Difficult feelings: dealing with shame

Photo credit: Gabriel (http://flickr.com/photos/cod_gabriel) used under Creative Commons license

Of all the difficult feelings we can experience, shame is perhaps the most devastating.

I know for myself that nothing spirals me down into anxiety and depression faster.

This is not surprising. Shame can be described as judging oneself as having done something unacceptable, and finding not only one’s actions and their consequences, but one’s self wanting.

It is possible to feel shame without anyone else knowing about one’s actions or their consequences, but for myself, shame most often results when my mistakes and their consequences are on public view, and are judged by others as being unacceptable.

When I make a mistake but nobody else witnesses it, I can stay calm and correct things as far as is possible. In that situation, I may feel guilt about my actions and their consequences, but I do not find myself wanting.

When I do something that others find unacceptable but I disagree that it’s wrong, or I know things didn’t happen that way, I may feel angry that I am being misrepresented, or surprised at another’s moral compass, but it doesn’t affect how I feel about myself.

But when I make a mistake and am witnessed in the act, and those witnessing me make their anger, disgust or disdain clear, I feel ashamed, and am overcome by a desire to cover myself, for the ground to open up and swallow me, to disappear from public view.

Photo credit: Marc-Andre Lariviere (http://flickr.com/photos/marcandrelariviere) used under Creative Commons license

This feeling, rather than supporting me to get on and do all within my power to correct the mistake I have made and to mitigate its consequences, gets in the way of any action on my part. Instead of reaching out to right things, my urge is to contract inwards and shrink away from everything outside myself

So what can we do, when feelings of shame arise, to enable us to stay open and carry on engaging?

I had the opportunity (ahem) to consider this question just a couple of days ago. I made a mistake which could have had serious consequences for those around me, because my attention wandered for a moment. With the help of others, the situation was brought under control, but not without their anger and frustration with me being freely expressed.

I felt an intense feeling of shame, followed by strong anxiety and depression, and a desire to hide under the bed covers for the rest of the week, and possibly the rest of my life.

By observing myself through this experience, and noting what helped and what hindered me in my response to the situation, I came to the following list of actions to help us through shame.

The first thing is to keep breathing.

Constricting and interrupting our natural breathing pattern is one of the most common reactions to difficult feelings, yet nothing blocks our ability to process emotion and take positive action more effectively than when we stop breathing.

The easiest way to keep breathing is to concentrate on breathing out; when we reach the end of our out breath, our lungs fill naturally, gradually re-establishing a natural breathing rhythm.

The second thing is to find someone we trust and who is reliably non-judgmental, and get what has happened off our chest.

The emotional and mental relief and the physical release this enables allows our feelings to shift, and opens up the possibility of viewing our situation objectively.

The third thing is to think of how we would react if a dear friend had made the mistake we have just made, and offer that reaction to ourselves.

We are usually much more forgiving, supportive and helpful when faced with the mistakes of someone else who we love than we are when looking at ourselves.

Offering ourselves gentleness and forgiveness – without denying our responsibility for what has happened – can free us to respond to our situation constructively, and to look at how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

The final thing is to consider whether others’ reactions to us reflect our own beliefs about ourselves.

This is perhaps something best done some time after  the event, so may not be much help in the moment, but it’s still a worthwhile exercise.

Knowing ourselves better is always, in my view, a good thing. This kind of consideration can also help to interrupt the cycle of anger and resentment at others for their reactions to us, which can be so destructive of relationships and of our own peace of mind.

The repercussions of my actions, what might have happened, others’ reactions to me and my own reactions to the whole thing are still ricocheting about my body, my heart and my mind. I’m continuing to breathe into my feelings, to offer myself love and support, and to explore my beliefs about myself, as well as putting in place rules and routines for myself to prevent that particular mistake happening again.

I know I will make mistakes in the future; I know that some of them will be made in public, and may have serious consequences; I know that others will judge me, as I will myself. But I also know that, when this kind of situation happens again, I have a list of solid practices to enable me to respond constructively, and right things again as far as I can, without crumbling.

