Echo can no longer deny the need to take responsibility for her own life.

Narcissus cannot believe Echo has not returned home. She should have come home a while ago and why did she have to harp on him? Narcissus calls Echo a few hours later. He is frustrated that he even has to make this phone call.He tries not to shout into the phone.”Echo it is time to come home for dinner.”

She can hear the anger in his voice still, but every cell in her body wants to run home to Narcissus. “I don’t think that is a good idea.” Echo says with some feigned conviction. At the same time she recognizes that her denial has been broken. She knows he is a danger to her. She tells him “You terrified me to the point I had to run out of the house. I don’t even get an apology, just an order to come home for dinner. I am sorry, but I am not going to do this anymore. You need to move out. I will give you a few hours before I come home to figure it out and do not be there.”

Echo wishes Narcissus would beg and plead or at least try to apologize. In the most contemptible voice Echo has ever heard, Narcissus responds like it was his idea to move out all along. “Perfect. I will move out tonight. Not a problem at all. I am sick of your crap.” Echo wonders what ‘crap’ he is referring to. He appears to have absolutely no regard for how his scary behavior affects her and for some reason this still stuns her.

Narcissus hangs up on her immediately. Wow he even gets the last word she thinks as she drops her phone into her lap. Another relationship has gone to shit. Why doesn’t she get what she wants? A good relationship with someone who loves her. Is that too much to ask? She has been a good nymph, kind to all creatures and good to her family and friends. She pays attention to the universe around her and tries to do the right thing. OK maybe she has neglected all of these parts of her life lately, but she was trying to help Narcissus

Echo’s denial had come in handy in the past protecting her from the overwhelming nature of her suffering with Narcissus. She can now no longer deny her awareness of Narcissus’s harmful nature, thanks to the Hunter who helped her to gather the strength to find out how harmful to her he really is.  She knows she has to do something different, but she is terrified of being on her own and is not sure she can do it. Sometimes, the devil one knows is superior to the the devil one doesn’t know.

Echo is still in the pub. She had walked to an isolated corner on the patio when Narcissus called and has now returned to one of the tables with some friends, all of whom had stopped by to offer support.

The sun is going down. The air is crisp being moved by a slight breeze. It is unusually warm for a winter evening, yet there is the smell of smoke coming from fresh wood burning in a nearby fireplace. Echo thinks about her own home, the home she tried to share with Narcissus,  how neither of them had ever used the fireplace, and how they never really created a home together. She pictures him packing all of his stuff, emptying out drawers, and clearing out closets.

A tear slides down her cheek and her throat feels like it is closing off her air. Samaria, her friend, notices and puts an arm around her pulling her close. Samaria is a much older mountain nymph who lives alone way up in the mountains above the forest. She rarely comes to the city, as she finds it too distracting. She is a bit strange to a wood nymph like Echo, preferring her own company to anyone else. Also, like most mountain nymphs she is much taller than other types of nymphs. Her home is an old abandoned airstream trailer she found on a remote plot of land. This is her idea of paradise. She goes days without seeing another being.

Echo loves to run into her because she is a very odd character full of hard fought wisdom and she is always up for sharing one of her stories from her colorful past.

This evening Samaria appears very serious and wants to talk to her about what happened with Narcissus.She stares into Echo’s face and speaks slowly wanting to make sure that Echo absorbs each and every word like a relished blessing. “My sweet just know you are well loved.” But before Samaria can continue, her long hair-kind of scraggly because she almost never washes it-blows right into Echo’s face, forcing her to shield her face from it with her hands. “Oh my dear not trying to force feed you my hair.  Anyway, this is what you are going to do. It is time for you to stop playing it safe. You are being forced to face your worst fears of rejection and abandonment because you consistently make choices that are below you. This is true in everything you do. You pick men who do not challenge you and with whom you do not even share the same values. You pick jobs that are boring to you that you can do in your sleep. You do not challenge yourself with anything. Enough is enough!”

Echo feels her stomach drop and wants to cry out in frustration. She is so tired of people judging her and telling her what is wrong with her. Isn’t this what Narcissus had been doing to her, telling her what is wrong with her all of the time? “But Samaria I have traveled the world. I have sought out adventure and experience. I left my first husband because I wanted more from a relationship.I have worked hard at my job and saved money.”

