Kassidy Jordan, a 4th grader at Novato Charter School, made this self-portrait in my private art class. The colored pencil and chalk drawing shows her night self and day self, her contented self and her sorrowful self, her complexity and her dragons. At her young age, she grasps something that I didn’t get until I was in my late twenties: That we have simultaneous, conflicting feelings living in one body. One of her dragons holds a yin/yang, the other a feather and a stone. Her image is rooted in the earth, moon and sun, held by an interwoven design. When I have seen and honored my range of emotions as Kassidy has in her drawing, I become authentic and trustworthy. When I haven’t done my inner work, destructive, unconscious behaviors have ripped my family, my friends, my colleagues and my mates apart. This is the inner work that is the key to Beating the Odds.
Below is a self-portrait I made of my inner landscape when I was heart-broken. I called upon the inner light to combat despair and pain. The act of creating transformed the pain into a tangible mirror of my complexity and my connection to earth, sun and moon.
Aqeela Shirrells, who brokered a deal between the Crips and Bloods in L.A. and who also lost his 18 year-old son to violence, said that the most important thing we can do now is to share the stories of our woundedness with each other. That reminds me of the practice of Cheyenne warriors of painting their hopes, fears and dreams on their shields. They greeted others with their vulnerability. As Thomas Moore points outs, our soul dwells in our complexity, the interplay of fragility and strength. The inner work that will help us beat the odds focuses on listening to the quiet voice inside as well as the roaring dragons. This inner work puts us closer to our soul.