What is your experience of shame? Do you have a set of practices which help you maintain equilibrium and take positive action when shame arises?

Advertisements

My purpose for money (via Marx, Durkheim, and gettin’ sexy).

Before Christmas, I made it a priority to read and occasionally join in the conversation at Tara Gentile and Adam King‘s project, Reclaiming Wealth. It’s an innovative blog which aims to collectively think in new ways about wealth, fundamentally redefining it in healthy ways.

One of Tara’s questions which really struck me was “How have you challenged yourself to perceive wealth recently?” My immediate answer was, “By starting to unhook my perception of money from my perception of global capitalism.”

Photo credit: epSos.de, licensed under the Creative Commons 3.0. Original image at http://www.flickr.com/photos/epsos/5902557577/

Dirty money

I’ve always known and experienced that wealth is more than money, but I’ve never really allowed myself to know or experience that wealth can also be money. My whole life, I’ve held a very deeply seated belief that money is dirty, that it makes me implicit in the unjust and oppressive system of global capitalism that has children working in sweatshops, and corporations and governments in cahoots to murder activists for people and planet such as Ken SaroWiwa.

But is that belief fair? After all, I’m implicated in all of that just by being alive, and being born and raised in the UK, with its colonial and imperial history and its role in the first seeding of global capitalism. How much or how little money I have or make doesn’t affect that implicit responsibility one way or the other.

And it isn’t really money that does all of that. Money is neutral. Saying that all of that bad stuff is down to money is like saying that a slashed throat is down to the knife, not to the hand that wielded it.

To look deeper into this, I’ve turned to two European Sociological Superheroes: Karl Marx and Émile Durkheim.

Say hi to Marx.

Yes, that Marx; the one behind Communism.

One of Marx’s fundamental propositions in Das Capital is that money alienates value. What that means is that it enables a product or a service to be separated out from the person who made it or who provides it.

Marx’s idea, prompted in part by the work of Bronisław Malinowski and of Marcel Mauss, was that before money, in a gift or a barter economy, a person and their ‘stuff’ could not be conceptually separated. Part of the person’s energy, soul or spirit was always perceived to remain attached to their product or service. In this way, the product or service never fully belonged to the person who it ended up with, but remained part of an ongoing relationship.

Money, on the other hand, breaks the conceptual link between a person and their ‘stuff’. It alienates it, and the value bound up in it, from its originator, allowing it to circulate freely as a commodity.

This has its downside.

First of all, the relationship in an exchange in which value is alienated is short-lived. This can mean that, at a fundamental level, in a money economy society supports the economy but the economy does not support society. (Although I’m getting on to a counter-argument to that in just a moment.)

Secondly, money becomes fetishised. Instead of being seen as a tool to enable circulation of commodities, it becomes a thing in itself, something to be gathered and horded.

Finally, when a group of people has power, they can set the money price of labour value – the work that goes into producing the thing, i.e. the wages of the production workers – as low as they like, and the exchange value – the product’s sale price – as high as consumers will tolerate, and make Huge Profits at the expense of workers and consumers alike.

But, if we listen to Durkheim, money also has its up side

Émile Durkheim pretty much single-handedly invented the discipline of sociology (but let’s not hold that against him 😉 ). One of his most significant concepts is that of the division of labour.

At its simplest, this is a recognition that as societies develop, people become more specialised in their work: some people grow food, others make farming implements, others are blacksmiths, etc., etc. The more complex the society, the more specialised and diverse the work, and the more divided the labour.

To add Marx and Durkheim together, in order to have the level of division of labour that we see today, a means of exchange is necessary, and that means of exchange is money. And money can do this job precisely because it alienates value. Money allows widespread exchange, and thus the division of labour. And money was around an awfully long time before global capitalism ever came along.

