Shedding Skin - by Doug Marman

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Shedding Skin - by Doug Marman

Postby SDP on Thu Aug 06, 2009 6:47 pm

“The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come,” says Joseph Campbell, the famous teacher of mythology, referring to the ancient symbol of snakes shedding their skin as a metaphor for inner growth. “If you want resurrection, you must have crucifixion…We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”1

However, it is easy to overlook how difficult this process actually is. We must die and let go of what we are before we can enter into our next stage of growth. It is a rebirth. But, who would ever want to go through the death of everything they know? This is not something that comes because we are seeking it. It erupts upon us. We have no choice but to shed our old skin or die.

Medicine Grizzly Bear, an American Indian shaman, once described his struggles to me, about how much suffering he went through until he accepted the changes he needed to make. He felt as if he was at the brink of death, before he broke through.

He grew up a typical American boy. He went through school, received a degree and was teaching in college, when he suddenly began getting sick with one illness after another.

He would recover, only to find himself with some strange new problem that was even more debilitating. At the same time his dreams began to scare him with images of dying, mingled with scenes from Indian teaching stories he had grown up with. The problems got worse, until he wondered if he was going insane.

He had forgotten the religious teachings he had been raised on. However, once he realized that medical doctors couldn’t understand what he was going through, and that he desperately had to do something, he decided to call on a medicine man to see if they could help.

They immediately recognized what he was going through: He was being called to become a medicine man, himself. He was told that he had no choice. If he didn’t listen he would probably die or go crazy. The moment he began accepting this possibility, his whole situation changed and he began recovering immediately.

Shamans have called themselves the Wounded Ones, because they were forced to go through grave difficulties before they could recognize that life could not be the same for them as everyone else. They had no choice. They had to shed their old skin to enter into the life that was calling them. It was their only means of survival.
We don’t hear much about the spiritual call these days, but experiences like these are just as common today. However, the challenge is often more difficult in our modern culture, because most people have nothing to help or explain what is happening. Only those who have gone through such transformations understand the meaning of it.

A young lady recently found herself in tears over the mental anguish she was going through. She could not stop her mind and the fearful thoughts it was imagining. She was scared and finally broke down to tell a friend. Was she going crazy, she asked? Her friend was visibly shaken and said, yes, it sounded that way to her. But as soon as she met someone who realized what she was experiencing, and she accepted that this was happening because she was being called to the spiritual path, everything turned around.

The immediate healing itself left little doubt, but once she felt better, she still tried to go back to her old life, caring little about pursuing spirituality. This is human nature to want to return to our old ways. The mental problems returned, until she accepted that she had no choice and began taking up contemplation.

A young man I spoke with not long ago had been heading toward a life of social success, just as his father had hoped. But after suffering a concussion, when he was tackled on the football field while playing quarterback in college, his whole life changed. For months he couldn’t cope. He couldn’t remember things and couldn’t hold a job. His life took a sudden nose dive, until he began to step back from the path he had been on and rethink what life was about.

That’s when he realized why the accident happened in the first place: He needed to abandon the whole life he had been trying to live. Suddenly, understanding the spiritual purpose of life became a compulsion – something he had to find out. His wounding let him shed his old self. Now, he realizes the great gift his injury has been, since he had been heading in the wrong direction.

It often takes a serious accident or illness, because who else would make such a difficult change?

A young lady with a newborn baby found herself isolated from other girls her age by the new responsibilities of being a mother. She loved her child and would never trade her baby boy for anything, but her whole life was changed.

She asked me if I could interpret a dream she had, and once I explained to her the spiritual meaning I sensed in the dream, she suddenly opened up and began talking with me about things she had never told anyone before. Her whole demeanor changed. It was like watching this huge weight being lifted off of her. She began to glow with a light that filled the room.

She had long suspected that there was something different about her. For example, why did she know how to heal herself through dreams? No one she knew could understand what she was going through; until I confirmed for her what she was experiencing.

These sudden changes in our lenses of perception allow us to see a new world that was invisible to us before. Once we shed our old skin, we can never go back. That’s the indication of real spiritual growth.

1 From: “Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion,” by Diane K. Osbon
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Re: Shedding Skin - by Doug Marman

Postby Vidyanet on Sat Aug 08, 2009 10:34 am

Doug,

Your topic reminded me about the lyrics from a Peter Gabriel song. Sledgehammer.

http://www.lyricsondemand.com/p/peterga ... yrics.html

The song is featured on the 1986 album: So. The lyrics I'm referring to are "I've kicked the habit. Shed my skin.
This is the new stuff. [etc.]"

