Spider Sense – Weaving through the Wheel of Life

Spider entered my path this weekend; not in the usual “see on the wall” kind of way.  Instead, it was the result of a bad fall on the sidewalk of life – only this time it was of the concrete type.  I fell directly on both knees and face which I quickly realized was one of those “bad falls”.

A woman pulled into the driveway near where I was sitting/laying and got out of her car. She was older, dressed in one of those brightly colored tunic tops; her reddish short hair possibly with a scarf in it as I recall.  Actually, I remember wondering if she lived in the house and was just returning home. Stopping for me was not in my radar.   She walked over and said, “This happened to me two years ago and no one stopped for a long time.  I remember just laying there and no one came.”

I thanked her angel presence and assured her that I could make the short walk home.  The last few days have been spent figuring out how to walk up steps and get on and off chairs as my knees were quite painful.  Just on the verge of  Memorial Day weekend, I’d planned many activities/tasks that “really needed to get done” and looked forward to time with my family.

Things were now different and I sat there in frustration and tension created from the negative emotions.   One of the healing tools that I frequently use with clients is  what I call “my animal cards”.  These cards were created within a mystical and historical context and have been “right on” for many in challenging situations.  Now, I was the one who needed guidance.  Spider was chosen – the keynote: Creativity and the Weaving of Fate.

I did some research about Spider medicine and found deep secrets embedded.  That’s the magic in these cards – it’s all about what is awakened or related to by the individual.    According to Ted Andrews in Animal Speaks, in India, it was associated with Maya, the weaver of illusion.  It has connections to the Fates in Greek mythology and the Norns in Scandinavian lore – women who would weave, measure and cut the threads of life.  To the Native Americans, spider is grandmother, the link to the past and the future.

The body of the spider has 2 sections which gives the appearance of an eight when on it’s side.  This is the symbol of infinity.  It is the wheel of life, flowing from one circle to the next.  It isn’t always easy navigating those circles or balance between past and future, male and female, physical and spiritual.

Spider is the symbol of infinite possibilities of creation.  Do I want to caught up into the web and become dinner, succumbing to the illusion of just one perspective or be open to other dimensions to the situation?  Why did this happen to me now?  Now what am I going to do?  Of course, I did that for awhile and noticed the impact of that negative thinking pattern.

This is an all too familiar road for most of us humans – probably since the first stories of spider appeared.  This web of fate also represents a wheel of life, the tendency to polarize (good or bad, all or nothing approach) With this line of thinking we forget that we can change things at any time rather than being consumed by our fears and limitations.

Spider symbolizes creativity.  Creativity is the antidote to stress is the phrase I often repeat to others.   Suddenly the idea to CREATE  takes on a new perspective for me.  Funny how that happens when we are busy making other plans.  Andrews states that spider, because of its characteristics is associated with three expressions of magic: the energy of creation, creative power, reflected in its ability to spin a silken web,and assertiveness of that creative force: keeping the creative energies of creation alive and strong.  The third expression involves the spiders spiral energies.

“Are you moving towards a central goal or are you scattered and going in different directions?”  This may involve looking at ourselves with reflection and asking ourselves some questions.  Are you over focused on others or too self absorbed in your own matters?  Do you notice the emotion of resentment in your life?  Balance and creativity are key concepts to learn about spider totems.  Totems are another term for spirit animal to help us in our life journeys.  We have close connections to nature in all aspects of our lives, what we eat, wear, love and nurture.  Respecting what animals symbolize is powerful, positive and fun!  When things aren’t going as we want, seek out ways to connect with your animal totem.  In my case, I am stepping up my creativity by spending time thinking about my creative abilities and asking the question “Are there new ways to be creative at this moment?”  Thinking positively can be very creative when it is not your norm.

Earlier this week, I was drawn to review a book by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, The Wheel of Life.   She is known for her groundbreaking work on death and dying and teaching others about the stages of grief and loss.  Her work with terminally ill  adults and children helped “humanize” medical settings in how they approached the dying process.

In this book she writes about her own dying process, the suffering she experienced over a long period of time and how she applied her own principles to herself.  She felt  a purpose for what she was experiencing despite the angst.  She summarizes her life truths very succinctly:  “The sole purpose of life is to grow – the ultimate lesson is learning how to love and be loved unconditionally. ”  All the hardships that come to your life, all the tribulations, and nightmares, all the things you see as punishments from God are in reality like gifts – they are an opportunity to grow – which is the sole purpose of life.” Taking steps to love self and others…basically the base of therapy and recovery from stress and trauma.

I remember being on the same elevator as Elisabeth during a conference she was speaking at in Winnipeg in the early 1980’s.  She was a very small woman with a German accent whom I knew little about; but this moment was one of those unforgettable memories of life to appreciate now.  Sometimes the rug is pulled out from under you; whether the size is big or small, these rug moments make you pay attention.

