Dancing with Beasts
Recently I was up against a great beast. One so big, scaly, and fierce it was clear that I—as a mere mortal—had no chance defeating it. So instead I decided to use my wits and do something much greater…
This story begins four years ago, when I signed up to pursue my PhD in Leadership and Change from Antioch University. I was such an idealistic young heroine at the time, ready to take on anything that came my way. After leaving the comfort of my ordinary world, I crossed a threshold into a special world of academia and began my journey into the dark forest of pursuing a doctorate degree. Luckily I found my allies rather quickly and later was initiated by my mentors into ancient practices of phenomenological research, the lost art of listening for meaning, and the complicated task of qualitative analysis.
I was oriented onto a path going toward a distant towering castle. Inside the castle, I was told, would be a glittering treasure of three golden letters: P, h, D! If I could make it to the castle, those letters would be mine for the taking! It was not easy, and along the path I faced many tests and trials, most in the form of long research projects. Yet, armed with my trusty laptop, my hands became strong and those projects were slayed with ease!
As I approached the castle, I felt prepared to enter and take my golden letters back home to my ordinary world to prove that I had succeeded in my journey. Yet I was not prepared for the giant beast that guarded this shiny PhD!
The beast was six-headed, one for each chapter of the dissertation! As I approached this scaly behemoth, it breathed fire on me and shouted, “Good Luck!” I thought this beast would be similar to the others along the path, but no--it was far greater!
First, I went in with just my trusty laptop to which the beast mocked, “That’s all you got?!” Not realizing I may need another tool to defeat this beast, I continued using my keyboard as the first line of defense, and after months of fighting I was actually able to sever a few of the beast’s heads! But all of the fighting made me exhausted and with the two glaring heads egging me on, I became convinced I would never win.
With very little strength to carry on, I decided to give up, turn around and head back down the path. But before I could leave the castle, I fell into a deep sleep.
In the sleep, I was visited by a beautiful fairy. She told me I would never defeat the beast. My heart sank—I knew that she was right. But then she announced that I could however, seduce it. She gave me a weapon to replace my keyboard—a flute. “Learn to play this flute and serenade the beast. Get it to dance, learn the moves, and then dance together. If you two can dance long enough, its final two heads will fall off on their own.” Then, she vanished into thin air and I awoke to a flute on my lap and a two-headed beast staring me down.
Surely hers was too simple of solution! I had geared up for a fight, not a dance! Yet, there was something about the fairy’s confidence that convinced me she just may be right. So, with awkward rhythm, I began to play the flute.
The beast began shaking. When it shook, I returned to my laptop, only to realize it was no longer strong enough. I played and played until soon the beast’s shaking turned into a beautiful dance that somehow I instinctively knew. We danced together, and the fairy was right—with each coordinated move the final chapter-heads began crumbling down.
It was true that I could not defeat the beast with force, but instead needed to use finesse. I seduced the beast by playing with it, and after it lost its heads, it shrunk down to a cute, pocket-sized, loyal creature. It bowed to me and offered up the treasure of the golden letters P, h, D. Now I carry both the letters and the beast around with me to prove we danced together.
When we see our life through a mythic lens, we see that we are all fighting beasts in our life. Some we meet on the path leading to the castle, and some we meet before we can access the treasure. It’s natural to want to use the same weapon on all beasts, but when exhaustion sets in and the beast mocks you, it is time to reconsider your strategies.
Beasts can be fighting partners or dancing partners. If we fight, we will damage the beast, but also at a cost to ourselves. But if we dance, we engage the beast on its terms, helping it teach us the deep wisdom of its ways. Beasts are treasures in themselves because they remind us to play our flutes once and awhile.
The flute represents summoning the playful side of life, which helps when approaching obstacles. Obstacles are usually where we forget this playful side but need it the most. The flute allows us to take ourselves less seriously, find our obstacles' rhythms, and allow fun back into pursuits. Beasts want you to dance with them, because they knows you are worthy of play as much as you are worthy of work. Beasts want to seduce you with wisdom as much as you want to seduce it to crumble.
"Beasts want to seduce you with wisdom as much as you want to seduce it to crumble."
Having a hard time finding your flute? Your ego tends to run for a trusty weapon (in this case my laptop) because habit, previous success, and ration say that it will work best. But your fairy is your intuitive, creative side that wants to show you a more fun, playful solution.
When I listened to my fairy, I did a combination of the list below (which I added links to if you like to try for yourself). These may seem like a distraction at first, but they are meant to get your intuitive side to understand the complexities of the obstacle/beast that you are facing in a more nuanced way. Once this occurs, you will be able to better dance with the beast and allow it to offer you its wisdom as it crumbles. Working with a "Quest Coach" at GrowthQuests can help you understand your life stories from this mythical lens, allowing you to pick up wisdom from perspectives you may have never realized.
Hell, if all else fails, take a long nap and wait for your own fairy!
My Favorite Flute Activities: