Fairy Tales, Icebergs and the Sun
I used to adore fairy tales as a child – but it’s only now I’m in the autumn of my years, that I begin to understand the incredibly powerful lessons and metaphors they often contained.
One of my favourities ,”The Snow Queen” was published by Hans Christian Andersen in 1844. The story is one of Andersen’s longest and most highly acclaimed stories.
The story centres on the struggle between good and evil as experienced by Gerda and her friend, Kai.
In summary, an evil troll has made a magic mirror that distorts the appearance of everything that it reflects.
The magic mirror fails to reflect the good and beautiful aspects of people and things, and magnifies their bad and ugly aspects. The troll’s minions attempt to carry the mirror into heaven in order to make fools of the angels, but the higher they lift it, the more the mirror shakes with laughter, and it slips from their grasp and falls back to earth, shattering into billions of pieces, some no larger than a grain of sand.
These splinters are blown by the wind all over the Earth and get into people’s hearts and eyes, freezing their hearts like blocks of ice and making their eyes like the troll-mirror itself, seeing only the bad and ugly in people and things. There was only one way to get the splinters out. Yes, you guessed it. Love.
I see the consequences of these metaphorical mirror shards all around. They’re not really there, of course. But because of the innocent misunderstanding about the way life works – many people sometimes behave as though Love doesn’t exist, except in Hollywood dramas, pop songs, or within the bosom of our close family.
Kai has a troll-mirror in his eye, and it works its way into his heart. He becomes aggressive, hostile and forgets his friendship with Gerda. At the end of the story Gerda kisses Kai, and he is saved by the power of her love:
Gerda weeps warm tears on him, melting his heart and burning away the troll-mirror splinter in it. As a result, Kai bursts into tears (which dislodge the splinter from his eye) and becomes cheerful and healthy again with sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks, and also recognizes Gerda as his dearest friend.
They all live happily ever after.
Water is so fascinating, isn’t it? It can exist in three different forms. Liquid of course, like a flowing river. When frozen it becomes solid like an iceberg. When it’s heated up, it becomes steam.
I was reminded of the Snow Queen story after listening to Michael Neill share a metaphor yesterday about the sun and icebergs.
So many peoples’ lives have transformed as a result of bumping into the Three Principles, the understanding that I share on my workshops and in my coaching.
There is something incredibly powerful that lies at the heart of all of us. When we are unburdened by all our thoughts of what , when, why and how. When all the chatter and the noise falls away, what is left is the power of pure presence, and deep Love.
It is available to each and every one of us. It is our default setting. It is our essence.
In that space within, we experience our deep connection to the intelligence… the electricity behind life. That which powers everything. That which makes us feel fully awake and alive.
In this metaphor, this infinite creative intelligence and love is like the sun. It can melt ice. The iceberg, in this metaphor, is our thinking. Or, at least, the thinking that comes from seeing ourselves and the world through the fragments of the troll’s mirror.
You could think of our icebergs as containing different life areas – health, relationships, money, career, and so on.
What I’ve noticed for myself and with my clients is that when we bask in the sun of this loving, intelligent, creative force, bits of our iceberg start melting away. The more deeply we understand our essence, who we truly are underneath our stories, the more the iceberg melts, and we’re left swimming joyfully in the flow of water. We begin to see everything (including our thinking) as transient and fluid, rather than fixed and solid.
Some parts of the iceberg seem to take longer to melt than other parts…
There are some areas of all our lives where our thinking doesn’t look like thinking – it looks 100% solid and real, it looks like the truth.
But once you’ve started to experience how good it feels to bask in the sun, you want to do more of it. And you also tend to want to point other people to the sun – how warm it is, and how it melts away the illusions of your insecure thinking, and how it brings you back to your natural flowing state.
The fairy tale and Michael’s metaphor also reminded me of a client I’ve been working with for a few months. Let’s call him David.
David is a likeable and very successful senior guy, a director, in a job he loathes most of the time. He is quite often overwhelmed and stressed. He’s learned to demonstrate a warm and very charming exterior with everybody he meets. When we got to know each other and he let some of the façade down, he told me that it’s like there’s a thick steel rod that goes up through the centre of his entire body. On top of the steel rod is a fist. This has been there ever since he can remember.
This steel rod means he can never really relax, he hardly ever feels peaceful or calm, he’s nearly always anxious. This anxiety often trips over into paranoia. He’s always on red alert, scanning the environment for the threats that seem to be everywhere around him. His boss. A mistake he might have made in a report. A client who might take their business elsewhere, for which he would be blamed. Takes a toll after a while.
During a recent weekend retreat in a small group, David’s understanding deepened, and he started to really bathe in the deep, unconditional love that we’re all made of.
We sat for two days in this small group, and spoke about the nature of the human experience. We laughed and cried. We were together. We were present and connected. The thoughts arose, had their say, but they did not and could not take away from the power of being in the present moment. It was as if love took the foreground and the chatter of our minds took the background. And it was beautiful .
After two days of this basking, David began to weep. (This was so far beyond anything he could have ever imagined himself doing – crying in front of other people! Never in a million years!).
The tears weren’t sad, although perhaps there was a touch of regret in there. Regret for time wasted in worrying, hiding and masquerading behind the mask. Mostly, they were tears of joy and relief.
At the end of the retreat, we hugged to say goodbye. I asked him how the steel rod was. He looked me in the eyes, and said “It’s melted, and it’s coming out of my eyes as tears”.
Water again. Love again.
One of the things I’m doing a fair bit of recently is coaching other coaches. This kind of inside-out coaching is very different from the traditional “Go get ‘em, Tiger!” approach of encouraging clients to think bigger, achieve more, set massive goals – with the coach being a kind of cheerleader.
It’s more like pointing them towards the sun.
Sometimes the coaches who are new to the inside-out understanding feel that they can’t yet share what they’ve seen with others, because they don’t have their sh*t together in every area of their lives. “I’d feel like a fraud”, they often say to me.
My goodness, I certainly don’t have my sh*t together in all areas! I have blind-spots and patterns of thinking that keep me stuck sometimes – as does every coach I’ve ever hired! Even the really, really expensive and world-famous ones!
Just because the whole of our iceberg hasn’t melted yet, doesn’t mean we can’t tell people about the sun.
Give yourself the gift of basking in the sun, and allow parts of the iceberg to melt away into pure, natural, nourishing water.
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