Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Turning dragons into peacocks

When I was on the road to recovery from a depression over a decade ago, a friend sent me some spirited words of encouragement:

"And sometimes when our fights begin, 
I think I'll let the dragons win ...
And then I think perhaps I won't,
because they're Dragons and I don't"

He repeated them every year in Christmas cards as a kind of rallying call to face down any lurking demons.

Only recently did I wonder about their provenance.  They are from 'Knight in Armour', a poem in the children's collection 'Now We are Six' by A.A. Milne.  You can read it or listen to it here. 

The poem suggests two approaches to dragons: fight them or let them triumph.  It's classic win or lose, fight or flight territory, and faced with a green fire-breathing monster the latter  - run away as fast as possible - definitely sounds like a good option.  But how about metaphorical dragons?  At a storytelling yoga workshop recently, led by Claire Murphy, I was presented with a third option for dragons, demons or beasts of this persuasion: transform them into a peacock.

Claire told the story of Skanda, son of the Hindu God, Shiva, who volunteered to 'deal' with a many-eyed monster after countless others had run away or failed to slay it.  Skanda took a different approach.  He captured the beast, a behemoth really, and, being a deity, transformed it into a peacock, every eye the brilliant centrepiece of each of the bird's iridescent feathers.  Then he rode around the heavens on the peacock's back.

I love the story, love the invitation it offers to see things in less black and white terms and be more creative with challenges.  Instead of slamming into them like an American footballer or trying to escape them, can I work with them creatively?  This is a softer, more compassionate approach and work I've been doing recently with Mindfulness is helping me to see that metaphorical dragons might respond in interesting ways when offered this kind of treatment.  I've decided to try more of the 'peacock' approach to get around the obstacles I think hold me back.  Many of mine, as you might have guessed, are around writing but 'dragons to peacocks' could work for any field.  So I'll be stroking, tickling and pampering my dragons - giving them the chance to show their soft belly - to see how this works for me.  When it comes to the real, fire breathing variety though, I'm still with A.A. Milne: bring me my sword, helmet and breastplate!

Postscript.  After I had finished writing this post, we found a tiny peacock feather underneath the sofa.  I'm sure we collected it once upon a time but my husband - he promises - has vacuumed there regularly and never found it.  I like to think Skanda dropped the feather in a moment of divine playfulness, but I really don't know how it got there. 





All of the wonderful photos on this blog are by Andrew Holman

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