When we pay attention, life speaks.   spider image 2


Tracing Transitions

“We are facing another summer of transitions.” So says the latest newsletter of the United Congregational Church in Moorhead, MN.  The writer referred to the year of transitions after the pastor moved away  to CA last June.  In September, an interim pastor came on board.  After a successful 9 months, she too, left this rather small but feisty and lively congregation.  On a recent Sunday, we (I’m not an official member but that’s ok with them) the “new” pastor came from San Jose, CA   to give her first sermon.  Following this service, the congregation met to affirm and confirm as they say so that she is good to go in Sept.    There were a few Sundays to find fill in speakers for the weekly message before Sept came.  I remember the polite request from Pastor Zoe, our interim pastor in early June.   Historically, I am not a big volunteer person so changes in the usual”nice for somebody else  but  not interested” response was strange.   Thoughts tumbled in from all parts of my brain…thoughts like “I wonder if I could do this” “Dad and I together – how creative would that be?  I wonder if he would want to.   Me, get up and give a sermon?  Well, I sung in the choir this year for the first time.  Why not just go for it?  They need a volunteer.  Why not?”   My brain was hot with wonder and dare I say excitement.  How would it go together; my father the retired United Methodist pastor and veteran administrator and me, who has yet to define my role in relationship to the church.  My  brain has carried around emotional allergies about religious practices since childhood.   Church and wonderful excitement just never coincided before.  I grew up with those four brothers, and Pastor parents, meaning my dad was the pastor and my mom was the pastor’s wife.  Duties were prescribed to  both roles at that time and there was plenty of guilt and judgement to go around if one deviated in any number of ways.  That’s just how it was growing up in Jamestown, ND in  the 60’s and 70’s.  We moved from the Williston, ND  church to the Jamestown church in 1966, the summer before I started 5th grade.  It was a very big move in very big ways only no one had a clue as we drove down interstate 94 in the big brown station wagon.   There were many transitions going on with each one of us individually and as a family.  I have to admit it didn’t help that the parsonage we moved into was well ,old  and lived in.  Think brand new house with lavender colored bedroom away from all the traffic to a vintage 1900’s model with orange/red shag carpet, tiny bedrooms and one bathroom for 7 people and no shower.  OK then.

Life was checkered that summer.   I liked the big church that was down the street.  It had many nooks and crannies that were fun to explore.  There were some nice people to meet and Sunday schools to prepare for.  Dad preached every Sunday.  No weekends off.   No lake cabins for us.  This was before I heard of lake cabins so I really didn’t know what I was missing.   I was lonely and remember the sting of that feeling many times in those months after the move.  We ate a lot and all gained some weight and, for me,  the TV was the place to be every night; that and Saturday morning cartoons.   All “us kids” were tumbling into each other as one day turned into the next and we survived.  No one talked about feelings in those days and I was all about feeling feelings.  I didn’t know it then but I was a therapist in training.

The body keeps the score of your life as I like to say and I often do in my work with myself and others.  Transition times are vulnerable junctures and times of special needs.  Some of those needs got met that “big summer” in that there were people who reached out, invited us out for meal, made a point to greet and be kind.   There were many hopes in those initial months  for the church, the congregation and beyond.  I had a sense of that collective mission of Christ’s love and faith.   But, for  an 11 year old, my insights were primarily the felt kind and  I think I had big hopes too.  When I think back on this time, I imagine an angel disguised as a person gathering our family together and compassionately creating the structure of this new life, acknowledging needs and challenges of each individual and combining that with the needs of the family and what that would look like behaviorally.  A fancy game plan with many chances to re-assess and make adjustments as needed.  One of the keys of resilience I’m thinking.  So this angel would be the one to gather us all and motivate movement.  I wanted to fit into this big new church family like I had in the Williston church as a very young child.  I felt like the church was an extension of my family, most likely because we lived only steps from the side door of the church office and spent a big amount of time playing there.  I realize now how unique this connection was and it underscores how important these early childhood experiences are.  My feeling is that there was energy, collaboration and gusto in the congregation and my parents were on a mission…no major knock downs yet.  That came in Jamestown.  What is a knock down?  As a child of a pastor, I witnessed church happenings with a unique perspective.  I heard and felt church conflict and challenges by just being around.  I felt what the pressures were, the pains of divisiveness, and felt stress in my body. For me this stress leaked out with anxiety, back issues and obesity.   This is all in hindsight of course, and there were plenty of external influences and daily life issues  but God’s presence was always there and represented by the church.  I kept a hopeful heart.  My journals written at that time are reflective of this.  My parents experienced many “knock downs” over the course of my life time; many in relationship to the church.  Over the years, through my father’s retirement and countless conversations, we’ve covered all these areas, did the “If we only would have known what we know now” thing, and explored how change was both a positive influence and a painful one.   One key is self understanding and the willingness to approach these touchy subjects with courage and openness.  It’s easier to avoid, withdraw or sometimes just get physically or emotionally ill.   Paying attention to what we need and nurturing a positive attitude every day is a rich and preventative practice for your mind, body and relationships; the most vital being your relationship with God/Holy Spirit.  I believe God puts us where we need to be.  Timing/events aren’t always to my liking; that I have to admit, but its the belief that I’ve adapted and one that puts this precious love relationship up front and center.

Resiliency and  change has been studied by the researchers of sociology, psychology, education  and other neuroscience fields.  What are the factors that create in some more resiliency to stress than others?   Are some prone to have long lasting effects of stress while others seem to deal with challenges and trauma better, like water running off a duck, they rise to the occasion and shake off stress more efficiently.  Research does suggest that certain brain pathways and chemical reactions relate to these traits of managing stress.  Yet everyone needs the antidotes to stress in one form or another,  whether its severe PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)  or a near fall when walking up the steps.  We need to understand what happened, experience support, learn what calms our bodies and take steps to recover.   Animals physically shake their stress away.  There are many human practices to help us do that too.  This transition story focuses on how early transitions affected  my  perceptions about religion, spirituality and my own self esteem.   I am still searching in some ways and learning all the time.  I encourage exploration of how each of you experienced transitions in your lifetimes and that connection to your life’s purpose and meaning.