Education

To see your own shadow, an invitation.

Years ago as a new school administrator, I was tasked in my job description with supporting school improvement by coaching teachers on the annual goals that they had crafted. In this progressive model, we shaped the traditional “teacher evaluation” into a growth tool. The feedback loop was supportive and the teachers and I reflected and made next-step, achievable goals together. I was also tasked with supporting teams of teachers in developing action steps toward school-wide improvement goals.

One teacher in particular wanted to appear grandiose, be the best, but they didn’t actually want to participate in the growth based systems that we all operated under - that were the norm. They wanted to do things their way. They were inherently spiteful, I’ll say, and their resistance to the process and to me, personally, caused stagnation in the advancement of the school improvement goals, as well as the attitude of the teaching team that surrounded them.

The school had a model for change, and as a new administrator, I couldn’t understand why in the world this wasn’t working for one when it was working for the rest. Why had this one painted me so negatively and the majority had nothing but love? This one spent their time actually resisting goals and attempting to prove superiority, and sometimes very passively. It was horrible.

It wasn’t the first time there was this aversion to me, because their aversion was to me, not to the process. It took me years, all the years of my life, to be okay with how I will repel some people. Because I will naturally repel some people. I was still learning then.

For the last six months of this year, I kept pulling this one card from the Isis Oracle Deck more than any other card. And I knew that it was showing up for a reason but my goodness, I was almost wishing it wasn’t, because I really could not “figure out” what the true message was being offered me. The card is “Power Over Seven Scorpions: Power to Conjure the Lower Vibrational Forces.”

It’s not a particularly pleasant looking card, nor does it have a particularly pleasant wording. I mean, I bet readers feel it, this, “Ooooo, wait, ‘conjure?’ Yikes. And ‘Lower Vibrational Forces’ doesn’t sound so appealing.” I seriously had to look up the word conjure because I am NOT interested in dark magic.

So this week I pulled it again, and I again read the little book that comes with the deck, and I again set it up in plain site for me to contemplate why it keeps coming up, and I’m getting closer and closer.

Here’s what I’ve got so far. Lean in. This is a lifetime of watching myself and this little card coming up to tell me to own this. Directly.

You will not know me and not know yourself.

By nature of me being me, you will see you. I am a mirror. And I will reflect back, naturally, as in “conjuring,” what is both pleasant and difficult to look at.

By nature of being me, I bring about what is existing as dark or “lower vibrational forces” or what I will also call Shadow, and I bring it up to be healed. We go through the shadow to get to the light.

I am not into conjuring darkness as any sort of witch, which is why I resisted this card. But I own and honor the message now. It is a large part of my gift to offer this planet. (I am a believer that we need to actually own the gifts we’re sent with…)

I will see the dark, the subconscious patterns, the unseen. I will see what is kept in shadow, and in my vicinity, you will see yours as well. Or we will see it together. Some people don’t like to see their shadow. And those people probably won’t like me, as they project their discomfort with their shadow onto me.

And I get, too, that this could be misconstrued as egotistical. It’s not, but go ahead and think that if you need to. ;) (That was a little shadow joke.) I do my own shadow work - goodness me, read my blog if you question that. I have my own trusted friends, coaches, teachers to offer me conscious feedback. And when you all criticize or judge me, I run that through my process as well to check it out. I do.

I just don’t let the shadow go unseen - by nature of who I am. Even before I recognized this as a gift, it would happen that some people say, “I can tell you EVERYTHING” and other people want nothing to do with me. I was born on the Day of the Soul Searcher, and I read this in some astrological book on a table in Barnes and Noble at the age of fifteen and I felt this sweet relief of understanding myself - because even then, I knew that I would go places others didn’t always want to go and in fact it is impossible for me not to go there. I GO to the depths. In my previous education career, and especially in the South where I live, I would get into some trouble (directly or indirectly) for naming what did not want to be dealt with! I just could NOT not name the elephant in the room! It is impossible for me to not see and not name.

I name it nicely. Gently. But how in the world can we move forward unless we name everything in the room?