Now, personally I like not having to grow all my own food from scratch, not having to spin and weave my own fabric, not having to do absolutely everything. I like being able to focus on work that makes my heart sing and suits my health and my aptitudes, and money is what allows that to happen.


This speaks to Danielle Laporte’s Burning Question this week: “What’s your purpose for money?”

My purpose for money is for the economy to get sexy.

Money allows exchange to happen. You know what else is an exchange? Sex. And we all know what makes for good sex (I mean in addition to great communication and ongoing negotiation of consent): plenty of lube. What if we look at economic exchange as a kind of erotic exchange, with money as the lubricant?

(Or if you’re uncomfortable with the sexual metaphor, how about your economic life as an engine? Lubricant means you can keep functioning happily without jamming up, wearing out or breaking down.)

We don’t keep lubricant in the bank, we don’t horde it to make ourselves feel safer, or to wield power over others. The very idea is silly. The purpose of lubricant is to make things slide, to make things easy and smooth when we get down and dirty, running our engines, and we only keep enough around so that we can make sure that happens well.

The purpose of lubricant is in its use, and so is the purpose of money.

I would love to move forward to a world in which we could maintain our complex division of labour without money and our tendency to horde it, a world in which we live in full trust that when we need food, or our fence mended, or our health cared for, or when we want to be entertained, or to travel the world, or a new pair of sassy boots, someone will provide that, just as we make our skills and aptitudes freely available to our neighbours.

But until that time comes, one of my goals is now to earn, and to earn well, doing something I love. Not so I can horde money and keep it all to myself, but so I can use money to make things happen in my life and in the wider world that accord with my values: things like paying off my debts; things like paying more tax (yes, you heard me, more tax) so that the health and education systems can thrive; things like always buying organic, local and Fairtrade; things like transferring all of my economic activity to small businesses and mutuals; things like expressing my solidarity globally through Kiva and Triodos Bank. Things like that.

How about you? What is money for you? How do you see its purpose?

Science Fiction Wisdom: Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace – Battlestar Galactica (2000s)

The spiritual lesson from science fiction that I’m going to write about this week is not as simple, clearcut or easy to apply as the Litany Against Fear.

In fact, it’s downright disturbing, so disturbing that, if you are triggered into dissociation, PTSD, anxiety or any other unpleasant and life-limiting experience by talk of physical and mental abuse of children or (possibly) delusional mental states, I suggest you don’t read it.

It also contains spoilers for seasons 3 and 4 of BSG, so if you’ve not watched that far yet, you might want to bookmark this post to come back to when you have.

Now the warnings are out of the way…

What we know about Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace

Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace’s story through the five seasons of BSG is not a pretty one. For all that she’s a strong and in many ways admirable character, she is also seriously messed up. As far as I’m concerned, this messed-up-ness reached its apotheosis (reference intentional) in season 3 episode 17 (Maelstrom).

Kara’s story is long and convoluted. At this point in the series, we know that she has been captured by Cylons twice, and subjected by them to mental torture. We know that her mother subjected Kara to repeated physical, mental and emotional abuse from an early age, and that nothing Kara did was ever ‘good enough’.

The ancient mandala.

We know that a picture that Kara has been painting since she was a child is a close copy of a 4000 year old mandala of concentric rings, connected to the fleet’s mission of finding Earth. We know that she has been told by the Cylon Leoben Conoy – who is also one of the Cylons who subjects her to awful mental torture – that she has a special destiny, for which her mother, through the abuse, was attempting to prepare Kara. We know that Kara did not visit her mother in the two months before her mother’s painful death from cancer.

Destiny, vision or delusion?

The eye of the storm.

Near the beginning of the episode, while the fleet refuels, Kara, ‘Hotdog’ and Lee Adama fly over a gas giant planet, where Kara sees a Cylon raider, invisible to Lee and the crew back on the Galactica. Kara chases the Cylon fighter, which may or may not exist in reality, over the eye of a storm, which is identical to both Kara’s paintings and the ancient mandala. On a second visit to the planet, with Lee Adama flying on her wing, Kara again sees and follows a Cylon raider invisible both to Lee and to the instruments of the Galactica.

