to be and do. We cannot afford students the certainty of dogma and solution, only the tools to navigate moment by moment through the ever shifting universe. Unlike vested authorities or gurus, we will not take control of another person’s choices no matter how much they might sometimes prefer that, as we are here to empower, and they learn best from their mistakes and gain power from their accomplishments when we leave everyone plenty of room to make an unhealthy decision or do something counterproductive. And because one’s choices depend on what we are aware of, we will not do anyone the disservice of holding back a painful insight, disruptive clarity or inconvenient perspective… even if it could result in someone responding that they have “grown past needing a teacher.”
I cannot bear to silently witness a man go through a separation claiming no attachment, and then dedicate to her a two year period of self denial and celibacy while she explores her sexuality, desperately waiting for her to return and see him as a new man… while calling it “surrender” to the will of deities or vagaries of fate, cosmically discounting his deep personal anguish with statements like “pain and joy are the same.” I cannot hear without comment, a woman telling herself that the husband she has love but insufficient passion for could become everything she needs if he would just go to counseling. And our love for another student will not let us accept her attachment to depression and powerlessness, valuing herself largely to the degree that a lover or lovers desire her, wishing she could hang on to the one that she is breaking up with even as she reaches out to another.
The same is true when we are dealing with someone’s quandary over where they belong, who they are, or what they are to be doing. Yet all of the anonymous examples above involve relationships or marriages that are over or still in question, one of the hardest topics for anyone to accept advice regarding. It is so personal, so tied into our identities and sense of worth, that it is understandably something we might rather would sort itself out in storms of private tears or years of slow erosion, rather than the abrupt and perceivably brutal light of day. Whether we ultimately seem to be supporting an honest reappraisal or separation, or a healing and strengthening of existing bonds, we seek not a certain result but the student’s honest realization, deep no b.s. consideration, and then responsibly living with their choices.
Of the people cited above, one is bravely sleeping by herself as she reappraises her needs and relationship, doing the hard work and hearing hard advice. Through this process she is risking losing her family, income, and the emotional support of a good and gentle man. Whether she remains with him or not, she intends to never again fool herself about her situation and desires, and we are very proud of her. The other woman actually distanced herself from us and these teachings after an earlier bout of advice about not honoring herself, something we could not blame her for finding difficult to swallow. That we are able to advise her again, testifies to the fact that she came back and even enrolled in a Path of Heart course… prepared – like our other impressively committed students – to face and then utilize to the best of her ability even the hardest to hear insights and most difficult to implement counsel or realization. We can give them all tons of credit for such effort, and precisely because they are so often given potential reasons – and reminded of their option – to balk, deny, pretend, dilute, diverge or turn away. And along with the opportunity to face, engage, stretch, grow, commit, resolve and stay. Together we take the mortar and pestle to make our medicines, reach out from a most real and uncompromised place to hold, and to remake, our deeply feeling world.
-In love and Service, Jesse Wolf Hardin
(photo of mortar and Marble Man globe (c) 2009 by Jesse Wolf Hardin)
Categories: Anima Lifeways & Herbal School Courses, Jesse Wolf Hardin – Essays & Tales, Practicing Animá Lifeways