White Water Rapids in the Stream of Consciousness

Hexagram 29. Art by Adele Aldridge. http://www.ichingmeditations.com

Hexagram 29 brings a sense of fear and dread: ‘ugh’ and ‘oh no.’ It is a yellow caution light with orange cones barely delineating the drop off. Brace yourself. You are in for difficulty and danger…repeatedly.

Bobbing a fear into focus, into the light of day, to analyze it, can feel just like the fear itself. In water I stay present with conditions. I trust the current will take me where I need to be and where it is beneficial for me to go. The trigram of water, doubled, reminds me that I need not fear the fear that may rise in awareness. The attributes of water will see me through: go with the flow, trust the currents. Water both carves its path and follows the course. In it I feel the beating of my heart. I do what I know and what the course calls for me to do.  Water over water can be a comfort rather than a feeling of dread. Hexagram 29 reminds me that I have the tools needed to see me through awareness of a fear arising in my consciousness.

The so called ‘danger’ is likely already present, whether perceived or not. It is not (necessarily) a warning of what is to come or a prediction of future events. Repeating danger, as the name, is a queue for understanding an emotion associated with danger, which is the fear. However, water is not danger or fear, but tells something about what to do and how to respond within a situation. This brings a shift in my thought process from: ‘uh-oh, there is some danger coming’ to ‘there is possibly some fear present within me (or the situation) which is beneficial to acknowledge or address.

Emotional Currents

I did not receive Hexagram 29 in a reading, but rather through repeated images. In a recent post I read, the author expresses a feeling of dread about receiving Hexagram 29, which she receives continuously in readings. She is dealing with an emotional family situation. She feels foreboding about it, and asks for other perceptions of this hexagram. As I imagine my own experience of an ongoing, emotionally charged family dynamic, I see the image of water over water as two different emotional currents happening simultaneously.  The inner waters are my own emotional responses and feelings towards things. The outer water I see as the emotional currents of the others involved. Water mixes and churns and takes twists and turns, dividing off and crashing down a fall all at once. In a difficult family dynamic it is important to stay present and aware of my own feelings and how they are tossing me about. Too much attention or distraction on the emotional pull of others can drag me off my own course and crash me into a pile of rocks. It is Ok for me to be aware and accepting of these other currents, they are a part of the river, however it does not behoove me to take them on as my own.

After this exchange, one of my Yi buddies comments to me that this perceptual image offers an eye opening view he has not considered in that way. His comment draws me to consider it more. I am not without awareness that pondering the images of Hexagram 29 carries with it the feeling that I am going to come to need the perceptions. I remain alert for images that connect and resonate with me.

I speak of this metaphor with my therapist. I discuss with her the compliment from my Yi buddy. The meaning of receiving a compliment is, in essence, to recognize the truth in the statement. In order to internalize the recognition of a compliment being true, I allow in self-love and appreciation. It is allowing for the recognition of self-worth. These are ongoing issues in my life and therapeutic process. A sexual trauma, gang rape, occurred when I was 17. That, and the events and responses that followed, did a number on my self-esteem and feelings of worthiness. In therapy I have dealt with these issues repeatedly over the years. However, the fear of believing in myself continues to find new ways to manifest itself in my life.

I also discuss with my therapist about the process of writing. I have long considered writing a memoir type book or screen play about my experiences of being gang raped and the path of healing that first took me through the sexual underworld of prostitution. Memoirs are described as opening a vein, or having one’s guts come out. This imagery is painful and wrenching. As I seek to organize ideas around the writing of a memoir, I feel a real aversion to going back to memories in a painful way. I already wrote and directed a puppetry performance about it. As in: been there done that, did a puppet show about it. My memories are now overlaid with swirling, colorful puppet images. Also, I am finally in a place of relative joy and peace. I have spent so many years in therapy healing the wounds. I wonder if this emergence of H29 images, with its foreboding sense, relates to the direction of writing about memories. I ponder ways to approach writing that will feel right and bring me joy.