This time, her Viper is hit by the Cylon raider, and she is knocked unconscious. A series of dreams, memories and visions/delusions, guided by someone or something with the form of Leoben Conoy follows, focused around her mother and her death.

Kara’s painting

Kara goes to her mother’s deathbed, and holds her hand as she dies. Next to her mother on the bed a scrapbook of Kara’s life: all of her childhood drawings, school certificates, every single record of evidence of achievement in Kara’s life, large and small is there. Kara’s mother – according to this vision, or delusion – abused her daughter and withheld her approbation in order to make Kara strong enough to face the challenge of this moment, in which Kara finally faces and accepts death, flying down into the planet and allowing her Viper to be crushed, with her inside it.

Abuse and forgiveness

And that is what I find so disturbing about this particular and (almost) final episode in Kara’s story. How many times have abusers told children that what they are doing is “for your own good”? Is that ever true? No. Even if the abuser genuinely believes that, does it ever justify the abuse? Absolutely not. Even if the abuse leads the child to develop survival tactics, skills or other aspects of themselves that are useful and important in life, does that make the abuse okay? No, no, and no.

In Kara’s case, her experience could have been a genuine spiritual visitation, both from her mother’s spirit and from whatever spiritual agent was using the form of Leoben Conoy. Her experiences of Leoben and her mother could have been constructs created by Kara’s own mind, to make sense of and reconcile her past in the face of her destined death. The whole experience could have been a series of delusions allowing Kara to give in to suicidal urges.

Whatever the case, I am left questioning the message the writers intended us to take away. This is clearly a make or break point for Kara’s soul, one to which the rest of her life, all of her experiences, good and bad, and all of her own actions, effective and mistaken, have led her. The inner experiences she goes through immediately before she is crushed by the planet’s gravity seem to enable her to forgive both her mother for the abuse, and herself for her abandonment of her mother in her painful, lonely death to cancer.

But that does not make the abuse okay.

Too often, looking for the meaning and lessons in the difficult events that happen in our lives can become a way of side-stepping the very real experience of pain, loss, anger and grief which they raise within us. Forgiveness is vitally important, but it does not mean that what was done to us was okay, or, as Marianne Williamson puts it, that we need to go have lunch with an abuser and make nice.

Forgiveness and levels of experience

At the level of our day to day experience of pleasure and pain, and our childhood memories of the same, we are a separate being, acting on and acted upon by other, separate beings. There is individual praise, recognition, fault and blame, and individuals can and must be held accountable for their actions and inactions. At this level, forgiveness does not make sense unless it is accompanied by regret and remorse on behalf of the individual who has caused pain, and/or who is responsible for it.

At the level on which all beings are not only interconnected, but inseparably part of each other, forgiveness is a matter not of accepting another’s apology, but of cleansing and healing a wound in the body of the whole – there is no separate self to be attacked and hurt, no separate self to be singled out and held responsible and accountable.

At the level of Spirit, the meaning of forgiveness is different again. At this level, forgiveness is a recognition that the truth of who and what we are, individually or interconnected, has not been harmed – indeed cannot be harmed – and that therefore there is nothing to forgive; forgiveness becomes a recognition of the reality of wholeness, regardless of physical, emotional and mental circumstances.

But great harm can be done by trying to apply this Spirit-centred forgiveness to the other levels of our experience. To tell a victim of childhood abuse that not only should they forgive their abusers, but that in reality ‘nothing happened’ is to silence them and invalidate their experience.

Conversely, to try to bring someone who is working on the Spirit-centred level of reality back to an experience of victimhood and blame that they have already successfully worked through is deeply inappropriate and potentially harmful.

And to leave out work on our collective wounding and healing, which manifests itself through institutions, groups and interpersonal relationships, is to leave in place systems which have a tendency to encourage abusive and harmful behaviour even in individuals who are focusing deeply on personal responsibility and inner work, allowing blindspots around, for example, racism, sexism and able-ism to stay in place.

