Nevertheless, I started noticing tiny lizards greeting me on dusty trails around the Sierra Nevada moutains. It was the first time I could hear myself say, "wow, these little guys are kind of cute." A couple times on my hikes I've taken a seat on a fallen tree, and just watched them scramble around, then stop and stare at me in what I interpret as their own careful observation.
As soon as my curiosity of lizards was peaked, they began entering my dream life. I'm deeply reluctant to touch reptiles, so most of my dreams have been about getting physically close to them. In my first dream a large goanna from Australia walked under my chin as I was doing cobra pose in yoga and rubbed his back across my skin. The startling thing is that I felt unafraid.
This experience prompted me to start designing a lizard charm for Hint Jewelry, which led to a dream where I was talking to this guy about a reptile sculpture that I completed. I mentioned that I chose certain features to honor this species. As soon as the words "to honor" came out of my mouth, his face softened into one of pure love, he transformed into a colorful, life-size lizard standing on two feet, and embraced me while expressing his deep gratitude. Again, I was completely unafraid.
During this time, I have also been doing research on the symbolism of lizards. What messages do lizards bring as a spirit animal or totem? One thing that I found exciting is that lizards tell you to pay attention to your dreams, and in my case they are not kidding. I've had the most vivid dream life this year and periodically have been writing them down. Lizards are also a symbol of letting go of the past and living detached from the chaos around you, which are two things that I have been cultivating in my life over the last year.
It's incredibly enriching to see that dreams are the language of your soul and many times in during waking and sleeping, animal symbols will come asking to be heard and have their messages integrated into your life. Sometimes it's an animal you have a great affinity for while other times it is something you fear. In the case of creature you fear, it's a wonderful opportunity to see how this animal may represent parts of your personality that you have yet to embrace and accept. Things that represent characteristics about yourself that you feel ashamed of or regret.
While working with my lizard symbol one of the things I did was to list all my negative reactions, the crazy thoughts, or misguided perceptions I have about this animal and then turn them inward to see these characteristics as things I don't like to see in myself. This exercise is a way to grow compassion for parts of your unclaimed nature, which Carl Jung called your shadow, and then learn to extend this compassion towards others who exhibit the same characteristics.
For instance, some negative thoughts I have about lizards might look like this:
Lizards shouldn't be so emotionally cold, distant, unreadable, and mean.
Because what I don't like in others is a reflection of what I don't like in myself, I can then change statement to be self-judgment about me:
I shouldn't be so emotionally cold, distant, unreadable, and mean.
In order to grow compassion for myself, I remember a time in my life when I felt like this self-judgment was true for me. When was I emotionally cold, distant, unreadable, and mean?
When things didn't go my way during childhood, sometimes I would go sulk in my bedroom and give family members the silent treatment. In these moments, I believe I was emotionally cold, distant, unreadable, and mean.
This final step is the most important.
Lastly I imagined being with the part of me that exhibited these negative characteristics. For example, I pictured being with me the child from my past, sulking in the bedroom. Then I spoke to this child told her I understood why she may have chosen this behavior. I let her know that saw that underneath her behavior was a desire for respect, play, bonding, growth, and love, which had gone unmet. I forgave her for reacting in a way that didn't foster love, and through this experience befriended, accepted, and made peace with this part of myself that was feeling ashamed of my behavior.
It is essential to feel the feeling of love for this fragile part of you that may have not made the best choices, and acknowledge that you know somewhere deep down inside your choice was based on a desire to care for your most cherished needs. If you are able to identify the needs that you were attempting to fulfill then you will increase the level of your self-empathy.
What we fear in others, is what we most fear in ourselves. Looking at our fear of others and redirecting these qualities back onto ourselves is a key ingredient in stretching and building your compassion muscle. I find it relatively easy to have compassion for people who are sick, experiencing loss, yearning for a better life, etc. However, this doesn't take a whole lot of effort. It's like walking around the block. Learning to build your compassion to embrace the most difficult parts of yourself and others is like dedicating yourself to running a marathon. It's something you may dread or fear because of its intensity and pain, but by living in this way you benefit all aspects of life not just the easy parts.
This practice of turning judgments into self-judgments as a way of growing compassion for yourself and others is a key step in the Lemonade Mantras process and is explained in Chapter 5 "Acknowledge Your Judgments." If you want to learn more, I invite you to download Lemonade Mantras for free by clicking here or watch my video series on the book to get a feel for the material.
To join a gathering of people looking to change the negative aspects of their life into new ways of thinking about themselves and others check out my Mending & Mantras e-courses by clicking here.