13 Jul 2010

Be The Mountain Goat…

Written by Melissa Johnson,
Highlander Magazine July 2010 #127

I met John while living in San Francisco. Quickly, he became my friend-spiritual guide-and-massage therapist all rolled into one. Such magic in those hands, such wisdom in his understanding—after one session I was hooked. Trained in the healing arts of Chinese medicine, John began each session with a simple question: “What’s going on?” This meant that he wanted a brief State of the Union on my physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health because, to him, it was all connected.

During the time I lived in the city, I met with John every week. Through our conversations and his amazing body work I began to experience shifts in consciousness on many levels, but none more compelling than my understanding of what it means to be discerning. We spent hours talking about life paths—his, mine and those of our friends. We dissected, analyzed, and waxed poetic about love.

Then one day, while discussing my relationship with a man whom I loved deeply but who lacked certain core qualities that I wanted in a partner, John suggested that the key to my dilemma could be found by taking on the persona of the female mountain goat.

You see, female mountain goats—or nannies, as they’re called—will climb to the top of a mountain peak and sit there. She’s holding out for the billy with certain qualities—like horn symmetry; and short sturdy legs with a heavy body; top-of-the-line hooves to help him move about the rocky ledges; and, of course, social rank because this will determine his access to resources. Below her, all the billies are doing their male mountain goat thing—snorting, bleating, locking horns, fighting, pushing each other around in an effort to win her. Some of the billies are killed or give up and move along in search of greener pastures. But the strong contenders continue their ascent to claim the prize at the top of the mountain.

They battle all the way, trying to edge each other off the rocky cliffs as they charge ahead. But no matter what, no matter which billy she may fancy from afar, no matter what’s happening to him below, she does not reach down and help him up in his journey to win her. Instead, she waits on her mountain perch and allows her suitors to exercise their determination and strength, for only those who make it to the top win a chance of partnership with her. Then she gets to choose.

It all made perfect sense.

Now I’m not suggesting that men are the same as male mountain goats, although I must admit that I have witnessed some behavioral similarities. Nor am I advocating that women (or men) just accept whoever shows up in their lives as “the one” by virtue of the fact that he (or she) beat a path to their door—that could get pretty creepy.

And certainly in this day and age the need to select partners based on purely physical or biological characteristics has diminished; though let’s face it, the dictates of “survival of the fittest” lie innate within us. So in a sense, I guess we all prefer a little horn symmetry.

But John’s mountain goat metaphor brought great clarity and the shift in intention I needed. For months I had been riding the fence of indecision, torturing myself with what could have been fairly simple… if I was honest about my needs and desires. And like the flick of a switch, suddenly all that was once dark and seemingly unknowable became illuminated by the light of my heartfelt truth.

So I started applying this wisdom to every part of my life—personal and professional—and soon found myself initiating some major life changes, beginning with the end of my relationship and ending with a brand new career path.

It hasn’t been easy. At times I have second-guessed my decisions and the overall direction of my life. Some of that’s natural, I suppose. Just so, before I made any real progress, I had to revisit my ideas about what I thought it meant to be “successful” and make peace with the notion that I was my own greatest block when it came to creating the life I desired.

And I learned to recognize that while people and situations show up in our lives often when we need them most, that doesn’t mean that every relationship, job or experience is meant to last forever. Some things fall away because we’ve outgrown them or we need to be available for something else. But we’ll never find that “something else” if we’re clinging desperately to that “not-quite-right-what is” because we’re afraid of change.

Ultimately, discernment is the lens through which we make choices. It does not mean that we’re judging people and opportunities from a position of superiority. Rather, it is to tune into the soul’s wisdom as we discriminate between this option and that, truthfully evaluating what’s before us while engaging our intuition about what’s best for our lives. No easy task, to be sure.

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