1986 was the year just before I formally joined the church that I've been a member of for over the past 20 years. That year was one of the most devestating in my life. A real "sledgehammer" that literally caused me to "shed my skin" (not necessarily in the way Peter Gabriel might have meant it) in the departments of material possessions, personal beliefs, etc. For a time I was literally a homeless person! No home. No car. No address. No phone. No money. Etc.

I'm only now recognizing what year in history that album came out. Quite the waking dream!

BTW. Some of my favorite songs from that album are: In Your Eyes, Don't Give Up and This Is The Picture.

Some of the history for the album "So". It's one of my favorite albums of all time. Even moreso now that I realize what was taking place in my life when it came out.

So, Passion and Us (1986–1994)
Gabriel achieved his greatest popularity with songs from the 1986 So album, which produced three UK Top 20 hits ("Sledgehammer", "Big Time", and "Don't Give Up" — a duet with Kate Bush). The album also produced three Top 40 hits in the U.S. ("Sledgehammer", "In Your Eyes"), and "Big Time" (Gabriel's most recent Top Ten hit), as well as the single "Red Rain". "Sledgehammer", peaked at no.4 in the UK but was a #1 hit in the U.S., knocking Genesis' "Invisible Touch" off the top spot. The ballad "Don't Give Up" was about the devastation of unemployment. Gabriel co-produced So with Daniel Lanois, also known for his work with U2 and Brian Eno.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Gabriel

I think it can sometimes be a revelation looking at eras in history, along with the songs produced by same. Even considering what was taking place on a personal level, or otherwise, during the same time period.

Music has a way of bringing back memories, like no other medium. Probably not a coincidence history used to be "sung", from one generation to the next, so far back in time. Even before it was ever written down!

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Re: Shedding Skin - by Doug Marman

Postby Jonathan Reams on Sun Aug 09, 2009 12:30 am

HI Doug and Vidyanet,

All a bit of synchronicity that now prompts me to write, as I was in the UK and saw Peter play at Womad a couple weeks ago :-)

This also seems to prompt me to tell a little story. Back in 93 I went to see his Secret World tour. I was inspired by a story from an Eckist I knew back in 79 who had responded to a dream with Justin Hayward and sent him a copy of the Tiger's Fang. I had taken the book Child in the Wilderness with me, and before the show had intended to go up to one of the security guards lining the area to keep people from going backstage and ask them to pass it on. As I walked up to them, suddenly they all seemed distracted by other people and a large gap opened up in front of me, so I walked through and started to make my way down the arena seating leading to the back of the stage. Just at that time Peter went onstage to introduce the warm up act. There was a lone security guard by the stairs leading from the artists' areas to the stairs going onto the stage. At first the guard was so stressed that I was there and tried to shoo me away, but as I managed to convey that I was not a crazy stalker I looked him deep in the eyes and asked if he would pass the book on to Peter. He looked back at me and agreed to do this favor for me. I then left to respect his space and job to guard Peter's space, and my friend saw him take a moment to pass the book on to Peter as he came off the stage.

Anyway, I also have enjoyed the deeper spiritual meanings in his lyrics. From Solsbury Hill's "I walked right out of the machinery" to the description of the darshan in In Your Eyes and the more recent I Grieve's "it's just the car that we ride in, a home we reside in, the face that we hide in, the way we are tied in."

Anyway, so much for my little digression. Shedding skin is a great theme. In my line of work and study, this process is talked about in terms of developmental psychology. In a nutshell, at each stage of development, or level of human consciousness, we have a structure of consciousness, or how we order and make meaning of the world of experience. We also make an image of self with this structure. The process of transition from one level to the next generally begins with encountering circumstances where our way of ordering experience and making meaning breaks down, and along with it our image of who we are. As we gradually let go of the now non-functional images of self and way of making meaning of experience, we find our way into new patterns that enable us to function and fit into the new circumstances life presents us with. Eventually we internalize this new structure of consciousness and feel comfortable in a new self image. In this model, there are clear descriptions of the characteristics of each stage. It also describes later stages where, as I interpret it, the human consciousness becomes more fluid and open to aligning in a flexible way with direction from Soul. (hmm, maybe a long nutshell).

