A cacophony of crows followed my client down the walk as he arrived for his spiritual coaching session. “What on earth do they want,” he exclaimed but I held my peace knowing what a powerful totem the crow could be in the aboriginal tradition. I believe the soul speaks through the language of metaphor, signs and dreams to name only a few; perhaps this was a synchronicity and if so it would raise its voice again. After our opening meditation and poem, he began to share the series of soulful practices he had engaged in during the previous two weeks: meditation, music, painting, cartooning; it was impressive; I almost sensed that like a small child he was expecting accolades for his performance. A Rumi story flashed through my mind: “It is just as if a king had sent you to the country to carry out a specified task. You go and perform a hundred other tasks; but if you have not performed that particular task on account of which you had gone to the country, it is as though you have performed nothing at all.”* I took a moment of silence to sense where to go next.
“Do you recall our last session?” I enquired gently. A blank look crossed his face, a little like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car, “No” he confessed sheepishly so I took him through my recollection. “You arrived filled with some angst, a nagging irrational assumption that you should be doing more. You sensed you lacked the discipline to complete the meaningful projects you started and resorted to the old and familiar. We explored possibilities and you listed eight things that perhaps met your sense of the meaningful. There was a real passion for one and we agreed this would be the start of the journey. I reminded you that a journey of a thousand miles starts but with a single step. I encouraged to experience this as a journey, not striving for an outcome but fully living the experience, sensing how it felt to discipline yourself and what resistance came up.”
By now I can see it has all come back accompanied by a bemusement that he could have forgotten something so significant. “It’s called resistance” I said, “Like a strong rip tide it is an implacable, unconscious force that impedes our forward momentum. It can show up in procrastination, forgetfulness, rationalizing, missing or changing appointments, confusion, distraction and indecision.”
At that moment the Hero’s Journey, the foundation work by Joseph Campbell popped into my mind. I was not entirely sure where I could find the reference I needed but in the same way that a shiny button can emerge from anonymity the journal I had kept in 1997 appeared. I opened it to the reference I was seeking, in itself an amazing synchronicity and found notes I had taken at the Body and Soul conference in Seattle from a wonderful presentation by the inimitable Jean Houston. The second step in the journey after the Call is Resistance. The next step is to break through and Cross the Threshold to Adventure, which is guarded by a monster. “So what is your monster?” I enquired.
Seamlessly he answered my question. “It’s the desire to avoid a trap door, fear of growth, fear of losing control, fear of committing.” I sat in wonder as he so clearly elucidated something that he was unconscious of minutes before. I asked where he thought these fears came from and he recited his ability as a child to escape things he feared. He realized that the escape artist, the Houdini who gets out of things stemmed from the childhood fear of the powerful other that James Hollis talks about so insightfully. As a mature accomplished fifty-year old, he can take a different path.
Suddenly I glanced out of the window and saw the Crow standing sentinel on the ash tree in the neighbour’s yard. It seemed to be checking in on our progress. I asked my client if he would be interested in hearing about the negative aspects of the crow totem. I took out my copy of Jamie Sams and David Carson’s Medicine cards and turned to reverse crow. The essence of the reading was that contrary Crow speaks of broken law. In seeing what is true you need to weed out past beliefs and ideas. Honour the past as your teacher, your present as your creation, and the future as your inspiration. “It is always your creation, so call on Crow and shift that creation to your new reality. Amazing! As we closed the session I noticed the Crow had flown away, I hoped the monster had gone with it.