To Chase or Be Chased, That Is the Question

As a child did you ever play the game “tag”?

I certainly did. I can still remember the screams and yelps of delight and fright as the sun went down on a hot summer night, sticky arms and legs from sweat, grass-stained knees, tousled near-dreadlocked hair stuck together with watermelon Now and Laters, scuffed bare feet scrambling in a blur to out pace “It.” Once tagged by “It” the tables would abruptly turn and, in a flash, the chasee became the chaser . The job of “It” was to tag one of the slower moving kids on my front lawn (my little sisters were prime targets).

And on and on it would go, chasing, being chased… all night long until Mom would scream, “It’s getting dark, come inside!”

I don’t know who came up with “tag,” but I do know that what was once summertime fun for kids has become the stressed-out default modus operandi for adults.

If you think about it, we are all chasing something (or someone) right now, either consciously or unconsciously.

You may be chasing a raise, a job, an acknowledgement, a relationship, a house, a spouse, a vacation, or an opportunity to play in the sandbox with people you deem more desirable than the ones who you’re playing with now. Even Buddhist monks are chasing greater degrees of enlightenment.

At the same time, there is something you are trying to outrun, be it loneliness, despair, bankruptcy, an ex-lover who won’t stop calling. Even the Budhist monks are seeking to avoid attachment.

There’s a reason why dreams of being chased, according to Patricia Garfield, Ph.D., are the most remembered of all dream themes.

According to dream expert Robert Moss, what we are really chasing is our power. But it is our power that is chasing us… and most of us have become elusive prey.

In Joseph Campbell’s version of the Hero’s Journey, one of the unavoidable stages along our noble path is the “Belly of the Whale.” For most people the notion of finding oneself in the Belly of the Whale is, at least, a drag, and at worst, a dark night of the soul.

To me, the Belly of the Whale is a lot like Mercury Retrograde (which we happen to be in, astrologically speaking, until July 20), in that we are forced to sit still and deal with our issues/illusions of power and/or powerlessness. During “retrograde” we can’t move forward with the same jet-propelled quantum leaping we’re accustomed to, so we’re forced to look at our issues of being “It.”

But, what if being “It” wasn’t so bad? What if “It,” as it turns out, is we’ve been seeking to be all along?

We’ve all heard about the “It” girl or boy… the person who everyone wants to know because of their je ne sais quoi.

In the “Belly of the Whale” we get the big surprise: We are the ones we’ve been running from! And the one we’ve been chasing? Ourselves. In the Belly of the Whale we have the opportunity to discover we are “It,” and have been all along connected to all the power in the universe (which happens to be more than most of us need to lead successful, productive, happy lives).

Once we relax into the inky blackness of the Belly of the Whale (I know it’s inky black because I’ve been there… more than once) we find the peace that passes human understanding because we’re finally still enough to hear the voice of our own inner wisdom. In fact, in these retrogradian belly of the whale-esque moments is where we can no longer run from our power.

The irony is, however, the moment we start feeling cozy in the belly (just like when we finally surrendered to Mercury Retrograde) is the moment when the whale spits us out… and it’s time to get back to the world outside the belly.

Now that you see Mercury Retrograde and the Belly of the Whale isn’t so bad, I hope you don’t add these to your list of things to chase. In fact, armed with this point of view, next time you see someone running from their own shadow, pass this along.

Tag, you’re “It!”

For more information about Kelly Sullivan Walden, click here.

For more by Kelly Sullivan Walden, click here.


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