What I am quite curious about in an ongoing way is the parallels and or links between the kind of shedding of skin you describe at the end as "the indication of real spiritual growth" with a possibly larger picture of spiritual unfoldment as Soul evolving over many lifetimes, with what we go through in any particular lifetime in terms of growth being small steps along a much greater journey. I am curious as to other views on this, as I perceive parallels between what I see in the academic literature I described above and spiritual unfoldment, even though developmental psychology is clearly focused on the human ego and its evolution, not on Soul's unfoldment in a larger framework.

I "think" that it can be misleading to simply judge people with higher/later stages of ego development as being more spiritually mature. My view on this comes from imagining that there could easily be situations where Soul chooses to work on specific lessons in a lifetime that require immersion within an earlier or lower stage of ego development. Or that a less mature Soul has a lifetime to experience higher/later stages of human consciousness that are more readily available in our current times and that this will take a few lifetimes to really embed itself in their larger spiritual unfoldment.

Any thoughts on this? Other observations from experience or similar questions?
Jonathan
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Re: Shedding Skin - by Doug Marman

Postby Doug Marman on Sun Aug 09, 2009 9:32 pm

Thank you to both Vidyanet and Johnathan for that fascinating bit of synchronicity over Peter Gabriel.

And thanks to Vidyanet about your example showing the way such changes in our lives leave such indelible memories.

Johnathan, to your question about the connection between these dramatic transformations in our lives when we move from one skin to another, and how this leads to real spiritual growth - this is a fascinating subject.

There are a number of topics this raises. For example, our ideas about who we are also changes with our new consciousness. It is as if a greater part of our Self forces its way into our life, until we awaken to this greater part of what we are and what Life is.

I was just talking with someone about how there are people who experience these inner emerging states of consciousness as if they were alien beings trying to abduct them. They might project these experiences outside of themselves, imagining them to be alien beings, when really these are aspects of their own inner consciousness that they have not accepted as their own. Spiritual awareness can seem foreign and even scary when it first starts to dawn.

Joseph Campbell had a book about how myths have helped people going through psychotic episodes, even schizophrenia. The same teaching stories that help seekers going through spiritual growth also help these people suffering what we today think of as mental illness. In many cases, they are going through the same kinds of cracking open of their consciousness, and the battles against parts of themselves that they do not accept or recognize as themselves. Those suffering mental breakdowns have a lot in common with what the saints have experienced, except the saints have come to a different sense of meaning about it. That's exactly why saints and shamans can help others heal.

In other words, when you look closely at these things, it becomes apparent that the real changes come from the inside out, not the other way around. You can't just teach people about the concepts of "integral" understanding and perspective and expect that this is going to change them the same as someone whose consciousness has shed its skin and has now entered into a new life. Understanding the concepts does indeed change how we see things, but dying in an old state of consciousness and stepping into a new worldview because we cannot go back and we are forced to go forward is a completely different experience.

In other words, it is not the state of consciousness itself that carries the value, but the process and experience of the shift itself emerging from an inner force that we eventually come to recognize as a part of Life.

I've had the same feeling as you, that one of the things that gets left out with the modern thinking about the developmental stages of psychology, is that it overlooks the importance of moving downward as well as upward along these scales. There is a part of Life that works through the more primitive states, and to ignore this can bring loss of health.

Some of the shamans I met with, that I mentioned in my article, told me that they had seen many people these days who had lost touch with their animal spirit and there was a lot of suffering of mental illness today because of this. Such people are weak, have no inner power, and feel isolated from nature. They have broken their connection with nature and until it is restored, they will suffer. It is as if their animal spirit had died.

This isn't something solved by just rising above it spiritually. It also doesn't go away by just thinking rationally and pretending that this is just magical thinking and not true. This is real mental anguish that goes away once these people spend a little more time giving some attention to the part of themselves that needs that connection with nature.

Is that getting close to what you were asking about?

Thanks.

Doug.
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Re: Shedding Skin - by Doug Marman

Postby Jonathan Reams on Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:21 am

Hi Doug,

Thanks for the response. It gets at some of what I was asking about. I'll make a few comments in response to yours, and then try to see if I can articulate the murkier parts of my query.

The inside out change is of course essential, and I like your phrasing of "It is as if a greater part of our Self forces its way into our life." One way of viewing ego development is just that - we become more of who we really are. We are also able to be conscious of and manifest more of our Self as spiritual beings. The integral frameworks, movement and such are in many ways in early stages themselves, and are thus mostly descriptive of patterns of growth and development that have been observed. The work on supporting and facilitating this development is emerging slowly as a further step in going beyond the stage of intellectual appropriate of the maps and taking them for the territory.