“Yes my sweet you have. But always with fear like a wind at your back, pushing you in the wrong direction. It is time to let go of these bad habits of always trying to avoid your fears. Suffering, if looked at properly can be a gift, but this is only if you can claim it fully and admit how much you are hurting. It is time to explore it, become aware of it and this will be the impetus for you to change. No matter how afraid you might be, it is time to trust the universe, let go, and find a new path.” Samaria then laughs and says “Or you can keep doing the same things you have been doing. There are other Narcissuses out there or just straight-up losers, if you would prefer. Check out that guy over there.” She points to a guy puking over the railing of the patio. Echo objects,”Look  we know that guy. He is our friend just having a tough night.”  Echo says. Samaria waves Echo’s words away into the air and continues her warning “You are at a crossroads. I hope you take the right path.”

Echo tries to take this all in. She notices her first inclination is to get up right now and return to Narcissus. He understands her. He is what is familiar. Samaria doesn’t care about her. She is just a crazy old nymph who spends too much time alone and wants Echo to end up just like her.

 

 

 

 

Echo meets the Hunter

It has been a long sleep of denial for Echo. The pain of being in a relationship with Narcissus is starting to overwhelm her and she knows she has to do something about it. She is finally able to admit that it does not make sense for Narcissus to treat her the way he does. He must not love her. Why is she risking her well being pining for him to be the way he was in the beginning of the relationship? And why is she always bending to his needs? But the pain of admitting he might not love her is unbearable and the fear of being alone it induces is terrifying.

She flees deep into the forest to get help from her nymph friends, but instead runs into a hunter. The hunter is a great tracker of large and terrifying beasts. Echo in her desperate state of mind shares her story easily.The hunter has no problem imparting  the wisdom earned from years of outsmarting the most cunning of beasts. “My dear before you can do anything you must know the truth of Narcissus. Who is this person you have cast your jewels before? It sounds like you are more afraid to be alone than anything else. To love out of fear is the love of cowards and children. Perhaps, you must recognize your fear and grow up?” There is no judgment in the hunter’s voice.

The hunter knows that even if something looks scary, once it is confronted, recognized for what it is, then it ceases to have the power to incite fear.

When Echo emerges from the forest she has a plan. She wants to know definitively if Narcissus loves her. So she decides to do an experiment to test her belief: Is everything her fault in the relationship with Narcissus? Has she done something to cause this painful treatment? After all of the pain and suffering there is still a very small part of her that knows she does not have to be miserable. A sliver of light in the dark, if she looks hard enough, that yes she is lovable somewhere, somehow.

Narcissus doesn’t usually want to go anywhere, preferring to stay at home staring deeply into the pool of his reflection. It is his safety net, like a child with a pacifier, the pool has become so all encompassing that it has taken the place of real friends, including Echo.  Narcissus has taught himself to see the calm reflection of his face in the water as the world.

Echo has made every attempt to emulate the calm perfection of the pool, but Narcissus has made sure to let her know her shortcomings. Also, he wants her to keep her mouth shut about being so damned needy and jealous. Why does she insist on bothering him about his behavior? He has done nothing wrong. She is the one that is not supportive of him.

Miraculously a few days ago, Narcissus agreed to go on a trip with Echo.He is incredibly nervous though because he has extreme difficulty not being in control and Echo is a wanderer and an adventurer (not that he cares about this at all), but she could be a possible challenge to his authority. But to prove he is a strong man, he agreed to go on this trip.

He does not care about spending time with her unless she is going to make him feel better about himself. Also, he is too cowardly to admit that he really is afraid to travel,   He is not conscious of the fact that he is terrified of leaving his pool.Echo thought he agreed to go because he wanted to spend time with her, but now as she returns home from her time in the forest she is starting to awaken to what might be really going on.

Narcissus believes Echo has proven herself unworthy of reflecting back to him the truth. He thinks she can be a liar and is not to be trusted. In fact Narcissus cannot trust anyone at all. He does not understand the world nor the people in it. He can only focus on getting his needs met and staying in control. He is like a robot when it comes to his behavior, mechanical. He responds only to the programs he had been given as a young child and is not able or willing to challenge any of them. This is mostly because he does not recognize that they are just programs. Echo needs to do better.

When Echo arrives home from the forest. She sees that Narcissus is again absorbed with his pool of water. She is nervous to go on a trip with him for fear he will abandon her or fly into a rage. They had decided to go to the high desert, far from the forest. She is not sure this is safe at all. She pictures him burying her body in a sand dune. He even has a look of relief on his face as he does it. Now she has just scared herself. This thought is too crazy she thinks. He wouldn’t hurt her unless she antagonized him somehow. She decides she is going to make this trip happen no matter what. It will give them time to figure things out and get Narcissus to stop staring into that damned pool like a crazy person.

Her thoughts put her voice on edge when she asks Narcissus “Are you ready to get online to book our tickets?”