For some that’s a relief, and for some, do NOT name the elephant. It’s fucking risky. It is fucking risky to talk about the things we prefer not to see. I get it. Our entire lives, we have built up identities, or as organizations, we have built up identities…. Or as governments… and to name the metaphorical elephant causes disruption.

I am not here to cause unnecessary disruption. I am here to invite us to look into the shadow.

A few months ago, I was at a local co-working center and we were playing an “authentic game” and (just like me to do this) I raised my hand for the first hot seat, which meant that this circle of people was going to fire authentic questions at me, some of which may be difficult to answer, and I could choose to answer directly or pass, but I couldn’t tell a story about any answer. I agreed. A man I didn’t know, very early in the game, asked me a personal question about habits of my sexual relationship to myself and I passed.

My friend Gina said after the game, “I had a story in my head that said there was nothing that Sarah wouldn’t share, and it surprised me that you passed.” I shared that the reason that I passed was not because I was uncomfortable with the truth, but because I didn’t appreciate the trickster intent. In other words, what Gina knows about me is that I will investigate the shadow and I will discuss what I find there - my own, the collective, or my clients’ with them in session.

I will share with purpose and the intent to grow. Always. There is a lot of psychology out there about sharing for the wrong reasons or “oversharing.”

I share to bring the shadow into the light. For damn sure. But I won’t be irresponsible or flippant with it. The shadow is also sacred territory.

When I sit with you, this is what we do.

When you read me, this is what you read.

When you become my client, this is what you’re signing up for. Lots of big ol’ loving space for truth to be held.

It is not always pleasant, but we have to go through the shadow to get to the light.

The shadow, again, is what we prefer not to look at within ourselves. This mirrors the collective - by which I mean - our culture.

What do we gain by looking at what is difficult to look at in ourselves?

Our soul.

Everything.

We gain everything.

What you do with my mirror nature is up to you. Truly.

If you want to avoid your shadow, I’m not the woman to follow or to hire.

You can even be pissed at me for what arises when I do, but I will name the elephant.

I will call you to both investigate, to own, and to move through.

I will do so with love in my heart and holding the intention that collectively, we become stronger.


To know me is to see things about you that you potentially preferred not to see.

Some people are confused, because they feel challenged by what they call “me,” but what they are challenged by is the confrontation of the shadow, the mirror, I naturally hold.

For someone who wants to stay in a comfort zone, blaming other people for their condition, I will be uncomfortable. Back then, as a young administrator, I did not recognize this in a way that I knew what to do with. I couldn’t figure out how, even though I was following the coaching protocol and doing things with loving intention, I was still getting this reaction. Well, it was because I made that person uncomfortable. Because they loved their comfort zone and I was the one tasked to be up in it, which is a place I am actually comfortable being and so it felt natural for me.

We can operate in the comfort zone, but I don’t prefer it. And neither do most of you.

Gain your Soul.

Know that your resistance is your potential. Know that your blame is a distraction. Know that what you are dissatisfied with in your life has everything to do with what you have avoided looking at - not with any other person or condition.

Our relationship to our shadow matters. It makes the difference between a life of avoidance, suffering, and blame, and a life of truly knowing oneself and truly loving what you discover.

In my work, we go there. Safely, but we go there. I look forward to hearing where you want to go, and helping you through the parts you’d rather not traverse, but you know you’ll be more whole if you do.

I love you, and your Divine Soul. I see you and your potential. I will love you through it all and we will celebrate when you’re through. When you’ve gained another piece of your Soul.

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Back to school...

When I was eighteen, I got pregnant during my first semester of college. I was nine hours away from home, with a long distance boyfriend, at a college that I longed to attend. I didn't fit in in my home town, and my heart had taken me to the mountains of North Carolina to a progressive college, but I'd have to return home again to have this baby. 

The pregnancy and all that it entailed will be chronicled in other places at other times. This is the story of going back to school. 

I was pregnant October of my freshman year of college through July of my nineteenth year. She was born July 22, and I was back in school three weeks later (maybe two) at the beginning of August, my first born child adopted into another, older, more responsible, established family.  

The formula, simply put, was to go back to school, succeed, make something of myself, make money, find a man, get a job, buy a house, and THEN I could be a mother again. 