I think that Don Beck and some of the Spiral Dynamics folks are better about understanding the value of utilizing the earlier structures of consciousness present within us as necessary to create a stable and healthy foundation for higher stages of growth. The drive to be only at the top of the ladder is more of a manifestation of a particular stage of consciousness that is fairly prevalent in today's society. My understanding of integral consciousness (especially from what I have heard about Gebser) is that it entails an integration of all the previous structures of consciousness, then held in a way that is transparent to itself.

So those part so f your response did get at part of my questions. The other aspect was about wondering if it can be a mistake to focus too much on this kind of development (even in its fullest and healthiest manifestations) as a signature of spiritual unfoldment. By this I am thinking that for instance Soul may choose to incarnate and focus on fixing a specific issue, and spend a lifetime doing that rather than realize the full range of growth available as a result of many previous lifetimes of work. Thus they may appear to be "less developed" according to the standards or measures we are discussing above, yet in the larger picture the work of this lifetime may put them far ahead of those who appear more developed in the context of the human consciousness.

Now, given that counterpoint, the evidence of my own observations over time has led me to see it more as your phrase "It is as if a greater part of our Self forces its way into our life" describes. Our lives here are simply reflections of the vast amounts of work we have been doing to unfold over many lifetimes and on many planes of existence. Thus they should reflect our relative place on the winding and diverse road of spiritual growth.

Does that help illuminate the other aspect of my question?
Jonathan
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Re: Shedding Skin - by Doug Marman

Postby Melodie Chrislock on Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:34 pm

What I am quite curious about in an ongoing way is the parallels and or links between the kind of shedding of skin you describe at the end as "the indication of real spiritual growth" with a possibly larger picture of spiritual unfoldment as Soul evolving over many lifetimes, with what we go through in any particular lifetime in terms of growth being small steps along a much greater journey. I am curious as to other views on this, as I perceive parallels between what I see in the academic literature I described above and spiritual unfoldment, even though developmental psychology is clearly focused on the human ego and its evolution, not on Soul's unfoldment in a larger framework.

I "think" that it can be misleading to simply judge people with higher/later stages of ego development as being more spiritually mature. My view on this comes from imagining that there could easily be situations where Soul chooses to work on specific lessons in a lifetime that require immersion within an earlier or lower stage of ego development. Or that a less mature Soul has a lifetime to experience higher/later stages of human consciousness that are more readily available in our current times and that this will take a few lifetimes to really embed itself in their larger spiritual unfoldment.

Any thoughts on this? Other observations from experience or similar questions?
Jonathan[/quote]

Hi Jonathan,
Interesting question. Would you give us a brief description of these stages of ego development as seen from a psychological perspective. I don't have enough familiarity with those stages to compare them with stages of spiritual development I've seen in myself and others, but I suspect there is a link. Thanks.
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Re: Shedding Skin - by Doug Marman

Postby Doug Marman on Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:03 pm

Jonathan,

Okay, I think I follow your question.

It seems to me that our greatest spiritual growth is always working with Spirit from wherever we happen to be. Life comes to us at our state and works with us here. It is always strongest here and now, wherever we are, not off in the future or trying to attain some future goal.

Trying to hold people up to an outer scale as if that represents the goal of their life is not going to always match with what the real spiritual lessons in their life are about. That's the whole problem with schemes that are outside of ourselves.

My understanding of what Ken Wilber and Don Beck and the Spiral Dynamics folks are saying about the Integral Stage is that when you get there you stop trying to get everyone to work from the stage you are at, but you start working with people at the stage they are at. This is a big change from all the other stages, because in all the other levels the worldview sees itself as the only true way, not realizing that it is just another stage.

But I think you can find people who are naturally more advanced in this way and know how to relate to others in a more sympathetic way like this, and understand others from where they are coming from intuitively, but this doesn't mean that are that advanced spiritually, if you know what I mean.

So, this might be a great stage for people who work with organizations or have to deal with social issues, but are they actually more self-aware? Can they read the Book of Life and see what it is saying? Being able to see and understand these other states that other people live in, does it help them understand themselves?

I think consciously working with Life, where we decide to be a co-worker with Life, which means not asking what we think is best for everyone but asking what does Life think is best - that this brings us closer to spiritual growth and self-realization. You can find a wide spectrum of people who can work with this who are all over the map in terms of psychological development, but they are still working on a spiritual level and come to see their own limitations in the physical.