“Leave me alone Echo! You just got home and you are already on my case.” Narcissus screams as he flies into a rage. Echo had asked him calmly. And they had already discussed getting the tickets when Echo arrived home, so he should be prepared for the question.She immediately recalls her experiment to test the waters. ‘Is everything my fault?’ she asks herself. So she stays calm, observes and says nothing.

He grabs her backpack that happens to have her heavy kryptonite bike lock in it and slams it around breaking things and almost hitting her with it.She stays calm on the outside and asks him to stop. He won’t stop. She slowly moves away from his fury. He follows her into the bedroom and this actually scares her because the room is small and he is flailing the heavy bag around. She manages to grab her purse and run out the door and all of the way down the street until she ends up at her local pub. Luckily, she sees some people she recognizes. They welcome her and invite her to join them.

She sits down and catches her breath. She looks at the people sitting at the table and just shakes her head repeating “It is not my fault. It is not my fault.” She knows she has to leave Narcissus for good. It will take all of her strength, but he is without a doubt, dangerous to her well being. She must now learn to think about herself and face her fears of being without Narcissus.

 

 

4 Ways Positive Affirmations can Backfire

I remember the first time I heard about positive thinking. I was a young child complaining to my mother about how I shouldn’t have to help wash the dishes. She said, “Whining and complaining will never get you anywhere, you need to look on the bright side.” Outraged I rebelled, ” What do you mean? There is no bright side about washing dishes.” She shook her head at me and sighed like I really didn’t get it. Something in life was completely hidden from me and for now I would just have to stew in my misery.

As I got older, I learned that as humans we each interpret the world differently and some of us have better lives than others. Some of us are more positive than others. It wasn’t until the film ‘The Secret’ came out explaining that if you think ‘it'(whatever it is you want) and focus on ‘it’ you can have ‘it’, so of course, if you have a ton of negative thoughts then you end up with a crap life manifesting the negative. Suddenly, I had been handed the keys to the kingdom, the human race is endowed with magical powers.The ball has been bounced back to our court. We are no longer at the mercy of a random universe.

The ‘Secret’ was incredibly popular at my work place. My co-workers and I jumped on that bandwagon creatively constructing gigantic vision boards with pictures of mansions and sports cars, hot pictures of men and women we wanted to marry.We became a world of possibilities. I tuned into more and more self help information and spiritual teachers. They were all saying that if you change your thoughts to the positive you can have the life you want.

So I did it: daily positive affirmations while staring at my vision board. I had felt like such a failure in the relationship department, recently divorced and still single. But I cheered myself up by putting a hot picture of Javier Bardem on the right hand corner of my board. He became my daily virtual boyfriend. Next to him I had a picture of two wedding rings linked and another picture of me and my future partner riding bikes together. Of course, I did not know who my future partner was going to be, but I believed that as long as I focused and stayed positive, I would get what I asked for.

Within 3 months of practicing my positive affirmations in front of my vision board, N asked me out. He even looked like Javier Bardem. We were a couple within a week. I thought it was kismet. In hindsight, maybe I should have been careful for what I wished for because even though I got it, I wasn’t very specific in my request for the type of partner (except for the picture of Javier). I definitely got somebody, but it was not the partner I had hoped for. Perhaps, it was the partner I needed? Maybe the universe knew better than I? Or the affirmations and vision board had nothing whatsoever to do with anything? Anyway, I can go around and around with these questions and never know the answer.

So now that I am healing after divorcing the N, I have decided to use positive affirmations and visualization again, but in a different way. I do not want my efforts to backfire.But, I am curious how they work. Most importantly I have learned that bypassing pain only prolongs the healing process.

I have found it to be helpful to be in a  positive environment surrounded by positive loving supportive people. In fact there has been some research that a positive outlook contributes to better health and well being.  This still makes sense to me, but there is something else I have found to be true this time around. Being positive does not mean that we deny negative emotions. In the past as I mentioned I used the affirmations as a way to try to get what I want rather than as part of a healing process.

One of the ways positive affirmations can backfire is when we use positive statements to drown out negative statements and painful feelings. This causes us to push the negative feelings even farther away creating even more problems. When we deny we are experiencing anything painful this requires a lot of energy to push the feelings away. It depletes our life energy force and can cause anxiety and depression because the energy has to go somewhere it will come out in symptomatic ways and also interfere with us actually being able to focus on the positive.