Currents of Consciousness

My therapist offers another image for water below and above. She describes the inner trigram of water as one’s consciousness of personal experiences that is below the surface: the unconscious or subconscious. Both ‘un’ and ‘sub’ refer to ‘occurring in the absence of awareness or thought.’ The difference between the subconscious and the unconscious is in the subtleties of how deep or far off the awareness is from conscious thought.  The difference also is about how easy or challenging it is to bring the awareness to the surface for acceptance or integration. These unknown waters brought into conscious awareness are surely associated with fear.

She describes the outer trigram as representative of the collective consciousness. This refers to a kind of invisible field where all gathered knowledge is stored and is also available. This might be considered intuition or knowing without knowing. The collective could also be described as a set of shared beliefs and ideas. In all cases, the subconscious, the unconscious, intuition, and shared belief systems, all affect behavior on a personal level. To recognize, or bring into awareness, these thoughts can produce the feeling of shattering an illusion which engenders fear.

In terms of application of these ideas, I consider the job of the therapist. In any situation all of these elements are present. I have my own un /sub conscious fears concerning writing about my memories as well as dealing with the belief systems of the collective. These are layered and woven in with issues of self-worth and fear of failure. In the outer, the collective, fear arises about revealing my past and disappointing my family or friends or colleagues. There is much in the collective, the history of society, about remaining silent regarding sex crimes. My response of promiscuity and diving into prostitution, sex, and the underworld is taboo. I am a bad girl for doing it, and this is doubled in writing about it. I have encountered numerous detractors from telling my story and experiences. Why can’t you write about things that didn’t happen?

Riding the Rapids without Fear

At this point, brought on by my own exploration and attention, I am immersed in the imagery of water over water. I ponder my lessons with Harmen which center on the meaning of trigrams. I recall that Harmen’s birth hexagram is H29. I do not think of Harmen as dangerous, fearful or fear inducing, or foreboding, or as a warning. After all, these are not the attributes of the trigram water. Trigrams teach how water behaves, what it will or will not do. It is a way of moving, being present, meeting obstacles, allowing what is already there (the river bank, the currents, the rocks) and making it a part of the path rather than fighting against it. There is personal choice and power in being able to choose to use the guidance of the way trigrams behave in an approach to a situation. This is different than seeing a hexagram as a statement of only the way things are now or might be in the future. There is space for how to be an active (or non-active) participant in the specifics of any question or situation.

I confide in Harmen about my struggles in writing this piece, and he shares a story of Confucius and his students. They see a man who appears to be drowning in a raging waterfall. They rush down to see if he can be saved, but they do not hold much hope that it is possible. They lose sight of him on the way down. When they arrive, expecting to see a lifeless body, they find instead the man happily swimming about. The man explains that he knows these waters and has been playing in them since he was a child. When the currents take him under and lash him about, he knows that there is a place that the flow will turn back on itself and lift him to the surface. He anticipates this, and he moves with the current instead of fighting against it.

Holding to the Heart Beat

I visit a friend in the evening. (Here I struggle with the right word that evokes the accurate nature of our relationship: companion, partner, playmate, date, or boyfriend? We have been seeing each other for only a couple of months, so I think there should be a word between companion and friend, between partner and date, between playmate and boyfriend. None of them quite suit me, though the closeness and intimacy of our relationship feels important to the story. Equally as important is the newness of getting to know each other. Thus explained, I will continue to refer to him as my friend). My friend plays a movie called ‘Abyss.’ The title is not lost on me in my relating it the abysmal as an image of Hexagram 29. I watch with an eye to metaphor, water imagery, and deriving meaning and application.

In the movie the Abyss, a team of rough and ready oil workers and a team of deployed Navy Seals are put together in a submarine (and various other underwater craft) as they face adversity after adversity. Water below and on the inside is the craft itself, the emotions of the characters, the fears, and the need to follow the course despite the dangers. All around them on the outside and also above is more water. Each adventure seems to take the characters, and their craft, to a further abyss. These are represented both externally and internally. The craft is teetering on the edge of a cliff that drops to the dark nothingness of no return. The characters must overcome their sense of dread and panic to do what must be done, to flow with the course. It is the pull of the heart, the connection between people, which ultimately sees them through the most fear inducing dangers.

