During my last teacher training program, one of the younger women in the group announced that what she felt like she needed in her life was a council of elders.
And she asked me if I would be willing to be part of that circle. Of course, I enthusiastically said yes. Not only did I feel deeply honored, but I also was looking forward to the opportunity of giving a young person some advice they might actually take!
This particular women happened to also be a student in my weekly Wild Heart Painting class, and the next time I saw her, she shared in our group about struggling with an issue around dating. She is newly single and looking for a relationship that better meets her emotional and spiritual needs.
But she was getting a lot of relationship advice from blogs and well meaning friends about how she should present herself to potential new beaus she met on various dating sites.
She is a gorgeously and soulfully alive human being, very in touch with her feelings and emotions and often gets criticized for being “too intense.” Which I always hear as code for “I have a hard time tolerating my own feelings. So I’m going to shame you into shutting down yours so I don’t have to feel mine.”
What she was actually feeling about going out into the dating world was a sense of anxiety, vulnerability and insecurity. But the message she was getting was that she should play it cool by acting as if she were confident and powerful and unconcerned about the whole dating process.
When she started her painting, she found herself hunkered down in a tiny corner of a very large canvas that she had been working on for a few months. When I checked in with her about her painting process she expressed frustration with what was showing up, which was a tiny and tender childlike figure that symbolized the emotions she was judging so harshly.
She wanted those particular feelings of what she called “whimpering clinginess” to simply go away. But I encouraged her to go towards them and find a place to hold them with compassion and maybe even celebrate their wisdom by intensifying them through her creative process.
I counseled her that she would be way better off showing all of herself to any prospective suitors and not try to entice them with a somewhat false version of herself.
She was totally horrified by the whole idea, but then the other women who were painting alongside her in the studio, and who were also part of her trusted creative community, began to chime in and back me up.
All of these women were 50 years or older and were lovingly and playfully challenging her to open herself to the suggestion of revealing her real self from the start if she wanted to have a relationship where she could truly be seen and loved as herself in the long run.
The joy in the room was palpable as we all connected with each other from that place of discomfort that everyone was feeling at the always scary prospect of true intimacy.
I could tell that the young woman was actually enjoying the attention and that it was beginning to dawn on her that maybe the old girls had a point with all this seeming madness.
And then she laughingly said… “This isn’t fair! You are all ganging up on me with your truth telling!!”
Me: “Well, you wanted a council of elders! This is what it looks like. It’s our job to tell the truth.”
Her: “Does the truth always have to be so uncomfortable?”
Me: “Especially if it’s uncomfortable! That’s when we need the most help in hearing the truth.”
Her: “Is it too late to ask for a new council?”
At that, we all burst into laughter once again and I could see that our council daughter was feeling seen and heard and KNOWN in a deep healing way. It filled my heart with delight knowing that our validating her would give her the strength to make decisions based on courageously living from her most authentic self.
We all need a wise and compassionate “council of elders” from time to time when we lose our way.
They don’t even necessarily have to be in human form. Or older than you.
My council includes friends and colleagues and my amazing husband. But I also have cosmic deities ( Kuan Yin and Kali), dead artists ( Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keefe) and powerful rock formations in the mountains ( the tufa towers at Mono Lake) and desert sitting on my spiritual board. I feel continually supported by these deeply trusted people, places and spiritual beings. They are always available and I know I can turn to them when I need a gentle OR insistent nudge back to the center of my soul.
So who serves that function for you? Who is there in your life, helping to keep you honest and challenging you to stay true to your OWN deepest emotional and spiritual wisdom?
Make a list. Thank them on a regular basis. And don’t be afraid to go to them when you need a truth boost, even if what they tell you is something you think you would rather not hear.
One of the things that is so miraculously amazing about my live Wild Heart Painting retreats is the community of gorgeous and heartfelt support that always gets created when people come together to paint in this deeply soulful way. I have another one of those workshops coming up March 18-20, here at my Creative Juices Arts studio and there’s still ONE spot left. So if you are looking for the experience of being held in a wise council of creative folks, click on the link below for more info: