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Emblem 074: The end of the world

Empty your pockets first. If you go there loaded down with sadness, or fear, or worries about money, that’s what you’ll find, and who needs more of that?

So attend to things that are yours, take problems apart and reassemble them as their own answers, meet what you’re running from for coffee.

Then sit with the end of the world. For all its vast size it doesn’t receive many visitors. Who knows what good thing may come of this?

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Emblem 066: The shadow

It’s why whenever something rises from a tomb, or comes here from outer space, or emerges from the depths of the ocean its first piece of business is to eat us. Never cattle or rain forests or petroleum.

It’s what has been exiled, coming back because it’s ours. Because it’s us. Having spent so much time in an Aztec crypt or planet far from the sun it’s developed a distorted idea of things, as well as a lot of resentment.

If we defeat it it’s just going to come back in the next movie or nightmare or failed romantic relationship. We have to somehow get it to the table without being eaten alive—because that can happen, not everyone makes it to the end of the story—and share a meal with it. Give it some of the same thing we live on. Bring it back into the family. Carefully.

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Emblem 042: Keep yourself company

There may have been a time, long ago, when you suffered. Part of the suffering was that no one was there with you, no one came, no one knew.

Now, all these years later, you can change that.

Return to that time.

Sit with yourself. Be witness. Bring compassion. Plant understanding of what happened like a tree that will grow through your life bearing fruit and giving shade.

The one you were waiting for is you. Arrive.

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Emblem 055: Tantalus

He’s being punished down in the Greek underworld. Thirsty, he’s up to his waist in sparkling mineral water with a twist of lime. He scoops it up in his hands and pours it into his mouth. It disappears, not even a drop goes down his throat. Famished, he stands under a tree on which grows every type of fruit. Apples, Queen Ann cherries, those pears they ship in from Korea that taste like caramel. Also hot wings, tri-tip, really good Thai food– you name it, it’s growing on the tip of a branch just over his head. He gathers it by the handful and crams it into his mouth. It vanishes before he even gets a taste. He’s empty and stays that way. The pain is continuous, the craving never fades.

Meanwhile up in the sunlit realm of mortals he has difficulties with relationships. He’s nice looking, has a great sense of humor, dating is no problem. But once things get serious he tells the story of how no one has ever met his needs—no one’s even recognized them.

Naturally during the honeymoon period his partner goes all out to make a difference. For some reason this doesn’t work. The story doesn’t change. Partner tries harder, partner shows Tantalus he’s got his back, here’s that tabletop hockey game you always wanted when you were a kid that no one ever got for you. Same song. Sooner or later the partner begins to feel unappreciated, then depleted, then a little invisible. He packs his share of things and vanishes. Tantalus grieves over his unmet needs.

Contrary to the myth Tantalus hasn’t done anything to deserve this. On the other hand he’s not chained to that tree. He can leave tree, underworld and weird repetitive punishment anytime he chooses. But it’s hard to walk away from something he’s never had. As if the not-having is the closest he can get to it, and yes it hurts but it’s better than giving it up all hope and expectation. Isn’t it?

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Emblem 037: Through no fault of your own

Here’s what Maleva, the old gypsy woman in The Wolf Man, says: “Don’t oppose it and don’t run away from it. Don’t try to fix it and don’t encourage it. Don’t blame it and don’t praise it. Don’t refuse to know it and don’t rush towards it with your arms open. Tell it the way it walks is thorny through no fault of its own.”

Sympathy means to suffer with. Part of that is the willingness to suffer. The other part is the willingness to sit with something just the way it is.

Acceptance is often the first step of change. If this seems strange, watch the old movie again. Notice how each time Maleva recites her blessing the terrible wolf man changes into a human being.

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Emblem 018: Through all the colors

In alchemy the peacock represents the phase of the work in which all the phases have been realized. The maxim is, “You must pass through all the colors.” No skipping the ones that aren’t appealing, no pretending you’ve done ones you haven’t, and ignorance of a color doesn’t excuse you from making its acquaintance. It speaks to recollecting all the scattered elements of personality from projection and fitting them into a conscious sense of identity. It also speaks to the aging process, letting each age have its turn—blissful youth, overworked midlife, elder who knows how things turned out. Through all the feelings, through all the stages of life, through all the components of personality, through all the experiences of your lifetime, skipping nothing, refusing nothing, denying nothing. Put another way, you’re encouraged to collect the whole set.

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