My time in the Hermit’s Cave
I’ve been on a journey for a long time now. It’s been an imaginative journey filled with red tailed hawks, dragons, and even muppet guides–I’ll tell you all about that one day. But the most significant part of this journey has been over the past year. I’ve been hunkered down within what I call the Hermit’s Cave.
The Hermit, in tarot, stands alone at the top of a mountain, feet crunching in the snow beneath. They hold up a lantern within which a hopeful star shines out like a beacon. Legend has it, this star is the 6 pointed star of Solomon, representing wisdom and the power to convene with Spirit and animals. The Hermit has chosen this solitude (which makes it different from loneliness) in order to reflect, to go within, to see deeply inside.
The lantern is able to light the path forward but only in steps. Therein, they must have courage and faith to step forward into the unknown using their senses, their inner compass, and their staff (which is said to represent support from the unconscious).
(PS. Remember how I feel about the unknown?)
“The Hermit symbolizes that the answers you seek to any problem, can always be found if you begin within.”–Elliot Adam
Time in the cave is not for faint of heart. I’m a Scorpio–a lover of all things Shadow and Underworld, and it still exhausted me to the core. I confronted hard truths, illusory beliefs, parts of me I’d rejected and tossed away–the proverbial “madwoman in the attic.”
I realized I had crossed through a threshold on this journey and could never return through it. I was forever changed. I accepted this, but what was I to actually do with all of it?
The consequences of the cave
When you spend time in the cave, whether it’s in quarterlife, the midlife unraveling, or during any major life change, you are only partially accessible to the outside world. It’s as if there’s an avatar living your “real” life on autopilot, while the rest of you is underground amidst toothy stalactites. There’s not much you can do about that because when you’re committed to the cave, you’re all in. And at some point, the Universe pulls you within anyway. I, for example, thought I was deep within until I broke my ankle and was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in the same month. There’s nothing like crushing fatigue and immobility to remind you that you can go much deeper within than you thought.
I’ve disappointed a lot of people over the past months. I’ve said No to people and things. I’ve let go of belief systems, preferring to follow my own authority. A few times, I emerged, thinking I was finished with my cave time–going back to my Tinkerbell energy, planning collaborations with folks, only for the Universe to not so gently say, “We aren’t done yet.” And I had to back out–to say, “I’m sorry. I know I got our hopes up, but I just can’t go there right now.” I’ve disappointed (and angered) a lot of folks during this time, and it’s not easy.
I’ve always been a pleaser. I like to make everyone happy. And I’m so freaking responsible. I never back out on a commitment. I always overexplain when I need to say no.
No more. Not this time. I’ve learned to say simply, “I can’t” and let others work through their own disappointment. And trust me, they will be disappointed.
Lessons from the cave
My time in the cave was a dark mirror, reflecting back the ways I had lost my own authority–my need to comply with beliefs and mandates laid upon me by heavy handed authority systems (e.g., education, religion, employers…). Funny thing, I thought I had already worked through all of this power stuff. But what I realized is that I only learned to rebel or acquiesce, never to actually write my own beliefs, my own LIFE. I confronted my need to be liked, to be the good girl, the obedient academic.
I met with The Destroyer (the archetype who embodies my inner critic), my Artist Child, my inner Heretic who fears being burned at the stake. I turned over metaphysical apple carts and learned how to balance my sensitivity and kindness with fierceness. I accepted the call to lead with authenticity and vulnerability.
I danced with my inner Mystic, the one who reads Tarot, knows astrology, studies Jung, speaks with Spirit, and yes, sees and hears dead people every now and again. We danced because I promised her I would start letting her out to see the sun again.
Why I’m going to start shining my lantern brightly
It’s a lot to take in, the cave lessons. I have stacks of journals filled with thoughts along the way. But the hardest part for me has been that commitment to let my inner Mystic into the light. The Destroyer (who destroys only because she thinks her role is to fiercely protect) has kept me silenced (no need for those heavy handed authority figures to burn us for heresy).
But that all changed the other day. I was getting my hair cut, when a woman saw some tarot cards in my bag. We chatted a bit about them, and then (as people often do), she began opening up to me about her own paranormal experiences, about hearing and feeling her dead husband near her from time to time. She immediately recoiled: “People think I’m crazy.” I assured her I didn’t and told her some of my stories.
What she said next changed everything. Softly and with tears in her eyes she said, “Thank you. It means so much that someone like you (meaning that I had a PhD in developmental science) believes me.”
I realized then that I couldn’t stay quiet about what I do, about my gifts because it is the uniqueness of my science, art, intuitive background that allows me to serve people and validate their experiences. Admitting that I believe in the possibilities and limitations of both science and mysticism isn’t heresy. It’s curiosity. And it’s a gift that can make others feel seen, heard, and valued.
It’s not going to be easy to stand up and say what I believe or question, but I know that in doing so, I’m allowing others to be seen, heard, and understood. And if that’s you reading this post, I want you to know that I see and hear you, too.