I find abundant material for Hexagram 29 imagery and metaphor. The deep undercurrent that plays in my mind is how it is all fitting together for me on my own emotional level, and how I might specifically apply it. It’s not easy, despite everything I have described thus far, to avoid the feeling of ‘uh-oh, there is something still to come for which I will need to draw on all of these associations. The sheer abundance of synchronicities gives me the feeling that it is something deep. I remind myself to go back to my own heart, check in with myself, my emotions, and bring that awareness to the surface. Go with the flow and allow the currents to have their way with my movement of thoughts. It is in this way that I can deal with the underlying currents of fear or illusion within the unconscious and /or the collective. My application of the images is mainly towards the process of writing: how to write about the past, or whether I want to write about it at all.

The Gorge

The next day my friend takes me to Tallulah Gorge State Park. It is where the Tallulah River flows through rugged terrain to carve a complex geologic formation and 6 spectacular waterfalls. It is over 2 miles long and 1000 feet deep. Alright, so I have Hexagram 29 metaphors swirling on the brain and wondering if it is just me, and my own focus, creating some ultimate personal event for which I must recognize to behave like water. It’s all in the back of my mind. I continue to collect images. This place is a study in how water behaves and what it can do.

Crossing the suspension bridge an image catches my eye and imagination. The bridge sways with every step giving me the sense that it is about to flow away in the current of the river far below. It is a disarming feeling in the awareness of the movement of the water below, the breeze blowing my hair, and the sway underfoot. The river, the rocks, the falls, the sky, and the drop to the floor of the gorge all look grand. The raging waters below are a wonder from the bird’s eye view. On the left of my scene of view, by the side of the river, is an anomaly: a rectangle. It is an object entangled in its own eddy of white foam, along the river’s edge. A rock wall juts upward beside it. The square shape seems to be made of wood. Around it, in the encasement of foam, are rectangular slats. These appear to be wood planks. They look to be some part of it, perhaps the top that came apart in a crash over the falls. Somehow, they all stay together with the crate in the cloud of white foam. It gives me the awareness that the object and the planks are all of the same material: a wood that floats. Their holding together reminds me of a ship in a storm. I think of a coffin.

I am reminded of a description I recently heard in a review of the memoir by Vladimir Nabokov called Speak, Memory.  The images in the beginning of the first chapter describe the privileged child in the cradle. He actually nurses on jewels in an image of opulence. The chapter ends with an image of the father’s coffin, as the boy hunts butterflies. The symmetry in metaphor and imagery is highlighted in the cradle at the beginning of the chapter and the coffin at the end of the chapter. In this river I view from above, the crate caught in an eddy, the image of cradle to coffin is reflected back to me. I could not accurately gauge the size as there is no scale to judge objects. The river is wide, the rock faces are tall, and the drop down is frightening. The container is small and vulnerable.

It comes to me that line 6 of Hexagram 29 is about being snared at the water’s edge. I look for the path that the crate might have followed to get in this predicament. I crane to see if there is some outcropping of stone or vegetation that binds the box to this place. I can see none, yet there it is bound, immobile in the rush of multiple currents. I take a moment to internalize the general meaning of a line 6 position. It is the place above the king: in it but not of it. It is an almost spiritual objectivity. This place of being caught in an eddy is also time to look back over the situation and to consider what comes next.

This old box is really just a piece of trash, man-made, on its descent down the rapids of the gorge. It holds on and it holds together the best that its materials allow. Its impermanence is inevitable. Yet its tenacity is also apparent. I flash to my friend rubbing my neck and finding a knot. I do not even realize it is there until he touches upon it. The touch brings it into full awareness. As he smooths it over with kneading and circular motions of touch, it hurts. It is also dissipated, made smaller, vanishing into the muscle that surrounds it. The wooden box is a part of the river as it has created its own current in an eddy. It is also not part of it, being a foreign object. It will become part of the river as the water breaks it down further. I consider thoughts and fears that float along our stream of consciousness, part of it, but not of it, and yet returning to it. Things come up like a knot in the musculature of the unconscious.

