I have always loved the image of the Mermaid (also called sirens). Maybe that is because I’m slightly obsessed with anything related to the ocean. Or maybe it’s because her archetype reminds me of the duality of the feminine spirit – whimsical and playful while powerful and strong. Either way, I’ve always been strongly drawn to the imagery.
While poking around a store on a recent trip to the beach, there was a quote that I came across in a piece of mermaid artwork that read:
“I must be a mermaid ! I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
I instantly thought, “YES! That’s me. That’s it – that must explain the attraction.” I also thought, “That’s not just me – that is the majority of people.”
I was instantly struck by an obvious contradiction, however.
Why is it that if what we yearn for is to dive deep, that so many of us are frightened by the desire to go deep and explore our emotions? Why do so many people avoid, numb, and just plain run screaming from anything that lurks beneath the surface? Why do we fear the things we yearn for?
I see this constantly when people seek my help in moving through or towards something in their life. People work with me for many reasons, but ultimately, their desire is to obtain happiness, peace, and connection.
They yearn for some experience of depth in their life – something more than the routine of work, chores, and to-do-lists on repeat. They yearn for more, and yet when it comes to doing what it takes to obtain this depth in their life, they freeze. They sabotage. They rationalize why it’s not necessary. They hide from themselves.
It is usually this feeling of being stuck and not knowing what to do that prompts them to seek my help in the first place.
Can you relate?
You yearn for something deeper than the humdrum life you’re living.
There is something inside of you that won’t (despite your best efforts to drown it out) stop prompting you to keep seeking and growing.
There is an almost urgent feeling that accompanies your desire to make your life and your time on this planet more meaningful.
You know you have something to offer and something powerful to give (even if you don’t know what exactly that is).
You might feel stuck – as though you are living a half-life. A “fish out of water” perhaps?
I know this feeling, as I think many of us do.
It’s our deep hunger. It’s the desire to “suck the marrow out of life,” as Thoreau says in Walden.
There is an old Celtic legend about mermaids, or selkies, as they call them, that goes something like this:
In old legends it was told that the Selkie (akin to a mermaid) came onto land and put down her magical mermaid skin to live among humans and marry her love. But her mermaid skin was hidden from her and without it she began to wither, shrivel and die, bit by bit, day by day, until she was close to complete spiritual death.
That’s not the whole story (that would be a horrible, sad story!), but that’s the part that I want to focus on to draw the analogy. When we put down our passion, and our purpose, we put down our “magical skin.” When we drop our sense of connection to something bigger – what I believe defines the very personal sense of our spirituality – we lose our “magic.”
I believe that for many of us who are paying attention, this loss of our “magic” is the itch that we just can’t seem to scratch. It is the empty feeling we can’t seem to fill up. This call to action might show up as sadness, or loneliness. It might lurk as melancholy or perhaps anxiety. It’s the prompting behind the cravings we feel – those that we try to meet with eating, or drinking, or some other various form of excess. We diet, we perfect ourselves, we try to do what we can to “fix” it, but nothing seems to work.
Instead of avoiding the call, seeing it as a “problem” to be diagnosed or muted in some way, or drowning it out because it frightens us – what if we heard it as our own particular “siren’s call?”
Imagine if we allowed our yearning – the sadness – to become a sign that we are alive, with the potential to move towards something bigger and perhaps better?
Try to picture what might happen if we embraced these feelings and saw them as a signal to dive deeper instead of trying to “fix them” or make them go away?
What part of us might be awakened?
What possibilities might we give life to?
If you can embrace your desire to dive into the depths of life and give yourself permission to explore, what “magic” might be waiting just beneath the murky surface?