Graham Butcher – Stav Teacher
What Lurks in the Shadows?
I did something rather stupid just recently. The central heating stopped working properly. It was clear that the problem was the diverter valve head so I set out to obtain a replacement. That should have been fairly straightforward, just as fitting the replacement should have been too, two screws and five wires. Basically a simple screwdriver job. However, sourcing the correct valve head turned out to be more difficult than expected and eventually resulted to a visit to a heating installation company in Sherbourne about twenty miles away. There the parts store man assured me that he had provided me with the correct replacement part. Except he hadn’t, or rather the label on the box was correct but the item in the box was different and had six wires rather than five. So of course I could not connect it. The boiler was serviced and the engineer confirmed that I had the incorrect part. The spares department agreed to replace it and this time I had the correct item. So I installed it and still it didn’t work. I had carefully noted down which colored wire went in which connection and, as far as I was concerned, I had connected the new valve head accordingly. I even had a conversation with the company electrician who gave me some pointers on what to check, I borrowed a multitester so that I could check continuity and power supply. Then this morning I set to to see if I could resolve the problem and... discovered I had put the blue wire in connection number one instead of number three, as per my notes. So I moved it and, as if by magic, the central heating system works perfectly. Why??? I have no idea any more than I know why I ran into a chain on Monday evening I knew perfectly well was there. I was just about to start teaching Stav when I had to go and check on something around the back of the building. I hurried around the back avoiding a low barrier chain in the car park. I actually remember thinking. “If I am not careful I could trip over that.” Then I came back in a hurry and ran right into the chain and fell flat on my face. I have some bruises but nothing serious.
The mind does play some very strange tricks. Sometimes it is almost as though we were someone else at the time we made the mistake. Later the mistake is so obvious that it is quite scary that we could be so foolish and incompetent. At least in my case I survived the fall with no more than minor aches and pains and I wasted some time trying to figure out what I had done wrong with the central heating. At least the electrician did not come out and have to discover and rectify my embarrassingly simple error. So it could have been a lot worse. What I am dealing with is the power of the mind. In particular the subconscious or intuitive part of the self. Sometimes the mind is seen as dualist, the right brain and left brain, or the conscious and subconscious mind. Dualism is usually an inadequate explanation for anything. Three aspects are needed before anything can have any real substance and genuine existence. As I have written before you can see consciousness in terms of the Eagle, Dragon and Squirrel, the Eagle represents the higher consciousness, the Dragon the intuitive self and the Squirrel the emotional self which communicates between the two. The Eagle mind can conceive of great ideas and imagine all kinds of possibilities. The Dragon mind actually brings ideas and dreams into reality. The Squirrel is supposed to carry the communication between the two. This does not always happen reliably. The Eagle mind is sort of outside time and space, ideas and imagination effectively have no limits in terms of what you can dream. The Dragon mind can only function in the present, the act of creation and physical experience happens now. There is no past or future since you can only be centered in your web of wyrd, there is nowhere else you can actually be. Of course remembering the past in order to learn from it and planning ahead in order to prepare for the future are essential activities. These are the responsibility of the Squirrel mind. When done appropriately the intentions of the Eagle mind are communicated to the Dragon mind together with lessons from the past and necessary preparations for the future. However the Squirrel is also capable of storing massive regrets and hurt from the past as well as fear and anxiety about the future. This means that the Dragon mind will get instructions which include responding to danger and risk. The only way that the Dragon can respond in the moment is either by avoidance action causing you to effectively run away or launch some kind of attack on the “enemy”. Or you may simply freeze until the “danger” has past. In either situation there will be a release of adrenaline at the same time. This will create a feedback loop of failure and dis-ease from the self generated stress which will make the Squirrel even more afraid in the future.
This process will be familiar and is relatively easy to identify. There is another aspect though which can be described as shadow parts of ourselves. The shadows are those parts of ourselves which we are barely aware of. The Squirrel knows where they are and when you try and move forward in a way that threatens to expose your shadows your furry friend will go into a panic. At first it will just be fear and attempts to avoid the situation. If however you are determined to move forward with a project which is really important to you strange things may well go wrong. The squirrel mind gives instructions to the part of you which acts in the world to do things which maintain your sense of limitation. If you can then see clearly that you did something that makes no sense you have to make a decision how to respond. You can conclude that you are incompetent and stupid and that your dreams of doing anything special should be dropped straight away. That is what your frightened inner Squirrel wants you to do. Or you have to accept that achieving anything significant depends upon overcoming problems and challenges. Some of those challenges will be from your own psyche. These inner challenges need to be identified, accepted and dissolved with compassion and patience.
In my own case I am trying to establish myself as someone competent to develop my own business and be a Stav teacher. There seems to be a shadow part of me that is afraid of such an achievement. So I find that I cannot even put a colour coded wire into the correct connection, even when I have made meticulous records of what goes where. When I am about to teach an advanced martial arts class I run headlong into a trip hazard I had identified five minutes before. I could quite easily have landed in hospital which would certainly have slowed down my plans to create a Stav Centre.
The purpose of body, mind and spirit training is to unify these three aspects of the self so that they work together in harmony. This is not a small task. However, martial arts training provides a context where we can challenge ourselves to undertake activities which are difficult and potentially dangerous. There will be mental and physical challenges to meet and engage with. There will also be the part of the self which responds emotionally to the pressure of training. This is the part of ourselves which is likely to attract violence or respond inappropriately to fear and conflict. If exposed and identified in a training context you may avoid having to deal with violence in a “real life” situation. Certainly you will have more idea of why you behave the way you do and how to recognise and control your responses in difficult situations. At the very least you will know that you can avoid making situations worse than they need to be.
Uncovering our shadows and learning how to communicate with the various aspects of ourselves is a lifelong task. There are no shortcuts but I believe that structured and regular practice in Martial Arts can be an enormous help along the way. Check out this programme for training this Spring.
I would also recommend Geoff Thompson's book Hunting the Shadow which goes into much more depth on this theme.