Fear on the Trigger

My friend plays a detective series that night. Our mood is one of relaxation after a full day of adventure. There is an openness and vulnerability to such a state of relaxation coupled with intimacy. The scene in the detective series is about a daughter, a sister, who has been beat up by her boyfriend. She has a black eye. Her boyfriend is manipulating her and abusing her in order to get something from her father, which she cannot accomplish. The brother hires the detective to find the guy, so he, the brother, can beat him up. Meanwhile, the father invites the daughter and boyfriend over on the pretense to discuss the boyfriend’s schemes. The father beats the holy crap out of the boyfriend in a surprise attack. The daughter stands by helplessly, begging for it to stop.

I am triggered deeply by the scene, the violence, the helplessness, and something more. But I do not immediately realize the responses that take place in my body, attitude, vibration, manner, diction, and speech. What do I say? I comment on the calm attitude of the witnesses who come in on the scene. The detective, a woman, and the brother, enter over the bloody victim/criminal on the floor. The father, triumphant, instructs them to remove the culprit to the hospital. The daughter /sister, whimpers shamefully and with remorse, in the background.

My friend responds to me something to the effect that it is a satisfactory retribution and outcome, so the calm response of the characters is fitting. I blurt: “No one has ever done this for me.” I sound like a child to myself and immediately recognize that the statement is neither true nor false. It is an emotion. I am shot like a tiny inner tube into the raging white water, the spray stinging my eyes and skin. I am rendered speechless, quiet, and tense. I am a coffin, broken apart, in a tight eddy on a turbulent river through a gorge. I am hanging on a swaying suspension bridge, staring into the abyss below me.

It is not the gang rape that happened to me at the age of 17 that specifically sends me over the falls and into the abyss. It is the memory of the responses of my parents, like a channel that quickens the current, propelling me to topple over the edge. At first I did not tell my parents. The rape took place in late afternoon. That night there was a birthday party for my brother. I did not want to spoil the party, so I waited until the next day to tell them. When I disclosed the rape to my parents, I had felt my father was angry at me. He had anger, and I internalized it. My father found a certain fact, that my girlfriends and I had gotten into such a mess because we wanted to buy a joint, was a clear indication of my own culpability. My mother was mournful in sorrow. She was a wall of resistance in her show of a mask of strength that I was supposed to somehow emulate. Mother told me that the rapists did not take anything from me. In essence, the message was that I had not been seriously physically injured, and so I was not hurt. My parents told me to do nothing in pursuit of retribution. I was told to forget about it, and go on with my life.

Later I heard that my brother and his friends wanted to seek retribution in the form of violence. I also heard of a number of other friends interested in participating. At the time, I could not at all deal with the thought of people I cared about using violence on my behalf. I begged my closest friends, who knew the details of the crime, to not reveal it. I was terrified that something bad would happen to those I cared about. The thought of more violence was abhorrent to me. I was also overwhelmed with feelings of the situation being out of my control. I learned later that this kind of reaction, from a rape victim, is quite common.

I feel it necessary to qualify here that my parent’s response is not an unforgivable offense. I have many times forgiven them this transgression, and I understand that they ‘know not what they do.’ I can clearly see an abundance of other ways that they did help me and love me and stand by me in my life. Even so, this internalized feeling, or emotion, that occurred in this exchange has surfaced repeatedly in my life. They downplayed it. It became something that I had almost imagined and made a big deal over nothing. In future interactions, I am triggered when I do not feel validated or believed. I also feel a sense of abandonment, because of a deep clinging to my own unworthiness and ultimate culpability.

This feeling, this pit of an emotional response, repression, pain, and fear, does not need to be articulated in words when it arises in me. It manifests, though, in actions of self-worth. It is a pin prick of pain attached to a pocket of pus in an infection under the surface. It is a single knot in the muscle of the neck, attached to muscular structure, spinal joints, and tentacles of tension. It has branches of memories which are similar feelings of abandonment, self-blame, and not being believed or taken seriously. Though I have worked on these things over the years in a therapeutic environment, the core feeling is tenacious and creative in finding ways to express itself.

The knot this scene touches, and the subsequent conversation with my friend, like the fingers of a masseuse, cause the tightness ache deeply and reach arteries to memories hardened into vertebrae. I seize up and go silent. I want the thoughts to go away, and I feel their emergence here is inappropriate timing.