Kara’s situation

Coming back to Kara Thrace, given her reappearance later on in the BSG saga, I am willing to give the writers the benefit of the doubt that Kara was, indeed, being guided by a force greater than herself to a destiny necessary for humanity as a whole; that in the face of such a destiny, forgiving her mother became a matter not only of necessity, but of simple acceptance of the truth of the situation. But I wouldn’t want to use Kara’s experience as a primer on forgiveness.

What is your take on Kara’s story? What is your experience of forgiveness? Share your thoughts in the comments.

More ‘negative’ feelings: ANGER!

The other night I received an email asking me to do something that someone had assumed I’d be up for. It would have involved a 700+ mile round trip, with probably no expenses payable, to do a job that I didn’t need to be there for, followed by another job that would probably take a full working week out of my life, all for free.

What was my immediate response? **** right off!

Of course, that wasn’t what I wrote in my reply; I do have an operational brain-mouth filter, even if it does sometime goes on the blink. My reply was polite, if to the point, and took account of the fact that the request was made in all innocence, with no awareness of my health, geographical or financial circumstances. But my immediate, gut level, outraged response was vitally important.

‘Negative’ feelings and self-knowledge

Our immediate emotional response to situations gives us valuable information, if we learn how to absorb it. My outraged response to the email I received told me that someone else had overstepped a line. Whether or not it was the sender’s intent to do so is irrelevant to my self-protective emotional reflexes – and rightly so.

Anger, like fear, is governed by the amygdala, which responds to immediate threat; it isn’t concerned with how I can navigate a situation maintaining friendly relations, only in flashing a great big red light telling me that something isn’t right, and could be about to go very wrong – for me.

I have learned to listen to and respect my anger. My anger lets me know when I am, or am about to be, taken for a ride, or treated like a doormat. It lets me know that my values or my dignity are about to be, or have already been, breached. In this way, it acts as a signpost to greater self-knowledge, showing where my boundaries are, and guiding me on whether, perhaps, those boundaries need to move.

My anger is not nice or pretty, but it is strong, and it demands that I respect myself.

Anger as information

I have also learned to treat my anger as one piece of information – important information, but only one piece among many – in making decisions and taking action.

Because it’s part of a threat alert system, it’s usually the first piece of information to reach my consciousness, all horns blaring.

When I was a child I would react immediately, not waiting for any further information, and as a result had the most spectacular temper. Any slight to my dignity, real or imagined, would get the same all out reaction. I was a very satisfying person to play practical jokes on.

As I grew up a little and realised that this kind of temper reaction was counter-productive, I took to sitting on my anger, squashing it so effectively that I would even deny having any. This fitted well with my ‘spiritual’ self-image, but did me absolutely no favours in terms of emotional and psychological health.

Now, finally, I’ve begun to learn to treat anger as what it is – neither a good basis on its own for action, nor a ‘bad’ or ‘unspiritual’ emotion, but part of my body’s survival system. As such, it is neither good nor bad, but simply is. It’s what I do with it, or because of it, that matters.

“Let fury have the hour, anger can be power; D’you know that you can use it?”Clampdown by The Clash

Anger can be powerful fuel for action. It points to areas that are out of kilter, whether within ourselves, in a relationship or in a society, and drives us to do something to put things back in order. But anger only gives us power if we give it space, and use it wisely – neither acting on it rashly and selfishly, in only our own narrow interests, nor squashing it down and denying it.

Like fire, anger can be dangerous – it can hurt or even kill if used carelessly or without skill, or left to its own devices. But it can also enhance life, even make life possible. Like fire, anger must be smoored – raked, banked up and covered over so that it does not burn out, nor die out, but retains its core of heat – to be fanned into life when it is needed, as fuel for action.

