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Forgetting the Old Directions, a magic potion to quell an anxious mind

Updated: Nov 17, 2023


Katharine Donovan Kane, www.kdkane.com, Forget the Old Directions

You’re standing over the garbage pail. It’s all crumpled in your hand, wadded together like a big softball. It’s surprisingly heavy with a beaten-up leathery feel. You’re about to toss the old directions away. The ones you thought that your life needed to follow. The instructions that came right out of your overthinking and years of conditioning are no longer wanted. It’s time for them to go. Even so, there’s a splash of fear. Your jaw muscles clench, the back of your neck tightens, and heat rises from the cheeks up to the forehead. There’s a strange grief as you begin to see it all tumble into the trash. You think, these old life directions have been my constant companion, and they took so long to put together!


Yet, mixed up in the anxiety around change is that familiar pulse of intuition. You know the moment to plot a new path has come. Now you hope to include other parts of yourself, long forgotten, to have a seat at the planning table. So, how do we pay attention with curiosity to our many centers of inner knowing? Here are a few ways to begin.


Navigating gut feelings

Remember those times your hand reached up unconsciously to comfort your fluttering stomach, or the ache in your shoulders, or calm your heavily beating heart. We were only half listening to ourselves in those moments. This time let the body speak. Believe that it’s advising you about how to proceed. Instead of rubbing out the sensation, feel the very spot drawing your attention and allow the warmth of this contact to radiate. Ask your body what it’s trying to tell you. Before moving forward too quickly, take a breath. Spend some time remembering when you’ve noticed this somatic message before. What is it trying to say – right at this moment – when you’re thinking of next steps in your life?


In a recent featured article called In Search of the Ordinary Mystic on Abbey of the Arts blog, I talked about expanding our old ideas to live with deeper sensitivities.


What about dreams

They keep cropping up night after night. Some of us have daydreams instead, or visions, or inspired creative moments. Don’t discount the latter as offering dream messages. We may brush aside dreaming with the quip, who has time to record those? Or are my dreams even worth my time and effort? These are questions from our purely overthinking, rational side. It’s trying hard to distract our attention – again. Our dreams and inspirations are full, card-carrying members of who we are. They deserve our deep listening. They are significant. All of these messages give us important information from our psyche’s center about how it’s feeling in the moment.


In a video I recorded on Dream Visitors on Your Personal Altars I mention Marie Louise von Franz who said, “Dreams are the voice of nature within us.” This voice is our inner wisdom offering us guidance.


A magic potion to quell an anxious mind

The last two stanzas of Geneen Marie Haugen’s wonderful poem At Nepenthe’s Threshold gives our creative side some hope. It urges us to change our ‘ol ways of looking so that we can truly find our way anew. It’s medicine for the troubled, overused, stressed-out mind. You can hear the poem’s full version here.


In part, the poem implores…


Forget the old directions!

There is a wilder place where

wanderers, tricksters, visionaries,

mad poets and free-voiced people

are dreaming together, and sorrowing,

and howling forth a new world.


It is not far. There is a faint trail.

Sniff the air. Listen for grief cries

and crazy laughter. Listen for

the haunt of calling songs. Watch

for feathered offerings and seeds

of wild prayers. Everything depends

on this: Find the others.

The moss, cactus, coyote and stone

will show their true faces when

you begin to sing.


So, the first step to navigate your inner centers of knowing is to take a deep breath. Use your body to sniff the air and feel the energy around you. Pause a moment to listen deeply. Notice what emerges in your body, what sparks your imagination, and what dreams come that offer you a fuller view of what’s before you. They will guide your next steps. You’ll never look back at those old directions.

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