; If_ as the Avatar stated_ faith
Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out
Your Federal Quarterly Tax Payments are due April 15th Get Help Now >>

If_ as the Avatar stated_ faith


  • pg 1
Reclaiming the Shadow
“Too often we put the saddlebags on Jesus and let the donkey run loose in the pasture.” —Jalal ad-Din Rumi

f, as the Avatar stated, faith is a form of sight, then the doubt that often challenged my faith was an obvious blindness that was preventing me from remaining steadfastly loyal to my intuitive perceptions. Under adverse or difficult circumstances, I got angry and frustrated, and I lacked the confidence to remain true to what I perceived as the right action. This was largely due to the shadows that lurked in my subconscious. And now I was being asked to evolve to yet a higher level of development, one that embraced the heretofore hidden aspects of the shadow. No aspect of my self could remain suppressed, denied or unclaimed if what I was seeking was an unclouded, enlightened vision born of wholeness. The healing of blindness would come about through an unusual encounter with a horse named Midnight Quest. Midnight Quest My daughter started horseback riding when she was five years old, and like most girls who ride, she begged for her own pony. I told her if she stayed with it for five years, that when she would be ten, I would buy her a pony, never thinking she would still be riding then. On her tenth birthday, she started exploring, researching, test riding, and dreaming about her horse, and six months into her search she found, via the Internet, a black Morgan pony, with the show name of Midnight Quest. Shortly after locating Quest, my daughter had a dream in which she was riding Quest, escorted by the winged stallion Pegasus, during



Way of the Mystic

Judith O’Brien, Ph.D.


her normal lesson time with her trainer. I trusted her dreaming. She had fallen in love with a white mare Welsh pony earlier in the year, and the night before we were to purchase “Jewel,” my daughter had a dream that a man came out of the bushes and killed “Jewel.” The next day, the horse was mysteriously sold out from under us. (Given my own “missing jewel” experience shared previously, I really began to pay attention to what these horses were trying to communicate.) The dream about Quest and Pegasus was an affirming enough message for both Kalin and me, so we drove the many hours to the eastern shore of Maryland to meet Quest. Quest was a beautiful, sleek, yet sturdy mare with what I would call “aboriginal eyes”…eyes that seem to reflect an original wisdom…a wisdom older than time. She was also surprisingly anthropomorphous, and I say this from my own complete ignorance about animals generally and horses specifically, but Quest seemed to have very humanlike emotions and behavior. Not only am I ignorant of all ways of the horse, my daughter being the equestrienne, but I must confess that I’ve never had a particularly comfortable ease around horses. Nonetheless, Quest was irresistible, and we became horse owners. We brought Quest home to a local stable in the early spring, and literally, the first day with her new herd, she got into a skirmish with another horse and ended up with a rather serious eye injury: several deep abrasions to the cornea of the left eye. Fortunately, someone was at the barn late that night, saw that Quest’s eye was badly swollen, irrigated it, and called us, and we called the vet. It looked like there was a strong possibility of Quest losing her eyesight, and obviously we wanted to do everything within our power to prevent that. What would be required of me was to apply an antibiotic ointment directly on the cornea, three times a day for ten days. This meant entering the small, twelve-foot-by-twelve-foot stall of an angry, injured nine-hundredpound animal, locking the door behind me, and, basically, sticking my finger into her swollen, oozing, painful eye…three times a day…for ten days. I doubted my ability to accomplish such a task. I didn’t think I possessed the personal courage or confidence to do what was needed,

but I didn’t see that I had a choice in the matter, so I resolved to take Quest on. For ten days, I was in the midst of what could be thought of as a kind of “vision quest” with this pony, in which I had the opportunity to move through my fear, lack of confidence, anger, loss of faith, distrust of my perceptions—all indicators of my own blindness. I was locked in a room the size of my bathroom with an unfamiliar, churlish beast. In the beginning, it was a very difficult, all-consuming, frustrating and frightening experience. During the first two days, I probably got more ointment on her forelock than in her eye. Quest would regularly turn her back to me as if in defiance or in preparation to kick me. I was scared to death of her and felt sure I was going to end up maimed or worse. On the third day, I entered the barn and she threw her head back in a remarkable display of challenge. I tried to cajole her, negotiate with her by offering her sweet feed and hay, if she would only let me near her eye. One day I got angry and confrontational; it was an obvious display of false courage. She knew it and she simply gave me her backend, lifted her tail, and did what horses do. But as the week progressed, and my courage strengthened, something truly amazing began to happen. We started to develop a rapport, Quest and I. I started sensing that she was showing me something, teaching me something…about myself. If I was distracted and thinking about what I had to do later or what had happened earlier in the day at home or in my work, Quest would seem distracted…inattentive. If I had had words with my husband and was angry when I went to the barn, Quest would rear up on her back legs and make a loud neighing cry. If I was peaceful, she would be peaceful. In other words, Quest became this exquisite outer display of my inner emotional state. She became a clear reflection of the shadow self I was not owning. Quest was teaching me two important things; first, how to see myself through her eyes. This allowed me to see what I was projecting out into the world relative to my emotional state, so that I could consciously move toward greater coherence or harmony. She was teaching me