It can also make someone feel even worse about themselves, if they end up not believing the positive statement. Then they feel bad because they are not even able to feel positive. An antidote to this may be to reflect views that you actually hold and make the statements very specific and realistic. For example, saying a statement like ‘I am always loving.’ This sounds impossible. Instead how about: “I enjoy spending time with close friends.” This will bring positive memories, create gratitude about the friendships you have, and is doable.

Some psychologists argue that trying to correct negative thoughts can actually increase them. For example, have you noticed that when you try not to think about something you end up thinking about it even more? Steven C. Hayes is a psychologist who wrote a piece published in Time magazine titled “Happiness isn’t Normal” believes we should concentrate on identifying and committing to our values in life. He explained that once we are willing to feel our negative emotions, we’ll find it easier to commit ourselves to what we want in life. This is because even the negative emotions are informative and can help us create the life we want. We just need to know how to work with them, so that we don’t allow ourselves to self-sabotage.

Another way affirmations can backfire is by creating a lack of action. Visualizing and repeating affirmations must include some inspired action. We can get really comfortable with these practices and never actually do anything. One of my affirmations is ‘I have a healthy exercise routine and feel great.’ So I started a yoga practice that has finally become a habit. Every time I go, I really don’t want to, but I make myself because it is the habit that creates a positive mental state. Without the action then I am not receiving the benefit of the new habit.

The third way affirmations can backfire is by making us feel overly responsible about having to be a super happy positive person and guilty for not being more positive. We would have been better off not trying to be positive in the first place because now we have an additional emotion to deal with, on top of what was bothering us in the first place: the guilt for being unable to convince ourselves to be optimistic about our situation. Instead of accepting our negative feelings in the beginning and dealing with the problem directly, we waste our time and energy by judging ourselves over having perfectly normal emotions.

The last thing to watch out for when using affirmations has to do with creating expectations about how the universe is going to unfold. The notion that only good things can happen. The illusion that we are GOD and create all of reality. This idea can create powerful expectations that can be incredibly disappointing. I refer to the Serenity prayer to help keep myself more balanced. ‘God grant me the Serenity to Accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.’

We can always look for the wisdom and compassion within us when using tools in healing. We do the best we can becoming aware of our thoughts and how they affect our feelings. Then we can take action.

Meditation can conjure compassion and something more….

I began a fledgling meditation practice with very little background or training except for some research online. One evening, I decide to go meditate in a group setting. I chose a Tibetan Buddhist meditation called Chenrezig because the time and location are convenient. I have no idea what this type of meditation is, so I google it. Google explains ‘Chenrezig’ as a meditation devoted to the Lord of Compassion. I think I can really use an injection of compassion and perhaps get out of my own head by generating some concern for others. I have been so absorbed in my own pain. I want to change this and feed myself something good. I am hungry for any kind of relief or comfort. Pain still vibrates in my heart. N’s meat hooks are still so far into me; I feel like I am stuck hanging by my chest locked in a butcher freezer.

The meditation takes place in a lovely old craftsman house covered in prayer flags, the obvious Tibetan house on the block. I walk up the rickety stairs. Take off my shoes at the entrance. When I walk in there are cushions set up in rows with small tables and a tablet on top of each table. There are already several people sitting on cushions with perfectly straight backs silently mouthing something to themselves. I could only hear slight whispering.

I notice right away that I am the only person in the group without gray hair and am nervous about standing out as the inexperienced meditator.

Luckily, I had read the Chenrezig meditation instructions online.

‘The essence of the mind of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas is the bodhichitta, the awakened mind. When this bodhichitta assumes a form, it appears as Chenrezig, Avalokiteshvara.
Whenever we practice Avalokiteshvara, the most important aspect of the practice is the generation and development of the bodhicitta, which is the compassion that Avalokiteshvara experiences for all sentient beings. So, if we also generate this same compassion, this same awakened mind, it will be very easy for us to accomplish Avalokiteshvara because the essence of Avalokiteshvara is the bodhichitta. Thus, the blessings and the results will be very swift.’

One of the women wrapped in a deep maroon robe shows me where to sit and points out the tablet on top of the small table. She explains that we will be reciting each syllable. The syllables make up blessings in the Tibetan language and when recited out loud have powerful effects on those receiving the blessings. I am confused. Why do we recite a blessing in a language we do not understand? And if we don’t understand what we are saying then how can it have any effect on anything?

I sit down on the cushion and cross my legs. Trying to listen to the man’s prayers next to me, so I know what I am supposed to do. At least, I think he is praying. There is an altar in front of the room with three large gold Buddhas and incense burning in between the statues. I stare at one of the buddhas for a moment and then close my eyes and try to focus on my breathing.

