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  • Writer's pictureArlene Bailey

Finding My Medicine

The past few years, I have frequently found myself in the Underworld deep in the inner depths of, well, me.  In the beginning, I went kicking and screaming because the experiences were not something I wanted to deal with.  To say these times were uncomfortable is a vast understatement and I was not in a place where I wanted to confront, much less acknowledge, all I was being shown.  It wasn’t that I really had a choice though – other than to stop resisting – as the experiences seemingly came with no warning and stopped with no warning.  There was no advance travel directive, no trip preparation, only a sudden whoosh from this plane to that of the soul.  Eventually I began to understand these times were my soul’s way of getting my attention and were directly tied to where significant planets in my astrological chart happened to be moving – especially when that alignment had something to do with my soul’s purpose.  That’s when I began to understand I had to start looking at this – whatever this was - from the perspective of symbols and mythology and other worldly knowings.

People tend to get really uncomfortable or even afraid when one mentions the Underworld. Thank you patriarchal religious conditioning!  The truth though, while a place of intense learning, it doesn’t have to be scary.  During these times, I never really had a visual sense of darkness, only an overwhelming feeling of sadness, angst, regret, anger or a myriad of other feelings depending on exactly what it was I was supposed to learn from that particular trip.  Over time I learned to pay more attention to the symbols and mythology, even to frame my experience as shamanic with a shifting landscape and shifting characters.  I began to meet new spirit guides and both past and future selves.  New animal totems and guides came in the most profoundly wonderful and, at times traumatic, ways that awakened deeply shamanic parts of me.  Through it all, I looked for the symbols that would move me through this time. 

New gifts also came and I began to actually, if not look forward to, at least not dread these times.  When I stopped resisting the experience, I began to see that I had a heightened sense of almost everything.  I moved deeper into looking at the symbols that came and how they had meaning for my life.  My experiences from the Underworld began moving into my inner psyche cementing themselves in positive, outward expressions.  As I worked at deeper levels with the symbols that would accompany me back to and support me in the present world, new ways of grounding the experience came.  I began to find that words flowed onto paper and profound, magical, mysterious ideas began to flow through me and out into this time and place.  I began to sense things and know things, even hearing sounds that seemed to bleed through the veil.  I came to know myself as a woman who thrived in the deep end of emotional experiences.

Then about six months ago, I began to explore painting.  For several years, a voice had been loudly expressing her desire to paint.  My response was always we don’t paint.  The more I resisted, however, the louder the voice became.  Similar to my early experiences in the Underworld, once I stopped resisting magic happened.  Once I began to simply Allow, the Mystery stepped in. 

With guidance, I learned that art was not simply about putting paint on canvas, but was a depth process in and of itself.  I learned that if I listened to what wanted to come forth – meditating and waiting patiently for what wanted to birth - the end results were nothing less than the outward expression of profound inner landscapes with messages not available in this realm.  For the first time, I learned the powerful lesson of not comparing myself to others, but simply being with what my soul wanted to express.  Knowing that whatever that was, it was ok.  Sometimes I loved the finished product, sometimes I hated it, but it was all me and what I needed to express at the time.  Always that expression came from an intensely deep place, sometimes another Underworld experience, sometimes from a this world place of awareness and understanding I’d never before known. 

Recently, after sharing my latest painting with a friend, she shared the following quote by Jean Shinoda Bolen:

Artists and writers whose work touches us deeply instinctively access collective symbols. They 'dream' for us; they bring images and stories from their own depths that could be our own. If we are conscious, we recognize ourselves in them. Otherwise, we only know that we are moved. Seen from this perspective, artists or authors are our contemporary versions of shamans who have visions for their tribes. They tap into a deeper stratum - the collective unconscious - and express it. My friend then said, I think your art definitely touches people at this level.

Deeply touched I simply said thank you, a bit overwhelmed by the compliment, but with a sudden awareness and clarity I'd not had before.  I finally understood how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

The painting in question was a pure example of beginning with no mind, i.e., no specific intention, and letting what wanted to come evolve in that place of listening and allowing.  As every part revealed itself, I once again felt myself in the Underworld with powerful symbols asking to come through the veil into this world. This time, however, there was no resistance, no fighting, no sadness or anger or angst.  No regrets for I understood my role.  I was healing not only myself, but also gaining my medicine to take out into the world. 

As I moved through this painting, I realized I was a vessel for the message that needed to come forward.   My role as a healer was to surrender to the process, letting the magic flow through me from the depths of the inner landscape and out into the collective consciousness.  The beauty of this way of being and doing is that as I move through my process – clearing my own issues and creating my new path – I am also creating pathways for others.  

I am still sitting with the messages of this painting.  The depth of swirling emotions - dark and light - juxtaposed with the full moon, the crone and the young woman pregnant with infinite potentialities.  Then of course there's the symbol of the heart over her womb with its own message.  What of the land forms - the islands - and the trees all surrounded by water?  What message lies within these symbols?  What medicine from each individually and all collectively?  

Those Underworld times still come and...

I have come to embrace them and the gifts they bring – especially the weaving of words and ideas and the profound symbolism that comes through art.  This has not been an easy journey, but its value is immeasurable because I now understand and accept the medicine I am to take out into the world and the many forms it manifests.

I am a Teacher and Facilitator of the Ancient Ways of Women and Plant Medicine.

I am also an Artist and a Writer... a Way-Shower and a Path Weaver. 

Ever changing. 

Ever evolving. 

Embracing the ALL of my experiences – dark, light, this world, the underworld, the cosmos.

Recognizing the magic that is in everything.

Always Dancing with the Mystery.

That is both my medicine and the medicine I offer to the world.

Finding My Medicine, ©Arlene Bailey

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