Way of the Mystic

Judith O’Brien, Ph.D.


how to remain steady and centered at the heart and to respond from there. The second thing Quest was teaching me was how to establish a relationship with her, how to communicate through a kind of affinity or deep sensing…by telepathy. Visiting Quest became a kind of practice in sensing and response. Something shifted on the seventh day. I woke up earlier than usual and meditated, and when I got to the barn, the sun was rising up over the tree line, and the pasture looked aglow with prismatic light. I entered her stall fully present, aligned within myself and totally sensitive to her. She turned to me, looked into my eyes, bent her head down toward me and offered her eye, as if to say, Okay, I surrender. I got my whole finger in the eye socket that day! More important, I was becoming a kind of whisperer. Quest and I were developing a trust with one another, and I could sense her trying to communicate with me. There was a question coming from her. She was asking, Who is the alpha mare here? In other words, who wears the saddlebags and who runs free in the pasture, to use Rumi’s language. It was only much later that I confirmed what Quest was teaching me about equine behavior and how important the pecking order is to horses; they need to know where they stand in the herd, who eats first, who gets let out in the pasture first, who is in charge. The “Alpha” lets the other horses know how to behave and what is expected. My initial stance of fear and trepidation let Quest know that she was the alpha mare; she was in charge, not I. In other words, she was the one who was running free in the pasture, and I was the one chasing after her with the saddlebags. Quest’s potential blindness and her final acquiescence during treatment mirrored my own healing. Not only was I beginning to take complete responsibility for who I was in each moment and reclaim that which I projected out onto others, but I was learning to trust my intuitive perceptions; I had a newfound confidence or faith in myself and in life, and had acquired a vision that allowed me to see through another’s eyes.

Seeing through Another’s Eyes I wrote the foregoing story about Quest, and as is my usual process of beginning a new essay, I let the story sit while I waited. Since the beginning of this project, the process has been that I write a story, and then something happens in my life to inform the direction the story wants to take. I have said to close friends that I am not so much writing stories as I am living them, experiencing them. For example, in the writing of the last essay as I was exploring the shattering of glass that occurred after my visit to the LOTUS, I actually fell through and broke our front screen door. My husband asked, “Have you broken through to something?” as he fumed over the bent frame of the door. Yes, I had. This essay proved to be no exception. As I sat at my desk in front of my computer wondering what the lessons were from my encounter with Quest, my daughter came in to my office and we had the following conversation. Kalin: Mom, I have a question I want to ask you. It’s a question that I’ve had for a very long time. It might be a question that you think is dumb, but I want to ask it anyway. Judy: I don’t think there are any dumb questions, so go ahead and ask. Kalin: Well, before I was born, I thought it was going to be possible to see through another’s eyes…you know, see their perspective. But I find I can only see through my own eyes. So, is it possible, you know, to see through another’s eyes? What do you think? Judy: Well, yes, I think it’s possible to see through another’s eyes, to see another’s perspective. But first, I think you need to learn to see through your own eyes, to really see. And to know what it is you are actually seeing through your own lens. Kalin went off to play with the cat, and I sat in awe, silenced by the synchronicity of her koan-like question. By her asking it, I had a much better sense of what Quest was trying to teach me, and it was about the difference between perception and projection. What Quest demonstrated with remarkable precision is that most of what I think is a true perception of something “out there” is actually a projection.


Way of the Mystic

Judith O’Brien, Ph.D.


