November 28, 2010

The Water of Life: Initiation and the Tempering of the Soul

The Water of Life: Initiation and the Tempering of the Soul by Michael Meade also took me a long time to read (like the last book I blogged about).  But this time it was because this book is incredibly rich, like the dense gingerbread cake I made this week, with nuggets of intensity in it, like the dried cranberries I stirred into the cake.  I could only read a little at a time, just like there's still a lot of cake left because I can only eat a small piece at a time.

There are lots of bits of this book I love and want to come back to in different ways in different contexts.  (Some to note: "The Spell", pp. 88 - 91; )I think as a mother of sons, it will inform my view of their needs as boys and becoming men.  The direct application to working with fathers and fathers to be as a childbirth and parenting mentor is not so obvious to me, but I'm sure it is there and will come out.

One thing I noticed was how drawn I was to the stories in the book that came straight from the author's experience.  Much of the time he talks in general about how various men react to the stories (folk-tales) that form the skeleton of the book, and that's valuable and useful.  But what really caught my attention were the few direct stories where he spoke in the first person about his own life.  That gives me pause as I think about how I use stories with parents (and others in my other roles in life).  We are told not to share our own experiences, or if we do, to camouflage them as someone else's.  I understand why; it can be hard for someone to hear truth if it's about me, especially if they have any issues with authority figures or women or whatever.  But on the other hand, I think sometimes it is a betrayal of the role of mentor or elder not to claim my own experience, share it for what it is, and then allow those who are listening to make of it what they will.  The old stories, the archetypal stories, are extremely powerful in part because they let people see themselves in whatever part of the story they need to at that moment when they are listening.  Personal stories, elders' stories, are also powerful and sometimes perhaps we should share them.  The middle ground, the framing, is not so powerful (albeit useful and important to do, with light brushstrokes.)