Waking Up From Our Spells
I am having a love affair with a word, a word that has come to life for me in a new way and describes so well what is happening for most of us. That word is spell. It is clear to me that we all were born into life wide open, without a thought in our heads and slowly, in those first years of our lives, we began to take on spells. We could also call them conditioned beliefs, but spell is more appropriate because a spell is something that can be lifted.
When the evil fairy put a spell on Sleeping Beauty, it was finally lifted by the kiss of a prince. What if we understood that, just like Sleeping Beauty, we too took on spells and then fell asleep to life? Some of the spells we all seem to take on are: “I am separate from life,” “Life is not safe,” “It must be controlled,” “I must do it right,” “I am wrong;” “I am unlovable,” “I am all alone.” All of these spells come from the idea that we need to do life rather than be life, and they generate so much suffering.
I’ve explored these spells that we took on when we were very young. My own core spells were “Life is not safe” and “I am doing it all wrong.” These spells were so powerful and seductive that they took me to a place where I no longer wanted to live. I attempted suicide three times. Everybody that tried to help me - all of the therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and hospitals - only confirmed the belief that I was defective to my core.
Then, when I was 27, I was taught to be curious about what I was experiencing rather than trying to change it. It wasn’t until I met Stephen Levine, author, poet and spiritual teacher, that I truly learned not to be seduced by spells by being curious and compassionate. This was the kiss of the prince that I had been waiting for.
Now, every once in a while, an old spell will come for a visit, but it will usually last for only a few minutes, and instead of reacting to my immediate experience, I turn toward it and say “hello.” Stephen Levine calls it keeping company with the most vulnerable parts of ourselves. Pema Chodren calls it befriending. The Beatles say this same thing so beautifully in the song Let It Be. And Eckhart Tolle offers, “Say ‘yes’ to whatever you are experiencing.” All are alluding to the truth that real healing comes when we move beyond reacting to and resisting our experience and instead bring it curiosity and acceptance.
The invitation is to start slowly. Simply be curious about whatever you are experiencing at the moment, whether it is the sounds around you, the taste of your food, or the rising and falling of your breath. All the stories in your head will try to grab your attention over and over again. When you notice you are thinking about life rather than being fully here with it, simply bring your attention back to your focus.
These moments will train your mind to be curious about what is right now. As you develop the muscle of your curiosity, you can learn how to take this curiosity into the places inside of you that you have run away from your whole life. The more present you are for your spells, the more they are lifted and you can know the joy of being truly alive!