Last Saturday I participated in a dream group where we discussed the intuitive messages contained in our dreams. A scene in one person’s dream involved a red plaid skirt, which led to a conversation about letting go of old ways of being that no longer work for us.
I like to think of these as rules that don’t make sense anymore, which can often be boiled down to shoulds (or shouldn’ts) and goods.
The shoulds make me feel resentful. Especially when I am doing something because I think I ought to and not because I want to. We all have them: family commitments, self-improvement goals, dietary restrictions, etc. It really doesn’t serve anyone when I grudgingly do something even though I don’t want to. I really bristle when someone else assigns me a should or a shouldn’t! Then there are all the ways I think (or someone else thinks) I should be, which leads me to the goods.
The goods either make me feel superior or shamed. The notion that one must behave a certain way to be valued is one of the most destructive ideas we humans have created. It smashes self-worth.
Think about it. As a child, if you were praised for being good, what did that really mean? Probably that you were conducting yourself in a way that didn’t bother the adults. I was generally regarded by my parents and teachers as a good girl, one who was quiet, didn’t express my anger or other unwelcome emotions, one who obeyed the rules. When I was praised, I loved it, but it was conditional. Did I test the conditions? Almost never. And did that make me more successful at adulting? It did not, and I am still unwinding some of the residue today.
Who is to say who or what is good anyway? It is a subjective judgement call. And one that is based in patriarchal systems—old ways currently eroding because they are no longer serving. You might take yourself through the exercise of thinking of the many ways you have been rewarded by yourself or others for doing something good and penalized by yourself or others for not measuring up. Then ask yourself who it was that set the standard.
Shoulds and goods are Misbeliefs, false ideas we humans have come up with. If you look at life from a spiritual perspective, they simply aren’t true. All souls are created equal. What someone should do or does, should be or is, does not matter. Nature does not have should and goods. A bird doesn’t sing because it should make some nice music. A willow tree is not any better than a pine tree.
A couple of days before the dream group met, I meditated (not because I thought I should and not because it makes me good, by the way). In my mediation, my guide handed me a soft, grey bunny and then these words from Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese” rang loudly in my awareness: You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
My guides were reminding me of the fact that I am always free to do what I feel is right for me. I am always worthy. They were also teaching me how to tell when I’ve gotten myself trapped in shoulds and goods without realizing it. My body knows! It’s just like we say in Qoya: There is no way to do this wrong and the way you know you are doing it right is that it feels true to your body. Aha! When I feel resentful, my body feels tight. When I feel shamed, my body feels listless.
Another image we examined in dream group was one of someone scraping the flesh out of an avocado with a spoon. That one brought me notions of nourishment and pleasure. What if I could replace the words should and good with these? I would do things not because I should, but because doing them feels nourishing. I would not succumb to the highs and lows of someone else’s judgement of good, I would behave in a way that feels like pleasure.
These are the rules I’d like to follow. Goodbye, red plaid!