When I walked into the barn and saw an angry horse, I was actually getting reflected back to me what I had first projected out onto her as an attitude and expectation. And while it seemed like a perception of something external, it was in reality my internal life spilling out onto her. How does this projection process work? The way I have come to understand it is this; the world is a great reflector, the backdrop for my self-discovery. It’s a bit like Shakespeare’s contention that “all the world’s a stage, and all men and women merely players.” The world is a stage and men and women are the players, but I also think we are the director, the playwright, and the producer. And I also think we are the casting director, the one who assigns supporting roles to people like our spouses, bosses, friends, and parents. But before I fall completely into the pool of narcissism and imagine myself at the center of the universe, let me also say that everyone is the star of his or her own play, as well as his or her own director, playwright, and so on, and while I may be the leading lady in my own drama, I am often cast in a minor supporting role in someone else’s drama. On this world stage, every person in my life is reflecting some aspect of who I am, and I am reflecting some aspect of him or her… in his or her own production. I have come to understand emotions as feelings with judgment attached that, when deemed negative, get relegated to the shadows, to the basement of the psyche, where they run the life from the dark unconscious. Because emotion, both positive and negative, is energy in motion, it has to move through us. A natural pathway for its movement is outward as projection. In other words, the parts of me that are either undesirable or unclaimable or unknowable will get projected out onto others as a natural, almost primordial selfprotective mechanism. But here’s the beauty of the phenomenon known as projection. It is a vehicle for self-discovery; it is a way of finding out who I am. I cannot see the lens through which I look, so I need others to show me myself and if I am aware enough and courageous enough to own what’s getting reflected back to me by these marvelous actors I have assigned roles to, I will discover who I am. Life gets ugly when

I fail to see and reclaim what I’ve assigned another—both positive or negative. Is all of life simply a projection and a reflection, or is true perception possible? What is a true perception? And how can I know if what I perceive is true, or simply a projection? A true perception is sight unclouded by projection. True perception of a person, an event, a horse, an idea or any aspect of reality is the result of communion. To truly perceive something is to become it. A true perception is to be one with, to resonate with, to love or to be in communion with the subject perceived, and that is only possible in the absence of projection. The more aware I became of all aspects of who I was with Quest and the more I reclaimed my judgments and emotions, the more transparent I became. Then, true perception was possible. There were distinct stepping stones to becoming transparent, to restoring her sight and mine, and to seeing from Quest’s perspective. First, I recognized a reaction, a charge to the circumstance. I saw fear and lack of faith in myself and in life, and these emotions got projected out onto Quest. When I named the reaction, I began the shadow dance, and took it upon myself to become reacquainted with the fear and anger I had disowned and relegated to the shadows. By putting myself in that stall everyday, I experienced a kind of vision quest (no pun intended) and, in the purity of Quest’s response, could actually see myself, my whole self, for the first time. This was the beginning of reclaiming the shadow. I recognize that the shadowy emotions belonged to me, and I became a learner. My heart opened as I absorbed or took back and reclaimed my emotions and I surrendered to a state of equipoise in which I was completely aligned with an inner spirit. It was in this equipoise, that I began sensing Quest telepathically, and I became aware of a question Quest was asking. “Who is the Alpha? Who is in charge, who is the boss?” How confusing my behavior must have been to her. Quest was asking a question that Rumi himself might have asked: “Who is the donkey and who is Jesus? Who carries the saddlebags and who runs free in the pasture? Who holds the reins?” Is my fear in charge, running my life from the shadows, or are the reins in


Way of the Mystic

Judith O’Brien, Ph.D.


the hands of my whole Self? It was as if a new perspective unfolded from these questions. The clouds parted and great clarity became possible. I became transparent and I could see things from Quest’s eyes. Out of this clarity came a mutual surrender and unity. The natural order of the universe revealed itself in the unity of our diverse identities. Having clarity is meaningless unless I am willing to act upon it consistently, steadfastly with full attention to each arising moment. My action was to become the alpha, the head of the herd. Even today, she tests me on a regular basis, trying to invade my personal space or going down for grass, and each time I give her a confident shake of the reins. _______________________________ A Powerful Dream: The Transparent Robe Thinking again about my daughter’s question, what I’m considering is this: In order for me to be in communion with another, in order to see another’s perspective, to look through another’s eyes, I have to first open my heart, open my eyes and recognize the lens through which I am looking; I need to see and reclaim all projections. I need to become a clear and transparent reflection. I was able to do this with a horse, but was I ready for the challenge of examining my life’s central issue as it had played out in my family of origin? Was I ready to examine all undesirable, unclaimable or unknowable emotions? There was no doubt that my relationship with my biological father was karmic in nature, and at the core of our dynamic was the freedom of expression. My father drama, as a projection, took on a quality of an outer authority figure blocking my true expression. I became a victim (literally) of this violent force outside myself preventing the expression of what I saw to be true. This drama solidified in my adult life as a complex of behaviors not too dissimilar from those experienced in my encounter with Quest. It was never safe to express the truth of what I saw. Out of fear, I often got manipulative in order to get my ideas across. Mostly I got confrontational in settings requiring honest communication and ended up in conflict. Although I had long ago forgiven my father for

