Friday, August 6, 2010

Soul Work - Deeper Moons Focused on Self

In a previous post, I identified deeper Moons focused on God, others, and self. By Moons, I mean things that I deeply want to bring into my life and live into. This post will explore deeper Moons - Moons that involve important soul work - focused on self.

The Moons focusing on self are SHOW, BE, and RELAX. Each involves a deeply ingrained attitude toward life, an attitude that I imbibed in the family where I grew up, along with needed family soul healing. Here they are:

  • SHOW: To heal secretiveness by being honest in appropriate ways, especially in taking responsibility for my actions and feelings
  • BE: To heal excessive busyness by spending time being rather than constantly doing
  • RELAX: To heal excessive anger by acting from a place of calm centeredness


I've written about this in previous posts, especially my Hospital Experience posts of June 2010, where I describe growing up in a family with lots of secrets, the main secrets being that my mother was an alcoholic and that my father was a rage-aholic. We did not discuss this, inside or outside the family.

In addition, unacceptable feelings were not discussed as I was growing up. Unacceptable feelings were kept secret. I see this suppression of feelings as the result of the Catholic Church's teachings, especially as modeled by my mother. I also see this suppression of feelings as a major cause of my mother's need to drink.

Here is how I believe it worked. The Catholic Church lays out norms for the ideal Christian woman. Women, pontificates the Catholic Church, find their fulfillment in sacrificial self-giving. A true woman sacrifices herself unceasingly for the benefit of her husband and family. It is in this constant self-sacrifice that a woman finds her greatest happiness.

Can you imagine the conflict for a Catholic woman who believes this? This woman gives herself sacrificially for her husband and family. Her needs do not matter - it only matters that she give herself for her family's needs and benefit. So she does. She gives and gives and gives and gives and gives and gives and gives and gives - but she is not happy. She is exhausted and depleted. She knows that a real woman finds her greatest happiness and fulfillment in sacrificial self-giving, and she knows that she is constantly giving herself sacrificially - so why isn't she happy? It must be that something is wrong with her - that she has a shameful defect that makes her less than a real woman. Since this is shameful, she decides to hide her unhappiness and to do her best to pretend to be happy. After all, the other Catholic wives and mothers she knows appear to be happy - or at least not as utterly depleted as she feels. There is no one she can talk to about this, because admitting her feelings would be to admit something deeply shameful. Her feelings must be kept secret. I believe that this is a description of my mother. I believe that my mother's drinking was largely an attempt to escape from this painful conflict.

Added to this conflict, in the case of my mother, was a critical and rageful husband and six needy and demanding children, all born within one decade - the 1950s. And of course, the Catholic Church forbids divorce and forbids birth control. So my mother was trapped in her marriage and trapped into having "as many children as God sends us" and trapped by the need to be happy in all her sacrificial self-giving. And the fact that she felt trapped - that her true feelings were ones of rage at never getting her own needs met - had to be kept secret.

SO - I learned that unacceptable feelings were secrets. I learned that parental failings (my mother's drinking and my father's rages) were secrets.

It also strikes me that my reluctance to give and to serve, as described in my previous post, may very well have to do with seeing the devastating effect of my mother's extreme giving and serving. Of course, the corrective to extreme giving and serving is not refusal to give and serve but balanced giving and serving, that is, giving and serving balanced with self-care.

My Show Moons have to do with healing the harmful secretiveness that I learned in my family by showing the truth.

  • Show the truth to myself about my thoughts and feelings.
  • Show responsibility for myself - my thoughts and feelings and actions.
  • Show the truth about myself to others in appropriate ways. The words "in appropriate ways" are important when it comes to others, as there are thoughts and feelings that should not be shared with everyone.

This blog is a forum for me to practice all three aspects of that honesty.

  1. Be honest with myself: The act of writing brings insights about myself to my awareness. It clarifies my thoughts and feelings and makes them real to me. This helps me to be honest with myself.
  2. Take responsibility for myself: Writing also places my thoughts and feelings outside myself - on a page or a screen in black and white - where I can consider them more objectively. This helps me to take responsibility for my thoughts and feelings and actions.
  3. Be appropriately honest with others: Writing publicly, as in a blog, allows me to be honest with others. I believe that honest writing encourages others: when I read someone else's honest writing, I am often led to my own truth - whether I see myself in the writer's words or whether I see my own truth as very different from the writer's.


My father was excessively busy. He was always "spinning," as he put it. He always had somewhere to go, something to do, someone to see. His body never seemed to rest - if nothing else, he was always tapping his fingers.

With my father, everything was a chore - even "fun," which wasn't really fun because it was a chore. We had to work to set up the necessary equipment to have fun, and then we had to work to take it down afterwards. And because my father was a rage-aholic, he often raged at us kids about how incompetent we were in loading the car for a trip to the playground, or in cleaning the plastic swimming pool in the backyard, or in clearing up after a bar-be-cue.

My father liked it best when he and everyone in the family was busy, and he tended to make any busyness unpleasant with criticisms of our work - criticisms often expressed ragefully.

In my family, I learned that it was important to do (and to do busily), not to be.

I find it difficult to take time to be, although it feels very good when I do. I also sense that this is a really, really important area of soul work - perhaps the most important. What I do - my enjoying, thanking, giving, loving, serving, showing, and relaxing - need to come from being, from the still centered place within.

I find myself feeling agitated when I think of all the things I want to incorporate into my life. How will I find time to exercise (getting in aerobics, strength training, and stretching), to write, to draw, to read, to study the Bardic materials, to teach and interact with my students, to spend time with friends, to go to concerts and plays and movies and operas, to attend Lyceum events, not to mention eating and sleeping - and also to get in time for just being.

Well, okay, how can I make time for just being? Here are some things that come to mind.

  • Yoga: Attend yoga class two (or more) times a week. It is easy to BE in community with other people who have set aside this special time for just being.
  • Centering Prayer: Practice centering prayer twice daily. This could be difficult to keep up, since this would be a solitary practice. Would I stick with this?
  • Angel Day; Moments of Grace: Pause for moments of grace throughout the day, especially before each activity. Actually, this could be done by having Angel Days. An Angel Day is a day spent with your angel. You pause at certain moments throughout the day to connect with your angel and with God, perhaps by expressing gratitude, or by praying for someone or something, or by simply being still and receptive to God.

I'll stop with these ideas. Angel Days really attract me because I have the help of my angel - I'm not alone with my practice of being.


My father was a very angry person. I would say that anger was his default emotion, and he often seemed to lose control of how to change the default and choose a different emotion and different behavior. When something pushed his trigger, anger would erupt. You could count on it. For someone who loved the word "control" - as in the expression "Is everything under control?" - my father certainly did not have his anger under control at all. On the contrary, his anger controlled him.

I find that I, too, am prone to anger. I'm speaking of getting angry at the inevitable irritations of life, where anger serves no purpose. This, too, is an important area of soul work. It strikes me that a good way to proceed is to consciously use irritating situations as opportunities to change the default and choose a different emotion and different behavior - something my father simply could not or would not do. When stuck in traffic, one might relax and sing, for instance.

So here is the Relax Moon.

  • Use situations that push the anger trigger as opportunities to relax and choose different behavior.

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