Today it came to me to inhale abundance and exhale gratitude. Receiving and accepting on the one hand, thanking and serving on the other. But how can we do this consistently?
In the Andean path I follow, Snake is the archetype of the South. When I picture him, Jim Morrison’s words about him often accompany the vision.
“He’s big,” I hear in his stoned-immaculate voice, “seven miles long…”
Snake is all about helping us be present. Snake is nowhere but earth-bound. He’s as far from flight as we can get. He doesn’t even walk. His belly isn’t even as far off the ground as an ant's. Earth is present, and Snake is present. When it’s time for him to grow, what does he do? He sheds his skin. That old skin served him well, but now it’s time to die to his past.
The stones help snake do this. First, his nose itches, so he finds a stone to rub against. This starts a process. The itch then is a sign that something is ready to go. Snake probably doesn’t know that simply itching his nose is going to start a larger process, but that’s what happens.
First, the skin on his face begins to peel away. His eyes get cloudy as his skin lifts from around them. As he continues his work, slithering and eating, resting, and even sleeping, the skin works its way down. Eyes brighten again, and new skin appears on his face.
Simply living is his work.
From time to time, some skin doesn’t easily come off. Like his nose, it also itches. Snake pays particular attention to the sticking points when they become evident. The new skin won’t appear unless he takes care of these. So, using the Earth that’s embodied in the Stones and Trees, he works these areas, too. In this way, he works his skin down his body. He’s not trying to do this. He’s only doing his work of being a Snake and the new skin is appearing, naturally. And he’s dealing with sticking points by using the Earth.
Eventually, the Snake continues on and the old skin stays behind.
Do you think he ever turns around and regards it? Does he wish for it to come back? Does he want to try it on again, for old-times’ sake? Does he wish for the glory days of his old snakeskin? Does he go to snake bars and drink snake juice and talk about that time when he was really happy?
Well, what about using it for something good? Maybe some snakeskin boots?
Snake doesn’t wear boots, and the past is simply behind him.
So, he moves on in his new skin. The new skin rose organically. The only thing that kept it from being evident was the old skin. Once removed, his new appearance suits him better. He’s cleaner. He’s healthier. He’s more comfortable. He’s doing exactly what he needs to do. It comes naturally as he lives his life in the Way of the Snake.
Still, removing the old skin wasn’t automatic; there were sticking points. There was an itch, from time to time. But this pain wasn’t that bad. It was workable, and the Earth provided tools to assist him. It was his choice to use them or not. As he did, he found that his instinct could be trusted. So could the Earth.
With we humans, dying to the past can be a more difficult process because we have a brain that wants to hold to it. Part of our brains live there and love the old skin. It itches, but damn… it’s my skin! Likewise, losing our appearance is scary. So we resist. We seem to ask, “If I change what I look like, what will happen?”
Snake doesn’t do this. That question and the underlying fears that bring it are the opposite of acceptance. Neither abundance nor gratitude can live in an environment as harsh as that of non-acceptance. It might as well be Mars.
Acceptance is not stagnation, however. Remember, Snake is present. Presence is both the source and end product of his acceptance. The more able we are to Accept, the more power to be Present we become. If it’s healthy, Presence doesn’t birth apathy. Acceptance doesn’t birth anything but Presence and eventually, Peace, which is a gateway to and a language of the Soul. Once we're there, really able to be consistently Present, we see what itch arises day-to-day and deal with it using what tools the Earth grants us in our daily travels.
Eventually, we move on from the old skin. If our brains don’t get in the way, our fears particularly, we leave the old “me” behind to do what Old Me’s do; namely, live in other people’s memories. Some people see the new skin and prefer the old. Some people see us and don’t recognize us, but are congratulatory about the new look. Some trust us, now that we’ve shown we can "shed skin," a valuable trait to healthy snakes. They may ask us what we did when things itched. We are happy to tell them, to share our processes.
After all, we’re all snakes.
As such, we move on in our new skins. We do this until those are also ready to be shed, and a new itch appears.
It’s as natural as inhaling and exhaling.
Eric Aspen Marley is a principal at The Mountain, an eco-spirituality concept and center in Northern California. Website to follow soon.
(photo by Jan Kopřiva)