Is this getting closer to the heart of your question?

Interesting discussion.

Thanks.

Doug.
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Re: Shedding Skin - by Doug Marman

Postby Jonathan Reams on Tue Aug 11, 2009 12:26 am

Hi Melodie,

That is a tall order, but I will see if I can give a brief sketch. One goes from sensory motor operations (n infant learning how to use their body) to a magical kind of consciousness (think of a three year old and cartoons) to what Piaget calls "concrete operations" where you can use linear logic and follow rules, and thus go to school and learn arithmetic. The ability to do abstract reasoning comes next (and then you can grasp algebra for instance) and identity is often shaped by one's peer group - think of early teenagers. Eventually (and not always totally) one develops a sense of self that is based on personal values, and chooses relationships on that basis. As well, throughout this process there is a growth from simple constructs to more complex ones, from awareness being focused on external things such as the body to internal things like emotions and the world of ideas. Later stages include what are terms "postformal" stages (based on Piaget's term formal operations as the norm of adulthood) where the ability to have access to more subtle internal awareness, the perception of systems and other complex things emerges and can be integrated.

Below is a paragraph from an article I wrote that describes one person's descriptions of eight stages and how at each successive stage one can take a perspective on, or make choices about what was previously the governing principle.

One begins at the impulsive level, where impulses rule behavior. At the second level, needs rule impulses, making an object out of what was the self as subject. At the third level, norms from society rule needs. At the fourth level a person has the norms of society as an object, and is ruled by a craft logic, or expert mentality. A person moves to level five when the self as subject operates through system effectiveness, and has craft logic as an object to relate to. Level six brings a capacity for reflexive awareness that rules the need for system effectiveness. At level seven, a self-amending principle rules reflexive awareness, and at level eight, process (an interplay of principle and action) rules over the self amending principle.

Hope that helps. Jonathan
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Re: Shedding Skin - by Doug Marman

Postby Jonathan Reams on Tue Aug 11, 2009 1:20 am

Hi Doug,

Yes, we are getting closer to the heart of the question :-)

I agree about how Wilber and such view the integral stage of consciousness. When I did Don Beck's training, I said to him that it seemed to me he was trying to provide a way of supporting spiritual growth by learning how to really work with people where they were at and bringing health to all levels of existence.

Your observations bring up for me what is often described as the issue of lines of development. A question in this area is how does spiritual growth fit into the picture? Is it simply one of many lines of growth we can work on, or is it the ground of all different ways we engage the world? Or is it some combination of both. Thus as you say, some people may be more advanced in terms of knowing how to intuitively work with people at different levels and yet not necessarily be more advanced spiritually.

Another question in this might be related to you asking if people who are at this stage are actually more self aware? Or do you mean "Self" aware? Part of the inherent meaning of what these later stages of ego development describe entails a kind of self awareness, an ability to more transparently see and understand the inner workings of the human system. But is this the same as being aware as Self or Soul? Or is it that Soul is what is aware of the ego and its inner workings?

Another related issue to me is what kind of "cosmological framework" are people coming from and how does that or does it not impact the degree to which they are unfolding spiritually? For instance, I find that many people studying ego development do not place it in the context of Soul learning over multiple lifetimes. All the eggs are in this one lifetime's basket so to speak. I find that this can lead to all sorts of issues in how people relate to and apply these ideas. But I also know people who do not concern themselves with such larger questions and yet seem to be doing as you describe, working with life and reading it well. So there is no clear cut correlation between beliefs and mental maps with these kinds of signs of spiritual maturity or growth. - Ah, maybe that is it, the question might be related not as much to growth, which happens from wherever we are at, but about maturity, how far along have we gotten?

Lots of questions (and of course I have ideas about such things, but they are held lightly and on the edge of ongoing inquiry) as I don't often get the opportunity to discuss these things in this framework.
Jonathan
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Re: Shedding Skin - by Doug Marman

Postby Marian on Thu Aug 13, 2009 2:44 am

Hello All,

I have found it most interesting being an observer of this discussion. A couple of things have particularly struck me, see quotes below...........

"The ability to do abstract reasoning comes next (and then you can grasp algebra for instance) and identity is often shaped by one's peer group - think of early teenagers."

"For instance, I find that many people studying ego development do not place it in the context of Soul learning over multiple lifetimes. All the eggs are in this one lifetime's basket so to speak."

There seems to me to be some common elements in the above, can someone pull out the threads and take this further.

Marian
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