That belief system took up residence in me like only a trauma reaction can. It became the absolute belief of my entire system. Everything, and I mean everything, became about success, in order so that one day I might be able to be a mother again. In the back of my mind existed a formula for acceptance, motherhood, and success that I didn't really question. I was given this formula, as most of us are. I didn't yet know to question it. 

The rhetoric and belief system of "not enough" is incredibly damaging. And, it's the belief system that is sadly underpinning most of our educational systems, and systems for perceived success, in our culture. We are a culture deficient of personal worth, and we focus much of our perceived value on the external circumstances of our lives - our job, education, the facts we know and can speak to, how much money we earn, what car we drive, how much monetary wealth we have accumulated. 

We're enforcing the wrong narrative, the wrong formula of success. Pause for a moment and just begin to feel into how this has played out in your life.

I worked, feverishly, in education for fifteen years, making a career of doing education differently. I wanted to connect to the hearts and souls of each child, first studying emotional & behavioral differences in Special Education and then broadening my approach to school-wide character and mindfulness initiatives. How do we raise the WHOLE child? How do we instill a sense of purpose and wonder inside of children? How do we allow them to feel and deeply know that they are so much more than their grades or their achievement in just that realm? 

Eventually, I had to break free, which I still have unrest about, as so much is needed inside of education. But eventually, my own integrity was in question when I had realized, deeply, that it wasn't the education that I cared about anymore, and perhaps it never had been - I wanted to work to nourish the human soul. A school principal that has lost her light for academics is just not the best school principal. I hope to still serve education in authentic ways, as I'm invited and called to do. 

But this isn't a blog post about what education is not. 

Rather, I simply seek to tell a story, share reflections of a woman in process, a woman with deep concerns about what is lost when we focus on achievement. 

That's an answer I don't even actually have, but I know that the loss of my own sense of Self, my own Soul, through this rhetoric of "not enough," through the conditioning that the answers were outside of myself, has been something I've been recovering from since it began. 

Since before I even knew how unhealthy it was, something inside of me struggled to find my own worth and value in a system that demanded effort while it assumed my inadequacy. 

In the way we raise children now, in other words, we raise them to believe that the answers are outside of themselves. We have, most all of us, been raised this way. It is no one's "fault" - it is the common assumption and patterning and that's what's not working for anyone anymore. 

I could go on, but I suppose blogs are supposed to be shorter. 

I'll say this. This is what is really on my heart. 

My daughter, my first born - she went to college this past weekend. Since her freshman year of high school, I've been hearing her family speak of the importance of honors classes and what to major in in college. It's an open adoption, and so while I don't know her family well, I get glimpses. They are wonderful parents, deeply fine people. It is the generalized societal pressure, the assumption of this success formula, that I take issue with, and not against her parents at all, but for the whole of our children. Does my daughter know how inherently wonderful she is, how knowing, how worthy, regardless of achievement? I don't know. 

I do know that I'm more ready than ever to have these conversations. Young women are coming to me as clients, right after graduating college, saying "My anxiety is off the chain, and I know that this is not who I am meant to be, nor can I continue this way." Listen to how powerful that is - the voices of these women waking up. 

I am a mother, having both believed the damaging inadequacy rhetoric myself, having worked inside this system while I myself efforted like hell to achieve inside of it, only to find that it is false. I never would find in the external world what was all along internal. This truth that nothing is inherently lacking. We are each inherently whole, inherently worthy, inherently knowing.

Of course, to eliminate education altogether is not likely the answer. I have a son who starts fourth grade tomorrow. He attends a public charter where I was a school administrator a few years ago. I support it. Aspects could be better, but they do a lot really well and better than most. 

I want children to know who they are. I want us to question the formula for success, laid out before us in this assumptive "this is how you make something of yourself" rhetoric that leaves so many feeling empty. We have too-high rates of anxiety, depression, addiction, and suicide, which I believe would absolutely all decrease if our systems also were built to tether us to something unquestionable. Something robust and profound. Something unflinchingly true and meaningful. 

Ourselves.  

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