the violence he perpetuated, I had never actually been able to see things from his perspective—never become a learner—that is, until recently. My daughter and I were going to visit my dad in Williamsburg for the weekend, and the Friday night before traveling, I had a curious dream. In the dream I was given a magical robe by the Avatar and was told that the robe, when worn, took on the particular color of its perceiver and thus revealed the true nature of the one seeing the robe. The robe itself was actually transparent to the one wearing it. So, in the dream sequence, I put on the robe, and walked around town, and a variety of people came up and commented on the robe, told me what they liked about it, what colors they saw, what textures, and designs. The interesting thing was that depending upon what they saw I could determine who they were at their deepest level. Wearing the robe provided an incredible clarity into the nature of the perceiver. I awoke from the dream knowing something was about to unfold. In Williamsburg on Saturday afternoon, my sister, who also lives in Williamsburg, came to my dad’s house for a visit. I should mention that my sister has always been considered the “good girl,” the obedient daughter, the one who did everything expected of her, and never spoke out of turn; in contrast, I was the rebellious thorn in everyone’s side, the one who said what she thought and followed her own rules. These aspects of my nature ultimately led to an explosive dynamic between my father and me. I do believe my sister has a kind, soft-spoken gentle nature, without a mean bone in her body, although this, admittedly, may be a projection. In any event, my dad had given my daughter a flute for her birthday, and my sister, a flutist, came over to teach my daughter how to play. I must admit that while this public flute lesson was going on, I felt rather transparent, like I was there but no one could see me. In the middle of the lesson, as my dad was up and down out of his chair, fixing the lighting, adjusting the music, picking the songs, giving directions and suggestions to my sister about how to teach my daughter…my sister exploded. She started yelling at Dad, telling him how obnoxiously controlling he was being, and in her angry tone, I could actually hear myself, I could hear how I must have sounded to him


Way of the Mystic

Judith O’Brien, Ph.D.


all those years ago, confrontational and mean. And I could see my dad’s hurt; my heart was opened and I could sense his pain and confusion, the pain of being misunderstood, and the pain of just trying to help, but being clumsy about it. My father got up out of his chair and went to his room, and I didn’t see him again until the next morning. I had seen the whole story—my story, of the fiery dynamic between my father and me, played out beautifully on stage by Dad and my sister, cast in the role of the two protagonists. And I had been in communion with both of them. The next morning, I told my father that I had seen how hurt he was by my sister’s comments and I asked if he was going to tell her how it had felt. He said he understood why she had exploded, and felt it would hurt her feelings to bring it up. So, no, his feelings would remain unspoken. At that moment, all the projections that I had cast out onto this man, my father, all the mean, evil, uncaring characteristics I had attributed to him over the years, were no longer consistent with what I sensed in him. I had never been able to truly see from my father’s perspective before because my eyes had been clouded with all that I had projected onto him. But at that moment, it was sight unclouded by projection...a true perception. Conclusion I knew this ability to see from another’s perspective indicated substantial growth—a new stage in the evolution of consciousness. I was becoming ego aware and more inclusive in my perception of reality. Reclaiming the less-than-desirable and oftentimes unknowable aspects of the shadowy ego was good work. And certainly the experiences with Quest were instrumental in giving me a newfound courage to examine the shadow. Yet, in truth, it seemed as if the projection complex was endless. The more I reclaimed the more there was to claim. And thus, I raised yet another question for the Avatar. “Avatar, as I am wrestling with all the repressed aspects of the shadowy ego, how will the lower desires ever be reined in?” “Through a willing sacrifice of the outer form for the inner life,” he said.

Up to this point on the way of the mystic, I had unfolded specific gifts, activated certain forces within me, and had been called upon to demonstrate certain virtues, specifically, courage, effort, tolerance of obstacles, faith (sight), and the eradication of negative thinking. I had become a learner, and I was learning to live in the question. I had seen the possibilities inherent in “transparency,” a power of true perception unclouded by personal impressions. In demonstrating a steady perception, the Avatar was presenting me with a new challenge on the path. I was being asked to sacrifice those things in the outer world that I had grown attached to. I understood that there were degrees of detachment beginning with simple worldly objects, but also including a real sacrifice of bodily comfort, old values, desire in all forms, even life itself. Agreeing to this level of detachment meant that I was at a turning point in my life, a choice point. And I said absolutely yes to the inward arc.

To top