Navigating Currents

My friend begins a calm dialogue of what he will gladly do to anyone that has or would hurt me. Like a bug, I curl instinctively into a tight fetal position. I feel the abyss, the great waters of the gorge, and me in my underwater capsule, teetering on the edge of a cliff into darkness. The dread of what it might mean for how I can possibly handle the present is a wall forming the channel.

I can barely respond to my friend’s question about how I am feeling. I am in the memory and also looking at it from above. I compare it in metaphor to the images that have been building in my mind. I sense my friend can feel my confusion and my struggle. As I cannot express the place I am in, I seek to somehow control the emotions. He holds my hand and embraces me in a tight cuddle with the other arm. His absolute presence in the moment to hold on to me, despite not knowing my thoughts, is an indescribable comfort.

I recognize my own emotions, like the roar of white water that warn of the fall. Questions emerge in my mind. Is this it? Is this the trigger for which all of these images prepared me? Will I pass through safely…or get hung up like a helpless wooden box upon a waterfall? My friend continues to hold me, in silence, and in a grip. I feel his presence. I ponder the attributes of water. I recall all the images over the past few days. I am beginning to relax my body into the current instead of trying to paddle upstream.

I begin to take full stock of my immediate surroundings. My feelings are that I wish this situation to not be happening. I feel my reactions are somehow inappropriate to the situation. I don’t want to spoil the party or bother anyone with my feelings. Wait, this is not what water would do. By taking stock, bringing my awareness into the present, I am reminded that these are the ‘subs’ and the ‘uns’ of my consciousness: the burbling, swirling depths of self-loathing. In reality, I am being held by a loving embrace that feels patient and kind. Further, my friend has spoken words that re-iterate protection and caring. No one is forcing me to do anything, and there is no rush. The contrast of the safety of the actual situation to my own thoughts in the midst of an emotional, subconscious trigger is apparent. I breathe deeply. I hold his hand tighter.

I tell myself that it is not necessary to resist the thoughts, the memories, the triggers into fear and darkness. That would be like fighting the flow of the water. There will come a back draft and a lift. In my fuller awareness of feeling safe, cared for, I can allow the thoughts and emotions. I panic a little inside: if I allow the memories, then I will drown. They will take me under and I won’t come back up. At the very least I will not be able to continue in a pleasant evening with my friend. It will be my fault for bringing drama and triggers and ancient memories. I should just let it go, forget about it. I can only imagine that my emotions spray out of me perceptibly, in visible manifestations. Each time I swirl into this fear, my friend squeezes my hand and breathes in deeply. His presence is like a life raft. The space he is holds allows me to take a breath and try again.

I tell myself that allowing the awareness of this triggered memory, within the bigger picture of an ultra-safe environment, will be to lance the boil or pull the tooth or smooth the knot in a muscle. It hurts at first, but ultimately brings relief. Healing always hurts some at first, but the relief is worth it. I relax again into the currents. I go through in my mind the sequence of events that led me to this place of inner struggle. I remember to be kind to myself and my own thought process. It is natural that I would feel a sense of abandonment and pain at this scene. It is also natural that it would come up in this place of relaxation, vulnerability, and intimacy. Instead of being bad timing, it is perfect timing.

I nurture myself in allowing the associations. I also recognize that I am so familiar with these waters, through therapy and artistic expression, so it need not take me under at all. I relax into thinking about the metaphors of water and Hexagram 29. I am safe, and I am good girl. I have a deeper realization that writing about the past is merely a tool for me to focus upon the healing. I also understand that there is no need for me to share with my friend just yet the memory, the trigger, or how I am moving through it. I allow myself my own responses, and, at the same time, recognize the familiarity with the waters. It is still there, and the wonderful vulnerability of intimacy opens the flow further. It’s Ok to feel. I can express it in words later.

In writing this, there are times I feel like I am pulled under again. I worry about how deep I might go. As I come out of the head space of writing, I feel like a diver that needs to come up slowly so as not to get the bends. Once grounded, my legs feel wobbly and my breath shallow in my chest. I waver in extreme doubt about working on the piece further or sharing it. I hold on in the turbulent, raging waters, trusting for the back draw and the lift. It comes, as anticipated. I am cleansed in the healing waters below the falls.