Fire, managed in this way, is always available to be used to cook a meal, heat water, give light, or scare away wild animals. It becomes the hearth, the centre of the home. Anger managed in this way can transform into focus, drive and energy for action and needed change. It can become a pathway to awareness of our deep connection with one another and with all of Life – a pathway to the heart.

I’d love to know your thoughts. What have your experiences been with skillful – and unskillful – anger and its effects?

Boundaries, limits and infinity

I’ve been thinking about limits again these past few days, and what it would be like to live joyfully within them. Once again, the Gods of astrology are coming to my aid in working things through.

Money and energy – changeable limits

Money, as I’ve raised before, is Venus’ domain, along with love and beauty. Energy is governed by Mars, the warrior, Venus’ opposite number but also her lover.

Mars and Venus, by Mantegna

With both energy and money, I have to live within my limits. If I don’t, I will eventually become both seriously ill and destitute, stripped of every possibility of sustained relationship (Venus), and of the ability to assert myself in the world (Mars). But the limits on my energy and financial resources are subject to change. I may pay more attention to my diet and exercise, thus increasing my reserves of energy; I may work more, or more effectively, thus increasing my income, or I may simply have a stroke of good luck. Of course, I might also pay less attention, work less or less effectively, or have a stroke of bad luck.

I must live within my present limits of energy and money, if I wish to survive and thrive*, but I can also work to increase those limits – or at the very least, remain vigilant so that they do not shrink.

The fixed boundaries of time and space

Other boundaries though are not so flexible. Time and space, the boundaries governed by Saturn, who to the Ancient Greeks was Kronos, are fixed.

However illusory time may ultimately be, day to day, month to month, year to year, there is only a certain amount of it available to me. Space likewise may be really, really big, the universe as a whole may be expanding, but the space within which I live and move is delimited by three dimensions, and my own scale relative to them.

Saturn

It’s important not to balk too much at these boundaries, nor to disrespect Saturn and his domain. Without these boundaries of space and time the entire human experience as we know it would be impossible. There would be no way for us to know beauty, or love, nothing against which to sharpen our intellect, nor means for us to gain wisdom. The limited space and time that we do have, we should use wisely.

I cannot increase the number of hours in a day, or the number of inches in a mile. But I can increase what I am able to do within the time and space available to me. I can become more efficient, manage myself and my activities better, plan, structure and organise. All of these are under Saturn’s guidance.

But there is a potential trap here, which those of us who want to make ourselves and the world better all too easily fall into. If I become too focused on increasing my wealth and energy, too caught up in planning and structures, I may miss the opportunities to connect, to play, to experience wonder, to create and co-create that present themselves to me in every moment of every day.

Giving time and space to the limitless

'Starry Night' by Jessie Hodge (CC

Just this evening, I had a startling reminder of this. Going out into the garden with the dogs for their night-time stroll, my partner and I looked up and stood transfixed in the dark, eyes wide, staring deep into the Milky Way. No clouds, no moon, no streetlights, just stars, and more stars, and yet more stars. It was a moment of wonder, of joy, of blessing, of gratitude, and of simply being glad to be alive.

Connection, play, wonder and creation, joy, blessing, gratitude and gladness, are part of the aspect of life which has no limits or boundaries, the Ground of Being from which all emerges and to which all returns: the timeless; the infinite.

Finding a way to touch this infinite Ground every day, to connect with this timelessness which is so far beyond us yet forms the fabric of our very existence, provides the context for us to use our energy and money, a reason for us to make the best of the time and space we are given.

Whether we call this Ground of Being by the name God, Goddess, Mother, Father, Creator, Source, Life, the Universe or by any other name isn’t important; what is important is that we call, that we make the attempt to connect, that we open to that which is broader and wider and deeper than our own lives, our own limits, our own boundaries.

Because for those of us who know there is more to life than it seems on the surface, who seek for meaning and purpose, this is where the meaning, the purpose, the more lie.

Related pages: Spiritual path-finding, Marrying Neptune and Saturn: can dreams and limits mix?