“Hey Marin in the back. You need to behave yourself tonight ok.” The woman in the maroon robe says. She is standing to the side of the altar. I turn around and there is a long haired older man who looks like he has just fallen down and is having difficulty getting up. “Look I am here to meditate.” he shouts with his back still on the floor. “Where is my cushion?” he shouts even louder. His words are kind of slurry. The man sitting next to him tries to help him up onto a cushion, but instead has to walk him outside eventually.

The robed woman calls the meeting to order.“Ok” she says. “Welcome everyone. Let’s start the blessing by asking for names of beings.” People in the group shout out first names. Then instead of names of individual people they wish to bless, they also mention groups of people stuck in the middle of wars and natural disasters, refugees in Africa. I merely ask to bless my husband N.

N, N, N his name is my current mantra. I repeat it to myself as regularly as my heart beat. I tell the group he is struggling with mental illness and truly needs to be blessed.

We are then told by the woman in the maroon robe to read each syllable out loud and do our best to keep up with the rhythm of the group. I hope at least for the next hour these syllables would replace N’s name giving my mind something else to ponder.

I find the focus of reciting foreign syllables even more difficult than meditation. The reading and pronunciation of unintelligible syllables forces my mouth and tongue into unfamiliar positions. I try so hard to make familiar each syllable, it does the trick though because my mind is not able to wander. As we keep reciting, I do notice thoughts creep in around the syllables sneaking through the little rests begging for attention. I smile because mostly it is thoughts of boredom and not N.

A bell dings and the chanting stops abruptly. I breathe in and out and then open my eyes to look around. The room is silent and people are sitting on their cushions with their eyes closed.

I go back to my breath. It seems easier now. A bright light is slowly filling up my head, like I had lived in a dark tunnel all of my life and my insides are lighting up for the first time.

OK meditation time. I close my eyes and feel the warmth of a light and see it getting brighter.

It is strange because it looks like the light is inside my head, but there is so much space. Just then Anne my previous therapist whom I deeply respect and love blows in my head like a powerful wind. Her blonde hair disheveled, her piercing blue eyes boring into me, her powerful presence fills my mind.

First, she tries to write something to me on a dry erase board that just happens to be available in the space of my head, but for some reason I can’t quite decipher it and try to tell her so. This frustrates her greatly. She seems to have something so vital to tell me like my life or maybe her life depends on it. I believe she is about to write in her own blood to get the point across.

She grabs my face hard and looks at me deep in the eyes. I can see her perfectly sculpted lips and big white teeth coming in closer mouthing one word over and over. Finally, I get it. “FOCUS, FOCUS FOCUS” she enunciates slowly. She pulls my chin closer to her mouth and then forms the next three words carefully with her lips“ I love you!” With the emphasis on the You. She says this several times and will not allow me to look away even for a moment, snapping her fingers at me if I dare.

“FOCUS” she says again this time as she walks away. She gestures for me to follow her. Suddenly, N appears behind her. He is speaking but his words cannot be heard. I can see his face contorted with expressions of rage. She walks right up to him definitely a woman used to taming beasts and nonchalantly hits him with a stick. Not really hard just a bit of a firm tap. He collapses in a puddle of tears like a terrified child. She points at him and in a harsh matter of fact tone says while turning around and looking at me “See he is useless. This is who he is and there is nothing more.”

I begin to cry with relief. My head still full of the bright light envelops Anne. Her image disappears, but I sense her near. Then I look to my side. There is a long tunnel with more light coming out of it and a big strapping man coming toward me. I cannot see his face.

Anne whispers soothingly in my ear. I can hear her even though I can no longer see her. “Don’t worry you will meet your Tom. He is waiting for you, but for now you need to FOCUS.” (Tom is her husband and a man I adore and admire. He was also my therapist.) I cry some more “But I don’t want to be alone.” She whispers in my ear again. “You are never alone. I am always here.”

The group is reciting the syllables again. I join in after a bit because I lost track of where we are in the tablet.

This is the vision I keep close to my heart. It came at a perfect time, keeps me going and encourages me to continue meditating. I have never had another vision since and am aware that this is not the norm. I feel very grateful to have had this experience early on and to be able to use meditation as a vehicle to help transform myself. Even if one never receives a vision like this, helpful supportive information can come in many different forms to keep us going.

I divorced the N, chose a more empowering life; one based on freedom rather than fear. It was only after this vision that I knew I had the strength to create a different life. Like someone in a really bad car wreck that has to go through extensive rehabilitation to get their body back. I had to rescue myself once and for all and move on. I look at the long road ahead and have a little less resistance and something to hold onto when times get rough.