* I highly recommend Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert website. It’s aimed at UK residents, but has useful tips for anyone wanting to live better within their current means.

Marrying Neptune and Saturn: can dreams and limits mix?

I’m currently training to be an academic, halfway through my PhD. It’s hard work, made harder by the two chronic health conditions I have, one of which I’ve known about for years, and is well-managed with the help of my doctor (depression), and one I’ve just been diagnosed with, but have been affected by for years without knowing it (fibromyalgia).

I’ve been thinking of going part-time with my research for some time; the fibro diagnosis clinched it. Fibromyalgia isn’t a fatal condition, it doesn’t damage vital organs or shorten life expectancy, but periodic and ongoing pain, stiffness, fatigue and difficulties in concentrating and processing information are all barriers to engaging in full-time work, especially academic work.

These symptoms though are not, nor will I let them be, barriers to full-time engagement with life. In fact, fewer hours of intensive research work will give me more breathing space, more opportunity to continue inner work, to descend into a place of deep peace, and perhaps to develop my ministry further — perhaps even breaking even on it, instead of making a loss as I currently tend to, or (*gasp*) even making some income.

Inspiration and money

Like many creative, relationship-oriented, service-focused people, especially perhaps many women, I fight shy of putting myself out there, of even considering the possibility that I could support myself financially by sharing the heart of myself. Like many spiritual people of all genders I struggle with asking for payment for this heart-sharing, in whatever form the sharing may take: in my case, that could be spiritual counselling, ceremonies, poetry, healing, works of art or craft. Divine gifts and inspiration; surely it’s not right to ask for money for these?

While I respect and agree with this both intellectually and emotionally when it comes to teaching spirituality — particularly when bringing a person into one’s spiritual family — when it comes to the services I list above, my head, my heart and my gut do not agree, and I end up fighting myself.

Intellectually, I know there is nothing wrong with asking for payment for a skill or a talent which I have spent time, effort and often money on developing and nurturing in myself, so that what I offer to people is worth the giving. Both intellectually and emotionally, I struggle with the balance between valuing myself and what I offer, and making my work available to anyone who wants and needs it, whatever their economic situation.

In my gut, though, there is no such considered and balanced dialogue. In my gut, I back away from money as if it stings, as if it burns, as if it is a source and cause of shame and guilt, of fear and anger.

Clearly, this is not healthy!

Spiritual business support

As baby steps towards addressing this situation, I’ve been browsing a number of business coaching websites, particularly those focused towards artists and other creatives. I’ve browsed the sites of Carrie Wilkerson, Leonie Dawson and Tara Gentile, amongst others.

What I appreciate most about what I’ve found at their sites is what some might call their femininity. There’s no ‘you must do this!’, no ‘how to make mega-bucks right now!’, no ‘you can do it (and if you can’t you’re a failure!)’. Instead, I have found welcome, support, honour, humour and nurture. I’ve also appreciated what I would call their feminism: women putting their energy and enthusiasm and passion into supporting women.

I’ve bought and have begun reading Tara Gentile’s The Art of Earning: Because Making Money Should Be Beautiful, and when I get paid next, I’ll be trying out Leonie Dawson’s The Goddess Guide Book – Creativity, Soul & Business for Women. Part of me is sceptical, resistant. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Neptune and Saturn: dreams and limits

But in the meantime, I’m thinking about Neptune and Saturn, which in my astrological birthchart are directly opposed to one another – Neptune in Scorpio and Saturn in Taurus. Neptune is king of dreams, of oceanic connection and creativity; Saturn is king of time and of limitations, of practicalities and obstacles.

I’m thinking that I need to honour them both: my dreams, my connection, my creativity, but also the day to day limits of life – mortgage and bills and food and car repairs and schedules and deadlines. I’m thinking that I need to bring them to balance, to agreement; I need to marry them within myself, so their energies can work together to reach my goals.

I’m thinking that I deserve that. How about you?